Scientist performing sniffing experiment
Most odors in the real world contain a mix of molecules, each of which contributes some part of the final scent. Here, the scientists combined a selection of molecules to create the different scents. They chose various amounts from a group of 128 different chemicals to concoct the odors. People could generally tell the difference between two scents that had been made from two completely different groups of molecules. Most people could even tell the difference between scents that shared half of the same molecules. But as the scents’ number of shared ingredients increased, people found it harder to tell scents apart. No one in the study could tell the difference between two smells that shared 90 percent of the same molecules. Based on those results, the scientists estimate that the average person can identify about a trillion different smells, each made from 30 separate odor molecules. However, the most sensitive smeller in the group could probably identify many more, the scientists say. Someone with a relatively insensitive nose would probably detect only about 80 million, they now suspect. The study only used 128 odor molecules, far fewer than the number that exist in the real world.
Posted by Chelcie C.