Biology

The Nose Knows an Astonishing 1 Trillion Smells

Just how sensitive is your nose? We know that animal noses tend to be much more nuanced to different aromas than their human counterparts. Even so, how many different scents do you think your sniffer could identify?

A study by Andreas Keller and associates in 2014 tells us that we shouldn’t be too quick to turn our noses up at the capabilities of the human nostrils. The study concluded that we are capable of detecting 1 trillion different smells. This blows away the earlier estimates that we were limited to just 10,000 detectable aromas.

In conducting the research, Keller and his team prepared scent mixtures with 10, 20, or 30 components from a collection of 128 aromatic molecules. The participants were given three samples and asked to identify the one that smelled differently than the other two.

There are about 400 scent receptors in the human nose. It is still a mystery as to how they work together to create what we call a sense of smell.

Although we seem to be able to recognize highly nuanced variations of different scents, some are more powerful than others. (Such as the worst-smelling substance in the world). According to a study conducted by Yale University, the twenty most recognizable smells are:

1. Coffee
2. Peanut butter
3. Vicks VapoRub
4. Chocolate
5. Wintergreen oil
6. Baby powder
7. Cigarette butts
8. Mothballs
9. Dry cat food
10. Beer
11. Ivory bar soap
12. Juicy Fruit gum
13. Oranges
14. Cinnamon
15. Lemons
16. Tuna
17. Bananas
18. Crayons
19. Cheese
20. Bleach


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