Luca Turin – “We Smell Vibrations”

Anton Sheikh-Fedorenko
In this video, biophysicist Luca Turin discusses his work related to the science of scent. His studies led him to conclude that the traditional shape theory of olfaction wherein the smell of a substance is a result of its molecular shape may not be correct. In fact, he proposes that the ability to smell a substance is based on the frequencies of vibration of the molecules – the vibrational theory of olfaction.  

One of the experiments he discusses looks at two molecules that are very similar in shape; however, one of them smells like fresh-cut grass and the other like rotten eggs. Another study he talks through is where there are two molecules with different shapes but almost the same vibrational spectrum. Here it was observed that the two molecules, although different in shape, smelled the same.

Watch Video on TED


Quite similar to the smell being based on vibrational frequencies and recognized by our body, it may also be possible for our body to recognize information delivered by a carrier, such as water, that is able to mimic electromagnetic vibrations of chemical substances.

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