Why things smell bad...?

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Offline Exodus

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Why things smell bad...?
« on: 16/08/2003 13:29:02 »
Why is it that things smell so awful to us? is it in our instinct when we are born to know that something that smells that way is not good for us? e.g decaying meat (smells wrong doesn't it) it induces a vomiting reaction, so we know not to eat it why? Any ideas?

There is an interesting article by Peter Brennan which describes smell if anyone is interested..

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« Last Edit: 16/08/2003 13:40:37 by Exodus »

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Offline Quantumcat

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #1 on: 18/08/2003 07:39:59 »
Fairly simple, what I think is: We are born with the appropriate networking in our brains that gives a negative reaction to certain smells already outlined so they can recognise that they are bad without having to go through potentially fatal experiences to get the networking of neurones in place. I'm usually wrong with these things if so please say so.

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Offline OmnipotentOne

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #2 on: 21/02/2004 05:15:41 »
But if you grow up around that certain smell you get use to it and it is no longer a umm smelly smell?......Oh  and I know I probably sound stupid but Quantumcat could you please tell me what that quote means, I see it all over the forums but dont get it.
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Offline Ylide

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #3 on: 21/02/2004 08:09:54 »
I'm guessing it's evolutionary.  People who were genetically inclined to think rotting food and poisonous berries taste/smell bad are more inclined to survive, yes?

The ones that have the capability to eat rotting/poisonous things obviously have a genetic advantage in that they have an exclusive food source over other organisms.  (so I'm guessing vultures don't think rotting carcasses smell bad)

There is probably also some conditiong, too.  If you're around a cetain smell for long periods of time, the receptors become saturated with it and stop relaying the signal.  People that work in sewage treatment plants aren't usually walking around all day on the verge of nausea...at least not after the first week.





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Offline Supercryptid

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #4 on: 24/02/2004 04:22:42 »
I agree with QuatumCat on this one. We are preprogrammed to know whether a smell is 'good' or 'bad' for us. Environment plays a role too, so being around a smell for a while can alter your perception of it.

Speaking of smells, why is it that so many sulfur-containing compounds have some kind of odor to them? Here are some examples: pure sulfur, hydrogen sulfide, ethanethiol, carbon disulfide. I suppose that our smell receptors are triggered by sulfur atoms?
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Offline nilmot

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #5 on: 24/02/2004 09:02:49 »
I don't think our smell receptors are tirggered by sulphur atoms only; benzene smells too, that's why it's called an aromatic molecules and it doesn't contain sulphur.

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Offline tweener

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #6 on: 24/02/2004 19:00:58 »
I agree that certain smells are built in to smell bad, bit conditioning plays a role also.  At one of my jobs, they decided they had to replace all the tile in the building (A very large building).  So, for several weeks I had to smell the citrus based solvent they used to remove the glue.  For several years after that, the smell of an orange or grapefruit would make me throw up.  After 10 years I don't retch anymore, but I still don't like oranges.  

I guess that I was "conditioned" that the smell of an orange automatically went with this solvent stuff, which I'm sure was quite poisionous.


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Offline Ylide

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #7 on: 25/02/2004 01:45:42 »
I know where you're comin from on that one, John.  When I was a kid, I trew up after eating a bag of Skittles.  The actual vomiting wasn't from the Skittles, but the association made me nauseated any time I smelled Skittles (or any artificial fruity smell similar to them) for a good 10 years or so.

On the other hand, I threw up one time right after drinking chocolate milk, too, but that didn't make me dislike chocolate milk.

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Offline tweener

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #8 on: 25/02/2004 02:47:11 »
Sometimes it's hard to avoid oranges.  It makes your co-workers think you're strange when you run out gagging and retching as soon as they open their orange.

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Offline MissMontana

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #9 on: 26/02/2004 20:17:43 »
The smell of rum does the same for me lol
 

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #10 on: 26/02/2004 21:13:30 »
Many odours that at first seem noxious become less noticeable with time, especially if you are exposed to them on a regular basis for example the sewage treatment specialists that Jay mentioned above., in the first second after a smell is encountered, electrical activity between the brain and the smell receptors rise sharply on impact. After a short while, perhaps a minute or so, the effect drops and then gradually decreases and even fades from perception, the strange thing is,( from what I understand) is that the receptors are still being stimulated and continue to send signals to the brain. So, I presume that somewhere in the nervous system, the steady incoming signals seem to be realised as normal and the original awareness of the odour diminishes. Of course working in sewage treatment plants is a good way to encourage one to stop biting your nails !!

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Offline roberth

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #11 on: 26/02/2004 21:57:56 »
quote:
Originally posted by MissMontana

The smell of rum does the same for me lol



Mmmmm...rum
 

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Offline bezoar

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #12 on: 27/02/2004 00:13:23 »
Nobody can get nauseated from chocolate.  That's a sacrilege.
 

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Offline tweener

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #13 on: 27/02/2004 01:29:04 »
Major sacrilege.  I like the strong stuff where about 5 or 10 grams will just about do you in.  Not messed up with all that sugar and milk.

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #14 on: 27/02/2004 02:55:38 »
ooohh...I love Milk chocolate...can't handle the strong stuff, you're obviously hardcore !!......and white choccy ?yum yum !!!...mind you the strangest chocolate I ever had was in Florence Italy, I'd never seen so many different colours and flavours.....strawberry, raspberry, bannana.....a chocolate lovers Paradise....yum yum !!

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Offline Donnah

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #15 on: 29/02/2004 02:35:00 »
When I work with horses it smells good to me and the manure smell is okay.  Cow patties smell bad, but quickly lose their impact.  Cat litter always stinks, but the worst is cleaning dog kennels.  I never got used to that smell, even when I worked at the SPCA.
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Offline bezoar

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #16 on: 29/02/2004 06:30:31 »
How did I miss all that flovored chocolate in Florence?  Didn't find it when I was there, but did have some of that good Italian ice cream.

I don't know, but even horse poop stinks to me.  All that poop stinks, maybe that's so no animal will eat it by mistake, but I did have a dog once that would always lick the kids diapers clean when they messed.  Very bizarre to me.  Scat hound.
 

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #17 on: 29/02/2004 18:34:30 »
......quite handy to have a pet like that if you run out of toilet paper !!!!...(very very sorry about that !!)

Next time im in Florence Nancy , I'll pick some up for you and send it......hmmmm !!!...making my mouth salivate just thinking about it..yummy !!

Apparently, you girlies have increased sensitivity to certain smells. As I understand it oestrogen levels rise and fall during the monthly cycle as does the sensitivity to smells. When the oestrogen level is at it's highest so is the sense of smell , and less sensitive during menstruation when the level is at it's lowest.

This may account for the weird appetites that girlies have during pregnancy as oestrogen levels are so low that that the smell/taste senses are dulled to the extent that the 'gherkins and ice cream' syndrome happens......but what I want to know is why have i heard accounts of women craving dirt ?....is it due to elements in the dirt that somehow the 'body' knows it needs ?.......please forgive my inane ramblings about this...I'm just a bloke !!
 
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Offline Donnah

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #18 on: 02/03/2004 04:02:52 »
Neil I think you are right on the money about eating dirt.  I've seen cattle eat dirt and after the farmer put out some mineral blocks, they stopped eating the dirt.
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Offline bezoar

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #19 on: 02/03/2004 12:01:36 »
That's called pica, and it's supposed to be because of certain nutritional deficits.  Clay and starch (as in laundry starch) are two of the common pica cravings.  Also was a problem in the past with kids eating paint chips off the wall when the paint was lead based.  Another weird medical fact, people who are anemic will chew or suck ice.  Go figure.

I'm not so sure that the sensitivity to smell is all hormone based because it seems to me that even menopausal women are still more sensitive to smell than men.

