With their vomit machine, scientists at North Carolina State have managed to create a device that both captures my general feelings about this week and adds to what we know about the way viruses spread. It took them two years to build the thing, reports Wired, and they published the results of their puke machine experiments online this week in PLOS ONE. Also: It has a terrifying clay face, so there’s that.
It looks a bit like an ill-considered science fair project, but it does have an actual point. The device is meant to simulate the action of the human body’s upper digestive tract, with a tube playing the part of the esophagus and a pressurized chamber acting as the stomach. Even the weird clay face isn’t just there for show — it acts as a weight at the end of the tube, so that the fake barf spews downward. You know, just like real barf. And then there’s the matter of the vomit itself, which is mostly vanilla pudding dyed an appropriately revolting shade of green, mixed with a real (albeit harmless) virus.
After testing the device, they found that the act of vomiting spreads about 13,000 aerosolized virus particles — not good, considering it takes as few as 20 particles to make a person sick. A reminder to keep your vomit to yourself, please.