Friday, July 18, 2008

What the Nose Knows

Most people know that the sense of smell is most of what we taste, but did you know that there are only a few thousand chemicals that make up all of what we smell? And that a human's nose isn't really one of the worst in the animal kingdom?

The author is a psychologist and does all sorts of work with smell. The most interesting thing to me was that he tracked down some numbers that come up again and again when people are writing about smell and found where the figures really come from: usually someone made it up a long time ago and it just gets passed around until everyone believes it. Kind of like the drink eight cups of water a day, which was started by the bottled water people.

Gas Chromatography is explained, the way they figure out what chemicals are given off by any certain thing, and which ones smell like what. The author was very good at telling the story. Since he has been in the industry a long time, he has plenty of good stories. I enjoy this type of science book, well written and with lots of cool stuff you didn't know before. If I ever write a book, I would like to do this kind of one, though I can't imagine anyone paying me to do the research needed.

What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life. Avery Gilbert. Crown Publishing . 2008


jendoop said...

I heard about this book on NPR, it sounded interesting but knew I couldn't add it to my stack. The more you learn, you realize how little we know.

mstoll80 said...

If you'd like to hear a little more from Avery Gilbert about his book, he recently did a Podcast with the New York Academy of Sciences. You can hear that here.