Do you Smell Something Funny?

We have all learned “if you see something… say something!”  The idea is that the best defense of our safety is to empower all of us to be watchful.  Perhaps there are further applications.

My wife says that women are very sensitive to the scent of a man’s skin, and I am not referring to a cologne they wear.  She says that our bodies emit smells and that what we commonly call chemistry is in part related to how much we like that smell.  The good news here is that she likes the way I smell.  Go ahead and sniff your arm… there is a smell that apparently is unique to you and your body’s chemistry.

I have noticed that some people are terribly insensitive to this and either don’t bathe or fail to use deodorant.  What I guess I never knew is that other animals and insects have much better senses of smell than we do… I guess because of the evolutionary process since it helps them either find a productive mate, food, or sense danger.  Mosquitos have evolved to use this and skin temperature to home in on their evening meals.

Well, this leads me to comment on some fascinating research into this animal kingdom to potentially offer early warnings for things that go wrong in our bodies.  Evidently, our dogs are keenly aware when we are not well, and researchers are thinking that it is because our body odors change to reflect that.

Take a look at this research into insects: MIT Technology Review

This is a fascinating dimension to the neural science methods of today and tomorrow.  Even though we can’t yet “tap into what the animal is actually thinking” we can find ways to decode when that animal or insect has found something of interest.  Brain waves are a perfect data source for Artificial Intelligence (AI), which depends on having lots of data.

However, it is interesting that research like this so often fails to ask the right questions.  How do we know what else these living creatures would respond to besides the presence of cancer?  How different are these brain waves from those associated with other potential stimuli?  And, how reliable is this from locust to locust?  After all, we all know people who are insensitive to almost any stimuli around them?

Then, we must decide how realistic this idea would be to use in practice.  Are we all going to have locusts in our homes?

Research like this is fascinating and does permit us to ask deeper questions.

Personally, I would rather we studied parrots, especially African Grey parrots to see if they can tell truly us anything.  Yes, I know their relationship to us is not based upon what they smell … at least not so far.  But, given they develop the largest vocabulary of language, perhaps they can truly talk to us about what they observe.  African Grey parrots can master over 4,000 words in many cases.  So, if an African Grey parrot lived in a Jewish family speaking Hebrew, they could literally master the language.

At that point I would really like to know when my parrot smelled something different about me or thought there was anything I should know about what they sense.

One thought on “Do you Smell Something Funny?”

  1. Quite an interesting and amusing blog, Joel. My olfactory senses never fail me. And chemistry between humans is fascinating.

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