Crayons, cabbage, cologne, cookies
Authored by: Sean  

Or how about garlic, vanilla, bread and wet earth? The chances are pretty high that you associated each of the words above with a very strong sense of smell as well. Whether it is your favorite flower or perfume or even the smell of your home when you were growing up, if you were to talk about experiences, plenty of us also describe an aroma or odor associated with them. Interestingly, in a study done by neurobiologist Leslie Vosshall of the Rockefeller University, New York, it was found that the human nose is capable of discerning 1 trillion odors.


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That is pretty thought-provoking indeed because human beings tend to show up rather poorly when it comes to the sense of smell and comparison with other animals. For instance, a shark can discern the scent of blood or prey in the water because it has a unique mechanism which allows its nostrils to convey information based on the time a scent takes to reach them. In sheer numbers as well, human beings seem to be slightly handicapped when it comes to a sense of smell. For instance a dog has 220 million olfactory receptors and a human being has around 6 million of these olfactory receptors.

Science and numbers aside, there is absolutely no doubt that the human sense of smell adds to the way we experience life around us. Whether it is choices such as your favorite cologne or your much loved dish, there is a distinct sense of aroma associated with it. It can even be something as simple as catching a whiff of freshly cut grass when you are taking your morning walk somewhere. It is invigorating and there is a sense of familiarity about this fragrance. Of course, for each of us this “familiar fragrance” will take on different dimensions. It could be your favorite body or bath products, the smell of chocolate or even a new car smell.



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All of this and more harks back to a particular association – good and bad – that you have had in the past. Some of us are able to develop it to such a fine art that we can make out the difference between aroma and bouquet when it comes to a fine wine! But for most of us smell is simply something that we link with many different things. In fact, it is quite interesting that people even talk of smell coupled with taste. For instance, how many times have you said that something smells sweet or that you smelt the salty air of the sea? Why, there are even phantom smells which unfortunately could be indicative of health problems.


Fragrance is also used in many different ways. Bookstores sometimes resort to infusing their space with the smell of chocolate. Apparently it encourages customers to browse and buy some more! At the end of the day, it is really about being aware of the fact that you can discern different aromas and odors around you. Whether it is petrichor, allinaise, phenolic compounds or yeast, they all play their part in giving you fragrances that you will never forget. Perhaps then, stopping to smell the roses can be done literally and figuratively!

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