Monday, June 27, 2016

HUMAN SENSES - The Sense of Smell

"Smelling doesn't just perceive a scent — it changes it" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2016

REF: Human Senses


SUMMARY:  Scientists are discovering more about normal human biology every day.  Case in point: the sense of smell, which everyone utilizes constantly, but few understand in depth.  Science producer Nsikan Akpan takes a look at how smells work, how they move and how every sniff we take changes the odor itself.

NSIKAN AKPAN (NewsHour):  Whoa.  What's that?  It looks like a space alien puked.

Can you guess what it is?  That is an odor, or at least what an odor looks like.  Odors are normally invisible, swirling around us.  But I will tell you the secret behind why you can see this one.

Hey there.  My name is Nsikan Akpan, and you have landed upon the first episode of “ScienceScope.”

Here, we will put science itself under a microscope, showing you how amazing discoveries are made and the people behind them.

First up, these trippy-looking waves.  This smell-scape is brought to you by high-powered lasers, a gigantic tank of water and this guy.

JOHN CRIMALDI, University of Colorado at Boulder:  You can learn more about this problem from sitting and looking at something like this than just anything else.

NSIKAN AKPAN:  That's John Crimaldi, an engineer and fluid mechanist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

His lab studies how smells move through space.  Do they drift like clouds or curl like smoke, or do smells have another shape altogether?  The answers will lay the foundation for a nationwide project that is studying how animals and humans use smells to map their surroundings.

JOHN CRIMALDI:  If we have situations where we want to detect, say, a location of a chemical weapon, or if we want to try and find hidden contraband, or if we want to find somebody that's trapped under the snow in an avalanche, the tools we use in the 21st century to do this are animals.

NSIKAN AKPAN:  Or people.

And that puts both at tremendous risk.  Crimaldi and his colleagues want to outsource this risk to robots by teaching them how to smell.  That sounds pretty wild, I know.  But think about it.  We have machines to replace our other senses, such as cameras with facial recognition or implants to restore our hearing, but we don't have similar technology for smell.

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