New Updates for Your 5 Senses: Can you really smell one trillion scents?


In my quest to rage against the purely digital life, I’ve started compiling new information on what we are learning about the senses. Here are some of the latest sensual discoveries in the world of science and medicine.


Remember the startling statistic released last year by Science that the human nose can actually smell more than a trillion scents? Now, some researchers are calling bunk. Gizmodo has a great article out on why the statistical model used to reach that model is just that, and not based in reality.

“We disagree with several aspects of the 2014 study,” said Rick Gerkin of Arizona State University, who, along with Jason Castro of Bates College, authored a rebuttal paper that appears today in the journal eLife. “First, the assertion that humans can discriminate between at least one trillion odors is based on a fragile mathematical framework — one that’s capable of creating nearly any result with small variations in the data or the experiment design. So the result in question could be tens of orders of magnitude — a factor of one with dozens of zeros after it — larger or smaller than first reported.” —


People with autism have brains wired differently to respond to the sense of touch, according to this article by the Simons Foundation for Autism Research about a new Yale study.

“People without autism automatically interpret the social significance of the touch and start revving up the parts of the brain involved in processing social information,” says lead researcher Kevin Pelphrey, professor of psychology at the Yale Child Study Center. By contrast, he says, people with autism “perceive the non-social aspects of touch, but they don’t perceive the significance.” — 


A new type of headphones allows bicyclists to hear traffic while listening to headphones. A Royal College of Art student completed the headphones as part of her graduate project. She was studying on the RCA’s Design Products course, created the Safe+Sound headphones after noticing a large number of cyclists wearing earphones while travelling on London’s busy roads.

“Eliminating your sense of hearing puts you and others around you at enormous risk,” she said. “Yet I can completely understand the desire to move to music.” — Emma Roper, quoted in DeZeen Magazine


A Huffpost article explores the phenomenon of the “supertaster,” or the genetically based ability some people have (roughly 25% of the population) to taste at deeper levels than their family members. The article takes that idea and applies it to the kids who are picky eaters.

“Different sensory experiences impact appetite, comfort, and curiosity around food, as do personality traits like being a risk-taker vs. preferring the familiar. Understandably, a history of pain or discomfort with eating or digesting, or food allergies can also negatively impact how a person relates to food.” — Katja Rowell,


Digital eye strain is on the rise. Rage against the tyranny of the visual by focusing on your other senses, or do as this article suggests, which is to incorporate a diet rich in vision-enhancing nutrients to battle eye strain.

“Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from macular degeneration, and that number is set to rise exponentially in the next few years. Some experts believe that delaying the onset and progression of the condition can be found in a diet rich in eye-healthy nutrients.” —

That’s all for now. Go smell some roses! Follow me on Twitter @emilygrosvenor

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