The Quantum Theory Of Smell

Do quantum vibrations determine how things smell? Are our noses detecting the secrets of the universe without our knowing? Via the BBC, the realm of the senses grows stranger:

A controversial theory that the way we smell involves a quantum physics effect has received a boost, following experiments with human subjects. It challenges the notion that our sense of smell depends only on the shapes of molecules we sniff in the air. Instead, it suggests that the molecules’ vibrations are responsible.

Molecules can be viewed as a collection of atoms on springs, so the atoms can move relative to one another. Energy of just the right frequency – a quantum – can cause the “springs” to vibrate, and in a 1996 paper [the theory’s creator] Dr. Lucia Turin said it was these vibrations that explained smell.

A way to test it is with two molecules of the same shape, but with different vibrations. A new report shows that humans can distinguish the two…In double-blind tests, in which neither the experimenter nor the participant knew which sample was which, subjects were able to distinguish between the two versions of the molecule cyclopentadecanone.

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  • emperorreagan

    It’s interesting to live in an era where science is trying to reverse engineer humans. I read the articles posted here and on various science news sites and wonder how much of it is going to hold up down the line.

    I personally doubt that much at all will stand up, but that’s my own bias. GM spent the 80s trying to reverse engineer Toyotas and couldn’t put a quality product on the market. I think groping backwards looking for first principles is nearly impossible to do well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.lyle.716 Jason Lyle

    I was just thinking about this very thing this morning… weird.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=742104313 Adam Goodwin

    Don’t all the properties of matter emerge from the outer electron shell? That’s what Wolfgang Pauli postulated, wasn’t it? Simply through vibrations of electrons (like particles) give rise to a new level of organization where a diversity of properties manifest. Don’t remember clearly if it was Pauli, though.

  • alex

    I heard that inkas or maya used different scents to remember things better. I myself can vividly remember many things associated with some smell, as If I experience dejavu.
    May be smell is that 4th dimensional sense which vibration of smell gives us.

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