Whether you’re four years old or forty, everybody loves potty humor. And why not? Humans are weird. We turn food into energy, sure, but along the way our bodies sure make some unpleasant byproducts.
Benjamin Franklin himself once wrote to the Royal Academy in England a letter to complain about one of the better known byproducts:
It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind. That the permitting of this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.
Unfortunately Ye Olde Apothecary did not carry GasEx so poor Ben was asking for help.
One person who has thought about potties a lot is someone you’d least expect. Software pioneer turned philanthropist Bill Gates. So why would a software engineer and executive be thinking about toilets?
The answer is public health. While the ability to use the restroom is something that the developed world takes for granted, in the developing world it’s not just a serious problem, it’s deadly. Without good sanitation disease can spread very quickly. According to the CDC, 2,195 children die every day from diarrhea. Think about that for a moment. Have you ever heard a story about a friend or family member perishing from diarrhea?
Solving the sewage in remote areas is a financial problem, but it’s also an in intriguing engineering problem and some of the proposed solutions are very clever.
Rather than repeat everything here, we highly recommend you check out Bill’s site for yourself. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been working with some of the world’s most creative engineers on alternative solutions, and they produce some really good videos and articles. Some introductory links are below: