How many smells can a person smell?

Posted on Jan 12, 2021      138

For a long time, biologists believed that the human nose could distinguish between about 10,000 smells. But researchers at Howard Medical Institute disproved this misconception by finding through experiment that humans can smell at least a trillion smells!

Initially, scientists identified 128 aromatic molecules, each of which handles a particular smell familiar to most people: pineapple, orange, chocolate, etc. These molecules were then mixed many times in different proportions with each other. The resulting aroma mixtures were divided into sets of three flavors: two of them were the same and the third was different.

Specialists involved in the experiment 26 volunteers, each of whom were given a set of flavors, among which it was necessary to find a smell different from the others. Time after time, scientists increased the number of identical aroma molecules in all three scents, making them more and more similar to each other. But even when the number of identical molecules in all three scents exceeded half, the volunteers had no trouble finding a fresh scent.

The results of the experiment showed that the sensitivity of the human nose is much higher than previously thought. Armed with the statistics of their study, the authors calculated how many smells a person can distinguish, taking as a basis the number of all smells on the planet. Despite the fundamental impossibility of determining the exact number of different aromatic molecules, the scientists still dared to call an approximate number: a man can distinguish between about 1 trillion smells. However, it is unlikely that a person in his entire life will feel at least a quarter of all these scents.

That’s interesting: Did you know that the human eye can sense a single photon on the retina? Read more about the experiment HERE.