7
$\begingroup$

In the faraway land of Backeye, people have developed a secretive language called Pasgas. Rather than enunciating words, or forming them with gestures, Pasgas speakers communicate by passing wind. They control the pitch and the duration of each toot, with a single phoneme being able to convey as much meaning as an ideogram (such as chinese characters, or japanese kanji characters) or even a whole sentence.

Pasgas is popular among spies, but serves for other professions as well. Abroad, it can be used to relay messages to fellow captives, a conversation that is silent to all but the initiated. In Backeye, guards can use it as a shibboleth to readily identify foreigners. And in team sports such as volleyball it can be used to coordinate strategy without the need for a team huddle.

My question is: is such a method of communication possible? If not, then why? If it is possible, what kind of training would be required to speak Pasgas?

Edit for clarity: the communication I mention above is acoustic, not smell-based.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Aside from the possibility of formulating the message, I believe one major problem would be to have it reach destination. Except on very short distances, how to make sure the wind will not turn? Even if that's solved, conversations would be difficult because you would have to wait for the wind to turn back and forth for exchanges. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Nov 6 '18 at 7:20
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ So, they're whistling? $\endgroup$ – Alexander von Wernherr Nov 6 '18 at 9:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perfect for communicating around Daleks, because Daleks lack noses... $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Nov 6 '18 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandervonWernherr in the sense that Rocky Robinsoncan whistle the national anthem, yes. $\endgroup$ – Renan Nov 6 '18 at 13:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Somewhere in the multiverse there's a five years old version of me, rolling over the floor because I've just accidentally transmitted this post into his brain . $\endgroup$ – yorodm Nov 6 '18 at 13:57
12
$\begingroup$

a conversation that is silent to all but the initiated

I would argue about the silent... anyway...

This looks like a variant of the Silbo Gomero

Silbo Gomero (Spanish: silbo gomero [ˈsilβo ɣoˈmeɾo], 'Gomeran whistle'), also known as el silbo ('the whistle'), is a whistled register of Spanish used by inhabitants of La Gomera in the Canary Islands to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys that radiate through the island. It enables messages to be exchanged over a distance of up to 5 kilometres. Due to this loud nature, Silbo Gomero is generally used in circumstances of public communication.

The main problem with your proposed approach is that the rectum lacks most of the structures that in the mouth allow for sound modulation: on one side you have, among others, throat, tongue, teeth, cheeks to help tune the sound emission, while on the other side you have the sphincter and the gluteus. I see it as possible to control the duration of the emission and to some extent the pitch.

However, with some training it should be possible to achieve some modulation capabilities, like Le Petomane did:

Le Pétomane (/ləˈpɛtəmeɪn/, French pronunciation: ​[ləpetɔˈman]) was the stage name of the French flatulist (professional farter) and entertainer Joseph Pujol (June 1, 1857 – 1945). He was famous for his remarkable control of the abdominal muscles, which enabled him to seemingly fart at will. His stage name combines the French verb péter, "to fart" with the -mane, "-maniac" suffix, which translates to "fartomaniac". The profession is also referred to as "flatulist", "farteur", or "fartiste".

It is a common misconception that Joseph Pujol actually passed intestinal gas as part of his stage performance. Rather, Pujol was able to "inhale" or move air into his rectum and then control the release of that air with his anal sphincter muscles. Evidence of his ability to control those muscles was seen in the early accounts of demonstrations of his abilities to fellow soldiers.

Some of the highlights of his stage act involved sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as playing "'O Sole Mio" and "La Marseillaise" on an ocarina through a rubber tube in his anus. He could also blow out a candle from several yards away.

Still, such communication would be short distance, with no way to reach the km range of the Silbo Gomero. Also, I doubt that an untrained listener would consider normal a continued farting of the type needed for some sort of communication, unless it was spread over time to look as much as possible as "natural".

Summarizing:

  • Is it possible to learn this ability?: almost surely yes.
  • Can be used for communicating?: yes on short distances and for concise messages.
  • Can it be secretive?: only if used at low fart, ahem, Baud rate. Prolonged and sustained vocalization would draw attention.
$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1, but the summary probably should include a mention of how secretive it would be as it seemed fairly central to the idea, ie. a part of the "such" in "is such communication possible". That said any answer that mentions Le Pétomane is obviously awesome. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 6 '18 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi, added $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Nov 6 '18 at 9:21
1
$\begingroup$

My question is: is such a method of communication possible? If not, then why? If it is possible, what kind of training would be required to speak Pasgas?

Yes it is possible with limitation.

The more complex the meanings the harder it is to produce and hear.

For example Morse code would be relatively simple as all you need to distinguish is long and short or dot and dash. The down side is, it would take a long time to communicate this way.

Sure a select few could probably do it faster than others.

The more duration and pitches you have the higher the likelihood errors would creep into the system.

2 pitches and 2 durations should be easily doable by most of the population. This gives you the equivalent of 2 binary bits per time. The biggest problem is transmit, not reception.

The more training received the more pitches could be recognized. If you can recognize 64 different pitches and have a dot or a dash you can produce any single 8bit ascii character.

However, the faster you communicate will also increase errors.

Also this is not really that great for secrets as anyone who can hear it could possibly decode it. It would still be in your best interest to encrypt it.

Furthermore, We have excellent microphones today, and could probably record said noises. Once recorded we could use computers to decode any message you could send. Eventually field agent would whip out there cell phones, and in real time have computers decode it. Audio takes a relatively small amount of storage so agents in the field could have more than 1 microphone and record continuously.

Using today's smart phones real time decoding would probably be possible.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.