Is smell a quantum phenomenon?
Our sense of smell is a extraordinarily good at molecular recognition: we can identify tens of thousands of odorants unerringly over a wide concentration range. The mechanism by which this happens do so is still hotly debated. One view is that molecular shape governs smell, but this notion has turned out to have very little predictive power. Some years ago I revived a discredited theory that posits instead that the nose is a vibrational spectroscope, and proposed a possible underlying mechanism, inelastic electron tunneling. In my talk I will review the history and salient facts of this problem and describe some recent experiments that go some way towards settling the question.
Subscribe to A Quantum Bit
Quantum physics began with revolutionary discoveries in the early twentieth century and continues to be central in today’s physics research. Learn about quantum physics, bit by bit. From definitions to the latest research, this is your portal. Subscribe to receive regular emails from the quantum world. Previous Issues...
Sign Up Now
Sign up to receive A Quantum Bit in your email!