For some strange reason, talking about poop still makes many of us uncomfortable. It's understandable, of course. Considering, you know, it is poop.
Still, it's such a natural thing. Everybody — everybody — produces it. Everybody leaves something behind. So maybe it's not all that surprising that, as taboo as poo is, it still makes the news.
Here's the year in review for No. 2.
Face It ... Poop Is Everywhere
Nobody should be surprised at the study that showed 60 percent of toothbrushes in a communal bathroom at a Connecticut university had fecal matter on them. Have you ever been in a dorm?
Another dubious study discovered bacteria like that found in poop also resides in beards (and beards, if you haven't noticed, are everywhere). Yet another found it in your burgers. The moral of these stories: A little personal hygiene, including a good post-duty hand-washing, can go a long way.
Shake That Moneymaker
Who knew that the extra bit of income you've been looking for can be found in your ... outcome?
A nonprofit stool bank — yes, that's correct — in Massachusetts will pay you (after some strict screening) for pooping in a bag. The company takes your stuff for fecal microbiota transplantation — that, too, is correct — and gives it to people sick with a debilitating gut bacteria called Clostridium difficile. One person's waste, truly, can be another's treasure.
Pass the Sponge, Please
We now understand that, historically speaking, many civilizations did not have the scoop on poop. The folks at Smithsonian inform us that ancient Romans, it seems, sat in huge public toilets, did their business and — lacking a roll of Charmin — grabbed for the nearest sponge stick to do their post-business business. That, of course, led to all sorts of sicknesses being passed around and, in modern times, to the dorm bathroom and that Connecticut dude's nasty toothbrush. Or so it's believed.
Poooooop in Spaaaaaaace
Now, of course, we have more celestial problems. As in, what to do with poop in space? Astronaut Scott Kelly is on the International Space Station right now as part of NASA's One-Year Mission. NASA reports that while he's there's he'll drop about 180 pounds (82 kilograms) of personal payload out of the ISS, where it will fall harmlessly toward Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. Like shooting stars, NASA says. Which might be a load right there.
Why Whale Poop Is Important
You may not spend a whole lot of time thinking about whale feces — and, OK, that's understandable — but Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont, does. As he told Christopher Intagliata in a Scientific American podcast, the declining number of whales in the ocean means a drastic reduction in whale poop. And that means less phosphorus and other important minerals that move up the food chain. That stinks for all of us.
Get Outta There, Boy
If you have a dog, or have ever been around a dog, you know that dogs have no problem sniffing around and even — let's put this as delicately as possible — feeding on their feces. (Still sounds bad, eh?) National Geographic tells us that it's all about looking for what they missed the first time around, bits of food that just weren't completely digested. That sniffing and licking butts? Much the same thing. Or a habit passed down over generations. Either way, blech.
That Doggy Look
Sticking with Fido feces, did you ever notice how the old boy will stare at you while he's dropping one in the gutter or on the neighbor's lawn? Jill Layton over at The Dodo asked some experts about it. It's not exactly unassailable science, but the theories range from looking for a reward, looking for your blessing, looking for a little protection while in such a vulnerable position, and just plain looking to shame you into giving them some dang privacy.
Cockroaches ... What Do You Expect?
For our next stop in the animal kingdom we'll (somewhat reluctantly) turn to cockroaches. A July study found that cockroaches congregate in large part because of bacteria that they expel in their feces, which attracts other cockroaches. It's a kind of cockroach call to happy hour. Except with poop instead of beer. And with cockroaches instead of a bunch of annoying salesmen hanging around the bar. Maybe not that different?
A Museum Piece
Weirder than mingling cockroaches or poooooop in spaaaaaaace is the South Florida museum that boasts the world's largest collection of ... of ... well, of ... just check out this picture.
The South Florida Museum (you can't ask for a cleverer name) boasts 1,277 fossilized deuces, as Mental Floss puts it, on loan from a North Florida collector who runs an online site called the Poozeum. Officially, these are called coprolites. Unofficially, what's going on down in Florida?
The question has vexed mankind (and dog owners) for centuries: What do you do with all that excrement? A report from a United Nations think tank finds that, in theory, gases from collected human waste could power 138 million households a year. And collecting whatever else is left after the gas extraction would result in the equivalent of 2 million tons of coal. It sounds like a great idea. There's probably some money to be made in surgical masks, too.