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.