How many odors are distinguished by a person?

For a long time, biologists believed that the human nose could distinguish about 10, 000 odors. But employees of the Movard Medical Institute denied this delusion, setting up with the help of an experiment that a person is able to feel at least trillion smells!

Initially, scientists have allocated 128 aromatic molecules, each of which is responsible for a certain smell, familiar to most people: pineapple, orange, chocolate, etc. Then these molecules were mixed many times in various proportions with each other. The resulting aromatic mixtures were divided according to sets consisting of three aromas: two of them were the same, the third was different.

Experts attracted 26 volunteers to experiment, each of which sets were taken with flavors, among which it was necessary to find a smell other than others. Once at once, scientists raised the number of identical aromatic molecules in all three flavors, making them more similar to each other. But even when the number of identical molecules in all three odors exceeded half, volunteers were easily different from other fragrances.

The results of the experiment showed that the sensitivity of the human nose is much higher than previously thought. Armed with the statistics of his research, the authors decided to calculate how many odors can distinguish the person, taking the amount of all possible smells on the planet. Despite the fundamental inability to determine the exact number of different aromatic molecules, scientists still risked to name an approximate number: a person can distinguish between about 1 trillion odors. However, it is unlikely that someone from people will be able to feel at least a quarter of all these fragrances.

It's interesting: Did you know that the human eye can feel on the retina just one photon? More about the experiment here.

Source: Science 21 Mar 2014: