Monday, December 18, 2006

The Nose Knows

Ah, to be a college student again. Those were the days. Partying a lot, going to class sometimes, and having that occasional "interesting" experience. Now, before any of you out there jump to any conclusions, the experience I'm talking about is taking part in a science experiment.

Today, the Chicago Tribune describes a study involving the sense of smell...
If the results are surprising, that may be because no one ever had tried putting a bunch of college undergraduates in a field wearing blindfolds and sound-muffling headphones, then had them crawl in the grass after a scent like pigs hunting for truffles.
Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley found that "most of the students could follow a 30-foot trail of chocolate perfume and even changed direction precisely where the invisible path took a turn."

Here's how they did the experiment (I'm not joking)...
To create a scent trail, the scientists soaked a line of string in the chocolate scent and embedded it in the grass. The people were set loose on the ground about 9 feet away from the trail, then had to find the scent and follow it.
Some people out there are probably saying, "Hey, it's Berkeley, that's the crazy stuff that they do out there." Some other people may think this is a fraternity stunt. But NO! This is in the name of science, by George. Here's how the article is trying to tie this in to scientific experimentation....
By revealing how noses locate smells, the scientists hope to lay the groundwork for electronic noses that could detect hazards such as land mines. Their work, published online Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, was funded in part by the Army Research Office.
That's our tax dollars at work! I don't know if I buy that explanation. But, just you watch. Next summer, there will be a movie about this experiment and someone (probably from Berkeley) will make tons of money. Maybe another one of those lame American Pie sequels. Happy Monday!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

They were following a trail of chocolate scent?

Would they have been as good following a trail of... library scent?

I think not.

Sarebear said...

I LOVE research like this!

I read once about some research, that showed as people age, some develop problems detecting the scent they add to gasoline that most people think of as the smell of gasoline, that is put there to be "alarming", warning, whatever, of a hazardous substance.

I had never even THOUGHT about this. But through research like this, they can find such problems, and then also work on developing solutions.

Altho the chocolate scent study is alot funner. Hee.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I can follow a chocolate trail anyplace! They didn't need to do research for that!

Landmines, on the other hand, I haven't tried.

What they really need is a nose that can smell cancer, the way dogs can. Although I guess we already have other tests for that.

Anonymous said...

Ok correct me if I am wrong but chocolate and land mines can not possibly smell alike :P

Anonymous said...

I'd follow chocolate anywhere!