What makes things smell?

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Phuong Nguyen

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What makes things smell?
« on: 15/05/2010 19:30:03 »
Phuong Nguyen  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi Chris from the Naked Scientits,
I've visted your website many times and I have some questions for you.

1. How do and what makes gaseous particles smell? (like in floral perfume, when you spray it smells good)

2. How do and what makes cloth absorbs the smell? (like when you spray perfume on your shirt it stays for a while)

3.Why do some perfume smell good but then when you mix it with sweat it smell bad?
Thanks for your time Chris

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 15/05/2010 19:30:03 by _system »


Offline chris

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What makes things smell?
« Reply #1 on: 16/05/2010 12:15:52 »
What we perceive as a "smell" is the combined effect of all of the "odorants" - volatile molecules present in the environment to which we are sensitive - stimulating the olfactory receptors (molecular docking stations) in the nose. The unique spectrum of odours associated with a specific smell therefore triggers off a characteristic signature pattern of activity in the nerves that receive inputs from the olfactory system. These are interpreted by the brain as a unique "smell".

In other words, a smell is rarely a single molecular entity working in isolation but instead, more usually, a cocktail of smelly molecules all present at different concentrations. In this respect, smell is the molecular-chemical equivalent of light, where different "coloured" lights are made by mixing together different wavelengths.

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