Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Odor

Odor is a confusing concept for me. I think most people think of odor as non-material, like some kind of magical aroma. But isn't what we call odor simply the extension of tiny particles from the source? I think this is a devastating reality for hypochondriacs because, if true, it means that when we 'smell' something bad we are not merely smelling a non-physical aroma, but are actually tasting, in a sense, the very thing we are smelling. In other words, our noses have parts that function just like the taste-buds on our tongues. As I understand it, when I 'smell' garbage, I'm actually 'tasting' tiny particles of garbage. And, yes, when I smell worse things than garbage, I'm actually 'tasting' tiny little particles of that worse thing. I could be wrong. I hope I am. Does 'odor' really exist or are we just breathing in tiny particles of the source?

7 comments:

The AJ Thomas said...

this post stinks!

bryan said...

this is the one of the craziest questions I have seen in a while. from what i understand about odor it is not the particle itself that we smell but certain "chemicals" created by the particles. At least thats what they say on the outdoor channel!!!

matthew said...

bryan, thanks to your lead i found the following facts on a website:

"Smell is a very direct sense. In order for you to smell something, molecules from that thing have to make it to your nose. Everything you smell, therefore, is giving off molecules -- whether it is fresh baked cookies, your mom's perfume or a big, juicy orange or grapefruit. Those molecules are generally light, volatile (easy to evaporate) chemicals that float through the air into your nose. There are things that have no smell - like a piece of steel. Steel is a non-volatile solid. It has no smell because nothing evaporates from it.

When you smell many fruits or flowers, what you are smelling is esters evaporating from the fruit or flower. Esters are organic molecules. For example, the ester that gives a banana its smell is called isoamyl acetate. The primary smell of an orange comes from octyl acetate. Esters can now be made artificially, and that is where artificial flavors come from.

The AJ Thomas said...

who ya gotta know to get some *** around here?

matthew said...

AJ....please don't swear on my blog. Good thing i have censors.

The AJ Thomas said...

easy for you to say - you're full of ***

Regan said...

Isn't it lovely to think of all that stuff going into your nose? My job is analyzing drugs for law enforcement, and it freaks me out when I open something really smelly. I always wonder if the fumes are toxic. I reassure myself that if it was really poisonous, I would have advance warning, because the cop would die first.