Saturday, 22 March 2014

Amazing Design: “Your Nose Can Detect 1 Trillion Odours,” New Research Suggests

We can distinguish between much more than the fragrance of different flowers.

Joel Kontinen

What the nose knows might as well be limitless, researchers suggest,” a recent Nature article states, commenting on the discovery that we may be able to detect one trillion odours.

Researchers “prepared scent mixtures with 10, 20 or 30 components selected from a collection of 128 odorous molecules. Then they asked 26 study participants to identify the mixture that smelled differently in a sample set where two of three scents were the same. When the two scents contained components that overlapped by more than about 51%, most participants struggled to discriminate between them. The authors then calculated the number of possible mixtures that overlap by less than 51% to arrive at their estimate of how many smells a human nose can detect: at least 1 trillion.”

While we cannot compete with dogs, our acuity of distinguishing between smells is amazing. With our roughly “400 types of scent receptorswe can “detect molecular components” of a particular odour.

As the psalmist wrote, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14, NKJV). It is a good reason for thanking the One who made us in His image.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny design in nature and in us.


Morrison, Jessica. 2014. Human nose can detect 1 trillion odours. Nature news. (20 March).