So Penile, when are you going to Florence again?  My mouth is watering.
 

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #20 on: 02/03/2004 16:01:12 »
Perhaps you girlies are more sensitive to smell than us blokes anyway, at any time of the month......I'm just sure I read about oestrogen levels related to taste and smell somewhere.....

Donnah, that's interesting to know about the mineral blocks, nothing like a good dose of Pica to put a smile on a cows face [;)][:D]Nanc...I may be off to Florence this coming August, in the mean time.....I'm gonna have myself a grit and dirt salad...yummy [:)]

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Offline Donnah

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #21 on: 02/03/2004 21:59:59 »
Neil, I never had to worry about that when I worked with horses.  I bit the dust regularly.[B)][;)]
« Last Edit: 02/03/2004 22:00:42 by Donnah »
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Offline bezoar

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #22 on: 02/03/2004 23:57:51 »
Wait, let me get one thing straight.  If you get back to Florence, I don't want any dirt or clay.  I'm definitely a chocoholic!  But you know, if pica's your preference, then let them eat dirt!
« Last Edit: 02/03/2004 23:59:00 by bezoar »
 

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Offline OldMan

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #23 on: 03/03/2004 02:42:32 »
I seem to recall that dogs eat grass for a similar reason to the pica thing. Anyone know why exactly? We got a little puppy the other day and he seems to like  the grass, mind you i wasn't sure if he was eating it or just yanking on it cos he likes chewing on stuff. And he's SOO CUTE!!!!

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Offline Quantumcat

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #24 on: 03/03/2004 08:40:35 »
My quote refers to Schrodinger's Cat. If you're not familiar with it, look it up !!! It's very interesting.

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #25 on: 03/03/2004 20:40:27 »
Cats eat grass too, in fact, you can purchase specific grass plants from pet shops especially for that purpose.

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Offline Donnah

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #26 on: 03/03/2004 20:52:00 »
quote:
Originally posted by OldMan

I seem to recall that dogs eat grass for a similar reason to the pica thing. Anyone know why exactly? We got a little puppy the other day and he seems to like  the grass, mind you i wasn't sure if he was eating it or just yanking on it cos he likes chewing on stuff. And he's SOO CUTE!!!!

Tim

I think it helps their digestion because of the juice they chew out of it and the bulk they get from the grass.  My cat uses it to keep his hairballs intact when he horks them up (usually on the papers on my desk if they are important or on the furniture).
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Offline Quantumcat

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #27 on: 07/03/2004 15:41:26 »
Oh donnah I know how you feel, I used to have a cat with really long hair that shed throughout the year, even if we brushed it once a day it still managed to lick down enough loose hair to get furballs ... then always coughed them up on papers that were important ... don't know how he figured out they were important, but he seemed to know.

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Offline RNA

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #28 on: 22/03/2004 04:37:36 »
What about the smell of Durian?
Some one like but the other don't.
I like some time and not the other.
 

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Offline MissMontana

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #29 on: 24/03/2004 20:48:26 »
Durian?  Is that a mate of yours?
 

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Offline jago25_98

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #30 on: 19/04/2004 12:49:39 »
The #1 favorite:

The smell of post-menopausal old women. I once went into a hairdressers and there was nothing but smelly old women. Aggh! Toxic.

#2) Sulphur to most people. I can get used to it though, maybe I'm wierd :p

#3) tampons. Never work as a toilet attendant!

There has been surveys on this. I spoke to a guy who runs a Perfumery course here in Plymouth,UK. He only told me the most popular smells; Licorice for men is all I remember. You might be able to find mre info, if you can report back won't you? also, check http://www.server2.love-scent.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php for less scientific discussion
 

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #31 on: 19/04/2004 13:14:42 »
The smell of a garden after a thunderstorm...now that's nice....

Jago...are you sure it's the post-menopausal old women ?.....I mean I'm sure they have an odour of their own making but perhaps it was just all the hairdressers chemicals etc...!!..I agree about the sulphur.....but even as a toilet attendant I have to ask how you managed to come within close proximity to tampons (AHH...I've just shown a predisposed bias !!..I'm assuming you're a bloke )..still, I'm sure being a toliet attendant must look good on your CV eh ?

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #32 on: 19/04/2004 16:53:11 »
Apparently the smell of a Durian is well bad to Westerners, though I have heard that to some Asian gourmets it is a delicacy, not just for it's custard like raspberry falvoured insides but also for it's aroma....YUK !!...wouldn't want to try a Durian Crumble !!!
quote:
Originally posted by RNA

What about the smell of Durian?
Some one like but the other don't.
I like some time and not the other.



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Offline etews2

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #33 on: 18/05/2004 01:11:01 »
One of the above folks mentioned "getting used to a smell".  That is quite true and unfortuantely one that leads to deadly results.  Hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs or swanp gas) is more poisonous than cyanide used in executions.  It can be sensed at under 1 part per million, but the nose becomes desensitized at 10 ppm, and thereafter becomes more deadly.  If you are in a closed space and you smell the stuff, then don't..... get the hell out!  You are half way to dead.
 

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Offline roberth

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #34 on: 18/05/2004 02:32:47 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep

Apparently the smell of a Durian is well bad to Westerners, though I have heard that to some Asian gourmets it is a delicacy, not just for it's custard like raspberry falvoured insides but also for it's aroma....YUK !!...wouldn't want to try a Durian Crumble !!!
quote:
Originally posted by RNA

What about the smell of Durian?
Some one like but the other don't.
I like some time and not the other.



'Men are the same as women...just inside out !'



I've just returned from a business trip to Thailand. When one of the girls in our office asked me if I wanted to try some durian, I remembered the name from this thread!! I jumped at the chance to try it, and would now eat it anytime, anywhere. Yum. Durian crumble, please Neil. The smell of the fruit when fresh is similar to ripe mango, but permeated the entire floor of the office. With me, when it comes to food, if it doesn't kill you I'll try it. If you eat a large quantity of durian, it leaves a hot taste similar to chilli in your mouth and can cause indigestion. To offset this, we also ate mangostene. Also yummy.
Speaking of Thai food, I had some of the best food I have ever eaten. It is far superior to any of the local Thai restaurants around here and there is a lot of Thai restaurants around Sydney.
« Last Edit: 18/05/2004 02:38:43 by roberth »
 

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #35 on: 18/05/2004 12:02:51 »
Well, I'd love to give it a try !!..I'll try anything once....I was only reporting on what I've heard....have not had the luxury of a taster myself. Hmmm..I wonder if my local pizza place do Durian Pizza ?

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Offline starburst

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #36 on: 17/06/2004 06:48:30 »
quote:
Originally posted by MissMontana

Durian?  Is that a mate of yours?



mmm...durians...[:I]love them. durian is a fruit with a particularly strong and rich odour. its quite popular in asia, but in other parts of the world, people avoid it, as they are not used to the pungent odour of the fruit. my dog, who's really weird, totally adores durian. [:D] that's one weird dog alright. but the vet said that she can't eat it as it is high in protein and cholestrol (to a dog), and will cause her to have cataracts. i heard from some people that eating too much durian will give you a high blood pressure. but i'm not really sure about this. i still love eating it though the downside is that after eating it, your breath will stink, and no amount of mint flavoured chewing gum , toothpaste will take it away. it'll go away the next day though.

still, you should try out durian! it's really nice. [:)]
« Last Edit: 17/06/2004 06:49:50 by starburst »
 

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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #37 on: 17/06/2004 12:14:15 »
quote:
Originally posted by starburst

quote:
Originally posted by MissMontana

Durian?  Is that a mate of yours?



mmm...durians...[:I]love them. durian is a fruit with a particularly strong and rich odour. its quite popular in asia, but in other parts of the world, people avoid it, as they are not used to the pungent odour of the fruit. my dog, who's really weird, totally adores durian. [:D] that's one weird dog alright. but the vet said that she can't eat it as it is high in protein and cholestrol (to a dog), and will cause her to have cataracts. i heard from some people that eating too much durian will give you a high blood pressure. but i'm not really sure about this. i still love eating it though the downside is that after eating it, your breath will stink, and no amount of mint flavoured chewing gum , toothpaste will take it away. it'll go away the next day though.

still, you should try out durian! it's really nice. [:)]



I think between your love for Durian and your soft toy....it's clear to me that you should try for a career as a professional smeller !!..they do exist in the perfume and food industry...I bet you'd be brilliant at it

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Offline OmnipotentOne

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #38 on: 30/08/2004 04:24:57 »
What exactly is a smell? I'm confusing myself just by asking this.  Is it like the reaction between to particles or something? The temperature its at corresponding to the temperature around it?  Stupid question I know.

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Offline Ylide

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #39 on: 01/09/2004 08:26:50 »
The sensation of smell comes when molecules of a particular shape bind with receptors in the nose (similar to how taste works) which stimulate the olfactory nerves, which indicates to your brain that you smell something.  Different combinations of receptors create different smells.  Things that are odorless either do not fit the receptors or fail to bind with them properly.  Strong smells are either more concentrated (binding more receptors) or have a stronger affinity for the receptors. (causing a greater level of nerve stimulation)



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Offline neilep

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #40 on: 06/09/2004 19:07:31 »
there simply has to be a fundamental basic biological instinct that tells the body which is a bad smell and which is not eh ?...I know there will always be the odd exception to the rule but brainy must know before hand whether a smell is gross or good eh ?...how does it know ?.......I also heard once, (think I wrote it here once before)...that smell has more of an impact on taste than the taste buds on your tongue do...which might explain why some people pinch their noses when having horrible yucky medicine.

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Offline Ylide

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #41 on: 09/09/2004 18:32:12 »
From an evolutionary standpoint, most things that are poisonous or non-nutritious have a very pungent aroma and/or an extremely bitter, nasty taste.  The humans that perceive these tastes and smells as unpleasant went on to pass this trait on to their young while the ones who did not died horrible agonizing deaths.  So in a nutshell, it's genetic, though some cultural and environmental factors play into it.  Children have many more tastebuds than adults, presumably because of their propensity for putting things in their little mouths.  The extra taste buds make unpleasant flavors many times worse, as their little bodies can handle much less of a done of poison than we big folk can.  

Coincidentally, this is also why kids hate slightly bitter foods like Brussel's sprouts, broccoli, onions, and the like.  It's not that they're being a pain (usually) it's that these things genuinely taste gross to them.

As for smell and taste being linked, yes that is indeed true.  I'm not sure why, from a physiological standpoint.  Ask me after I finish this semester of physiology.  =)  



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Offline deweys hamster

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #42 on: 09/09/2004 20:44:53 »
quote:
Children have many more tastebuds than adults


when do the extra tastebuds disappear?  it is said that introducing children to many foods early on prevents fussiness in later years, but does this mean that the extra tastebuds are destroyed in some way?
 

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Offline roberth

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #43 on: 10/09/2004 00:22:41 »
Just after birth, a baby's hearing, taste and sight are at their peak. While a baby's brain may not know how to process all this information, their senses will never be better. From this time, all these senses start to deteriorate.
 

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Offline Ylide

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Re: Why things smell bad...?
« Reply #44 on: 11/09/2004 03:38:36 »
Introducing children to many foods early on simply helps them develop a taste for the foods that may taste bitter to them.  Most people give their infants and toddlers very bland food so when the time comes to eat with mommy and daddy, mommy and daddy's food isn't so appealing.  It's instinctual, as a primitive survival trait, to be repulsed by bitterness or strange flavors in food.  Instinct can be overcome with conditioning....this is all developing a "taste" for a new food is...conditioning.

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