(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘smell

“If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better”*…

 

It’s official. Science has decided that old books smell “smoky,” “earthy,” and more than anything, “woody.”

That’s based on findings released today by Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič, researchers at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, who have been working to capture, analyze, and catalog historic and culturally important scents. The scientists collected the responses of visitors to St Paul’s Cathedral’s Dean and Chapter library in London, asking them to describe the smell and later compiling the results in a document they’re calling the Historic Book Odour Wheel…

 Take a whiff at “The Odor ‘Wheel’ Decoding the Smell of Old Books.”

* Ray Bradbury

###

As we breathe it in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1749 that George Frideric Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks— or Fireworks Music, as it’s commonly known — premiered in a specially-constructed theater in St. James park in London.

The display was not as successful as the music itself: the weather was rainy, and in the middle of the show the pavilion caught fire.

The ill-fated site of the premiere

source (and larger version)

Written by LW

April 27, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will”*…

 

Woodcut engraving from the mid-16th century depicting the process of distilling essential oils from plants with a conical condenser

Since ancient times, people have felt that eliminating the foul odors of human bodies and effluvia is an effective– indeed, in some times and cultures, the most effective–  way to improve public health.

Consider the sweet, intoxicating smell of a rose: While it might seem superficial, the bloom’s lovely odor is actually an evolutionary tactic meant to ensure the plant’s survival by attracting pollinators from miles away. Since ancient times, the rose’s aroma has also drawn people under its spell, becoming one of the most popular extracts for manufactured fragrances. Although the function of these artificial scents has varied widely—from incense for spiritual ceremonies to perfumes for fighting illness to products for enhancing sex appeal—they’ve all emphasized a connection between good smells and good health, whether in the context of religious salvation or physical hygiene.

Over the last few millennia, as scientific knowledge and social norms have fluctuated, what Westerners considered smelling “good” has changed drastically: In today’s highly deodorized world, where the notion of “chemical sensitivity” justifies bans on fragrance and our tolerance of natural smells is ever diminishing, we assume that to be without smell is to be clean, wholesome, and pure. But throughout the long and pungent history of humanity, smelling healthy has been as delightful as it has disgusting…

The whole stinky story at “Our Pungent History: Sweat, Perfume, and the Scent of Death.”

* Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer [an amazingly good novel]

###

As we hold our noses, we might spare a thought for Sir Joseph William Bazalgette; he died on this date in 1891.  A civil engineer, he became chief engineer of London’s Metropolitan Board of Works, in which role his major achievement was a response to the “Great Stink of 1858,” in July and August 1858, during which very hot weather exacerbated the smell of untreated human waste and industrial effluent.  Bazalgette oversaw the creation of a sewer network for central London which addressed the problem– and was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics and in beginning the cleansing of the River Thames.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 15, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Smell was our first sense… We think because we smelled”*

 

Lisa Wade, in Pacific Standard:

Earlier this year I reviewed a study that found that, simply by changing the weight of an object in hand, psychologists can manipulate how seriously a person takes an issue. In other words, when holding something heavy, matters seem heavy. Or, concerns seem weightier when one is weighed down.

Thanks to an email from University of Southern California professor Norbert Schwarz, I was introduced to a whole series of studies on what psychologists call metaphorical effects. These are instances in which a metaphor commonly used to describe a psychological state or social reality can, in turn, induce that state or reality. So, for example, holding a warm cup of coffee makes people feel warmly toward each other (here), getting the cold shoulder makes people feel cold (here), people placed in a high location seem to be high in a hierarchy (here), and cleaning one’s hands makes a person feel morally clean (here).

Schwarz was the co-author, with Spike W.S. Lee, on another example of a metaphorical effect. They wanted to know if smelling something fishy made people suspicious. It did.

Read the noisome news in full at “Smelling Something Fishy Makes People More Suspicious.”

* Lyall Watson (in Jacobson’s Organ)

###

As we hold our noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” opened in the Ctaskills in New York State.  The organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair– or Woodstock, as it is remembered– had hoped to sell 50,000 tickets; but by the week before the event, had moved 186,000.  A last-minute change of venue presented them with a hard choice: hastily erect more/stronger fences and install additional security on the new site (the famous Yasgur’s Farm) or offer the event for free.  The night before the event, with attendees already arriving in huge numbers, the promoters cut the fence.  Ultimately an estimated 400,000 people enjoyed a (somewhat rainy) weekend of performances from 32 acts.  It was, as Rolling Stone opined, a defining moment in Rock and Roll.

source

 

Written by LW

August 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

The nose knows?…

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have discovered “olfactory white,” the nasal equivalent of white noise, Live Science reports:

Almost any given smell in the real world comes from a mixture of compounds. Humans are good at telling these mixtures apart (it’s hard to mix up the smell of coffee with the smell of roses, for example), but we’re bad at picking individual components out of those mixtures…

Mixing multiple wavelegths that span the human visual range equally makes white light; mixing multiple frequencies that span the range of human hearing equally makes the whooshing hum of white noise. Neurobiologist Noam Sobel from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and his colleagues wanted to find out whether a similar phenomenon happens with smelling…

Spoiler alert:  it does.  Find out how– and learn more about the most mysterious of our senses at Live Science.  (And download the paper from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.)

###

As we reach for our hankies, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason received the patent for Mason Jars.  With it’s threaded mouth, metal lid, rubber gasket ring– and the hermetic seal that they can form– the Mason Jar quickly became a staple for food preservation (usually, and ironically, called “canning”).  While they are still used to that end, they have more lately flourished as collectables.

A Mason Jar in use

source

%d bloggers like this: