Here are 25 Interesting Facts About Smells and Odors.

1-5 Interesting Facts About Smells and Odors

Body Odor

1. Body Odor might actually help us find our best-fit romantic partners. Body odor is largely influenced by Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules, which are genetically determined and linked to the immune system. Experiments on non-human animals and human participants have shown that we tend to judge potential sexual partners as more attractive if their MHC composition is substantially different from our own. In other words, opposites really might attract, perhaps because such variation in our immunity makes the population more resistant to disease. – Source

2. Meat from a non-castrated pig will have an unpleasant odor when cooked, referred to as “Boar Taint.” While the odor creates no safety issue, nearly 50% of us, especially women, are sensitive to these unpleasant smells. Traditionally, farmers have managed off odors by surgically castrating male pigs. This practice is used around the world with 95% of the male pig population. – Source

3. Putting some dry tea bags in smelly running shoes or a smelly bag when not in use will absorb the musky scents while imparting some of their own more pleasant aroma. – Source

4. Before the rain begins, one of the first odors you may notice as winds pick up and clouds roll in is a sweet, pungent zing in your nostrils. That’s the sharp, fresh aroma of ozone. The scent of ozone heralds stormy weather because a thunderstorm’s downdrafts carry ozone from higher altitudes to nose level. – Source

5. The Macrocilix maia moth is a mimic insect that confuses its predators with its wing patterns, which paints an entire scene. It looks like a watercolor. Two red-eyed muscomorph flies feed from fresh bird droppings, complete with light glinting off their wings. It even releases a pungent odor to drive home the deception. – Source

6-10 Interesting Facts About Smells and Odors

Fresh Asparagus ca. 2003

6. Most people produce the odorous compounds after eating asparagus, but only about 22% of the population has the autosomal genes required to smell them. – Source

7. East Asians (Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese) have fewer apocrine sweat glands compared to people of other descent, and the lack of these glands make East Asians less prone to body odor. – Source

8. People with psychopathic tendencies have an impaired sense of smell, which points to inefficient processing in the front part of the brain. Those scoring highly on psychopathic traits were more likely to struggle to both identify smells and tell the difference between smells, even though they knew they were smelling something. – Source

9. The lovely scent of cut grass is the reek of plant anguish. When attacked, plants release airborne chemical compounds. Plants can use these compounds almost like language, notifying nearby creatures who can “rescue” them from insect attacks. – Source

10. Dogs have bacteria on their paws that make them smell like corn chips. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “Frito Feet.” – Source

11-15 Interesting Facts About Smells and Odors

A14A02 African elephants in the early morning South Africa

11. An elephant’s ability to smell water is so refined tjat they can sometimes detect water sources from as much as 12 miles away. – Source

12. When the bubonic plague struck London in 1665, one of the “cures” the plague doctors prescribed was fart jar. To combat the plague people would literally pass gas into a jar, then take a whiff. – Source

13. Farts smell worse in the shower because the high turbidity of the air in the shower circulates the gas through the space effectively. Secondly, the high humidity and high temperature condition in the shower enhances a person’s sense of smell and taste. The farts don’t actually smell worse, it’s just that we can smell them better than usual. – Source

14. Maned wolf pee smells like cannabis, so much so that police were once called to the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands to search out a pot smoker, only to find that whoever made the report had been fooled by the scent of maned wolf urine. – Source

15. Old people smell is actually caused by a chemical compound called 2-nonenal. Created by the oxidative breakdown of other chemicals over time, it produces what’s described as an “unpleasant greasy and grassy odor” in people and is also responsible for some of the “cardboard” flavor of stale beer. People’s concentration of 2-nonenal increases with age and old people secrete three times as much as a middle-aged person.- Source

16-20 Interesting Facts About Smells and Odors


16. The smell of Parmesan cheese and vomit are actually not that different and when blindfolded, people often can’t tell the difference between the smell of Parmesan cheese and vomit. – Source

17. Human poop and farts get their foul smell from the chemical compounds Skatole and Indole (among others). At low concentrations, these compounds smell flowery, and are used in perfumes. USA and Israel have used Skatole in crowd control sprays. The stench does not wash off skin for 3 days. – Source

18. Your nostrils split their workload. Throughout the day, they each take breaks in a process of alternating congestion and decongestion called the nasal cycle. At a given moment, if you’re breathing through your nose, the lion’s share of the air is going in and out of one nostril, with a much smaller amount passing through the other to enhance your sense of smell. – Source

19. Bunchosia argentea, commonly known as Peanut Butter Tree is a tropical tree native to Venezuela and Colombia in South America. It produces a small red-orange fruits with sticky, dense pulp and a flavor resembling that of dried figs or peanut butter, hence the name. Additionally, the scent is unmistakably of peanut butter. – Source

20. Paleontological research has shown that the part of the human brain that controls hearing and our sense of smell shrank around the same time as humans began to domesticate dogs. – Source

21-25 Interesting Facts About Smells and Odors


21. Coffee doesn’t taste like it smells because 300 of the 631 chemicals that combine to form its complex aroma are wiped out by saliva, causing the flavor to change before we swallow it.– Source

22. The molecules which produce the smell of lemons and oranges are mirror images, but our noses are sensitive enough to know the difference. – Source

23. Bee’s discreet sense of smell, equivalent to a dog’s, is being exploited as a much cheaper way to detect various odors in the environment. There is a device called the Vasor 136 containing 36 cartridges each containing one bee. Each bee is trained to a different smell. Light sensors detect when their tongues stick out determining which smell is present. – Source

24. In 1987, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company sent out scratch and sniff stickers to educate the public on the smell of a gas leak, only for it to backfire when the smell of the unopened envelopes were mistaken for gas leaks. – Source

25. British intelligence services experimented with using semen as an invisible ink to write top-secret letters. First chief of the SIS Mansfield c*mming said that the best invisible ink is semen , which did not react to the main methods of detection. Furthermore it had the advantage of being readily available. In addition, at least one agent had to be reminded to use only fresh supplies of the ‘ink’ when correspondents began noticing an unusual smell. – Source

26-30 Interesting Facts About Smells and Odors


26. Several astronauts who have gone on spacewalks have said that upon stepping back into the space station and removing their helmets, they get a strong, distinctive whiff of the space. The odor clings to their suit, helmet, gloves and tools. The clinging particles have the acrid aroma of seared steak, hot metal and welding fumes. – Source

27. A supplement that increases milk production called Fenugreek, has a side effect that may cause your baby to smell like maple syrup. – Source

28. The “metallic” smell left on your hands after handling coins isn’t the smell of the coin. It’s the smell of our own skin. The musty odor comes from chemical compounds in our own skin, which are transformed in an instant by the touch of iron or copper. – Source

29. Seizure detection dogs are new type of service dogs has only been on the scene for about 10 years or so now, but have made quite an impact on those suffering from certain seizure disorders. These highly skilled dogs smell seizures 30 minutes before they happen and warn their owners. – Source

30. There is a hostage negotiation strategy called “Bringing Home the Bacon” where negotiators fry bacon outside of the hostage area, making the hostage taker hungry from the smell and more willing to negotiate. – Source

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Humans, Science,

Last Update: November 20, 2014

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