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How do we smell? - Rose Eveleth

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An adult human can distinguish up to 10,000 odors. You use your nose to figure out what to eat, what to buy and even when it’s time to take a shower. But how do the molecules in the air get translated into smells in your brain? Rose Eveleth charts the smelly journey through your olfactory epithelium and explains why scent can be so subjective.

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  • Educator Rose Eveleth
  • Director Igor Coric
  • Narrator Rose Eveleth

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Here’s a study that compares the olfactory epithelium of dogs to humans.

To learn more about the evolution of human olfaction, check out this study.

If you want to hear personal stories from people who can’t smell, visit this great series from the New York Times.
For more about the art of scent and how biophysicists engineer perfumes and artificial noses, check out this TED Talk.

The olfactory epithelium is an area inside the nose which is responsible for intercepting odors and passing them on to the brain. The mechanics of the olfactory epithelium are not fully understood; this structure contains a huge number of neurons, but the exact way in which they interact with and distinguish between smells is a bit of a mystery. The larger the area covered by the olfactory epithelium, the more neurons, and the better the sense of smell.

Why 10% of the Population Hates Cilantro and the Rest Doesn't Know Any Better.

Smell Turns Up in Unexpected Places.
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Lesson Creator
New York, NY
A discussion thread for those suffering from anosmia
04/19/2014 • 
 1 Response
 / 1 Updates

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About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Rose Eveleth
  • Director Igor Coric
  • Narrator Rose Eveleth

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