Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The human nose is seemingly an infinite smell detector

The latest news, as reported by The Guardian, attributes 1 trillion of separate scents to the human nose, as opposed to the till now standard 10,000 ones. This is based on a study led by biologist expert Dr.Andreas Keller of Rockfeller University, published in Science magazine (so you know it's not trash reproduced on the Net) and puts humans in a much more elevated capacity than previously anticipated for differentiating smells.

You can read the news article with quotes from Keller on this link. 

What do you think: Wow (so fascinating!) or Yawn (what does it matter to me anyway)? Vote!


  1. Miss Heliotrope00:34

    It seemed to me one of those scientific studies that "proves" something that if you sat down & thought about it you might actually have thought of anyway.

    Those who are interested in scents (perfume/wine/plants/whiskey/food) probably pay more attention than others, but why wouldnt we smell a squillion (technical term) different things when we can see/hear/whatever them? It's just that smell has usually been - & is - less valued than the other senses. & more split into "important" smells v unimportant ones: rabbiting on about compost & blackberry & so on in wine is a good use of smell, talking about the composition of a perfume is frivolous (probably has to do with being more often an action associated with women).

  2. Are 26 participants representative enough for valid statistical results? I also don't understand how they concluded the number is trillion.
    Not very bright reporting on the part of The Guardian, I'm afraid.

  3. Anonymous07:30

    I just love scientific studies! Mostly they prove what someone wants them to prove, or they state the blindingly obvious, eg research done to discover why corn flakes go soggy when milk is poured over them - scientific conclusion: corn flakes go soggy when milk is poured over them (cost of said study £12,000).

    Of course there is much research done which is actually going to benefit us eventually, but sometimes I feel that a lot of it is just fodder for the tabloids and it gives the good stuff a bad name!


  4. C,

    as always a valid and thought-provoking point. Thank you!!

  5. I,

    the studies often rest on the shoulders of a very insignificant specimen. This is the flaw of many studies I'm afraid, even if for more "crucial" data.
    I suppose the Guardian is oversimplifying; seeing a publication in Science or Nature one can understand there's a bit of jargon and numerical data flying around that wouldn't cut it with the average non expert reader. Yet…well…

    Thanks for chiming in!! :-)

  6. Jillie,

    science is like technology, pliable enough that unscrupulous or non time challenged people can twist their way to extract what they want to extract out of it.
    There's a lot of "faux" studies coming out in the last years, the number is staggering if you search a bit, which implies a need for backing up certain stories that would have passed with just clever marketing a few decades ago. Today the reader is both more informed and more misinformed; odd but there you have it.

  7. Maria14:21

    Science is always there to give you one more reason for self-hatred. So I'm supposed to sense a trillion smells but can't tell difference among ten new perfume launches. Pathetic me. Good to know at least I can kill myself and get a Darwin prize for it. "Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes..." Always trust a good song!
    On a serious note, what are we supposed to do with this kind of info? "Theoretically you're awesome, actually you are not, so there." Pff.


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