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Humans Can Detect One Trillion Different Odors

RATE THIS! +9
Posted in Science on 22nd Mar, 2014 12:37 AM by AlexMuller

It used to be thought that human noses could only detect around 10,000 smells, although many scientists thought that was probably a bit too low. A new study suggests that number is much higher, that humans can distinguish among 1 trillion different scents. The ability to distinguish between closely related compounds varied from one person to another.

 

“Ten thousand is kind of pathetic, it’s a pretty low number,” study author and molecular neurobiologist Leslie Vosshall of Rockefeller University told the Washington Post. This study went like this, as the Post noted: 
 
Using a procedure similar to a hearing exam, in which listeners must try to distinguish between two tones, Vosshall and her colleagues put 26 noses to the test. Each individual was given three vials, two of them containing the same scent, and asked to determine which smell was the odd one out.
 
After hundreds of these tests on each subject, the researchers assumed that the subjects’ performances would be similar in recognizing all possible smells able to be made in the lab. They extrapolated that the average human should be able to distinguish at least 1 trillion odors.

Tags: smellodornosebiologysense

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-22
+1
This is amazing! Humans can small so many different odors, I just wonder about other animals like dogs- could they distinguish even more? Or is this the number - trillions - that covers all possible smells? Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-22
+1
This claim needs further clarification- To be able to state which of three scents is different is far from being able to identify it. To identify a scent is to be able to distinguish it from all other scents.

1 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-22
+0
We do not have that many words for scents - a person, if able to sense a trillion odors, cannot have even an intuition of such power beyond sayings "This flower smells nice". Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-22
+1
I just wonder- if one were to practice and develop a capability to fully utilize the olfactory capability of 1 trillion odors distinguished, what would that person be like? Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-23
+0
Very interesting work Reply


 

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