Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Liz Zanis: what i read last week (and i only finished one)
graphite on found printed board, 12 1/4" x 10 15/16", 2007

OMG! It's spring already! And that means it's already time to vote for the FiFi awards. And we are fast approaching Leslie Vosshall's Harvey Lecture! OMG OMG! Warm weather, sunshine, sweet scents, new president, Voshall talk in a geodesic dome? It's like the world has been re-tuned to perfection!

A brief digression on domes...

Sure, the dome at Rockefeller University (aka Caspary Auditorium) is awesome (particularly on the inside), and a great venue for the Harvey Lectures, but if you're a Fuller purist, it's time to shlep across the East River.

Buckminster Fuller designed the Aviary dome for the 1964 World's Fair. It's now part of the Queens Zoo.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A tip from Gothamist, that the sensory immersion at the Coney Island Aquarium will extend beyond the smell of fish sticks at the snack bar.

From the Associated Press:
"The New York Aquarium's 4-D Immersion Theater will combine the experience of a 3-D film with a variety of sensory effects built into the theater's seats and environment. The sensory affects include water mist, a neck air blast, snow, bubbles, leg ticklers, scents, enhanced floor lighting and seat vibrations."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Amanda Lepore by Artware Editions

From heart candy heart

“I don’t drink, but I smell like I do,” Ms. Lepore casually announced, by way of introduction to a new fragrance that bears her name.

Front Row: A Buzz Without a Hangover
March 4, 2009
Fragrance available at ArtWare Editions.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bond No. 9 Brooklyn

Bushwick based artist Chris Kyung: Pizza #7, 2006

Gawker just ran part of the press release for the new Bond no. 9 Brooklyn scent. Apparently Brooklyn is unisex "with a decidedly masculine attitude." I love it. The notes are all over the place, with grapefruit and juniper up top, a la Snoop Dog's Gin and Juice. They must be conjuring up the west coast of Brooklyn with this one.

As one of my professors once barked at a visiting speaker who had somehow confused a number of the new York schools, "Bronx? Brooklyn? What's the difference? Coney Island, Riverdale? Same thing really!"

Actual Coney Island circa 2007

Which is my way of saying that I rather liked Bond's Coney Island scent. It smelled like cheap yard long margaritas; neon lime syrup, tequilla, mesquite, grilled hot dog buns and boardwalk.

Fine stuff if you ask me. The new scent seems to call up the Brooklyn Boatnic Gardens a la the father daughter team at Eau de Brooklyn. Brooklyn is so many things I suppose. It's also one of the first music videos I'd ever seen on NYC Public television.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Burger King Flame

Ed Ruscha, Norm's, La Cienega, on Fire, 1964

The WHOPPER sandwich is America's favorite burger. Flame by BK captures the essence of that love and gives it to you. Behold the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat.

Robin just posted about this hot new scent over at Now Smell This. I love it. This happens to coincide with the new "Whopper Virgins" ad campaign by Stacy Peralta of "Dogtown and Z-Boys" fame. Clip below, followed by it's YouTube commenter response. An briefing on capitalism today, really.

bulanuldecluj (4 days ago)
-1 Poor comment

Fuck you're burgers and junk food americans... if you come here, you can see more than 95% beautiful women but if i will go there in USA more that 50% fat people. REASON? You're junk food and burgers.

Come in Romania and drink alchool made here... our stuffs are more natural than you. We have "tuica" or "palinca" who's much strong than you're Jack Daniel or Bud...

This movie is a big shit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

familiar unknown

Trevor Paglen: The Other Night Sky. He will have a show at Bellweather Gallery March6th - April 4th, 2009
This revisit of Moon Sparkle is a terrific excuse to wander over for a look at Trevor Paglen's work exploring the "Dark World" of secret military projects which are not so secretly funded to the tune of $30 billion per year.

In our own lab, our projects are less secret, but still not widely discussed. And the lab has been fragrant with Moon Sparkle from one of our students. Lately I've been noticing Moon Sparkle everywhere (particularly on the subway), just as Escada is launching whatever new fruity thing will replace it for 2009. I like Blueberry Hubba Bubba, and I like Moon Sparkle. I'm guessing that it comes out in winter because it's a little too loud for the warmer weather of New York summers, and in the cold weather it's a round friendly scent. In the Black World, it wouldn't be the remote and mysterious Groom Lake, but rather a geostationary reconnaissance satellite hanging just over head, ever present, just out of sight.

In other news, voting is now open at the 9th Annual Basenotes Fragrance Awards. I love Basenotes because it is such a wealth of information on fragrances, their notes and noses that is so easily searchable. It's the closest thing we have to a Wikipedia of commercial fragrance.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I think I'm allergic to patchouli

Psychotronic Volume 8 available here

This is not my way of announcing that I am not a hippie. Nay-no. Instead, it is an observation, that there is a strong correlation between the application of certain scents (AHEM.. Midnight Poison) and watery eyes, sneezing, a swollen tongue and uncontrollable coughing.

I'm not allergic to much. As a kid I thought I was allergic to marshmallows because of an episode where I ate an entire bag and projectile vomited on my parent's friends. Similarly I thought I was allergic to gluten after sat down with a fork and ate an entire can of mock duck and then experienced flu-like symptoms. (It could have just been the sodium content, a coincidence, or contamination with melamine. Total enigma.)

But this is the second time a perfume has left me in fits. The first was Trance Essences' Abbey Rose. It's not that I dislike the scent - in fact, I am quite fond of Midnight Poison. There are some notes, like calone which make me gag, but they do not turn my eyes red and bloodshot. This possible allergy is a whole new experience.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Comme des Garcons for H&M

Yayoi Kusamainstallation view, Infinity Mirror Room, Phalli's Field (or Floor Show) 1965 (no longer extant); reconstructed 1998. From artnet.

Perfume Shrine has already posted a review of the new Comme des Garcons for H&M scent, and I'll throw in my own polka dotted two cents.

(In an interview, Jeff Koons said that the key to his success was polka dotted shirts. When he was selling memberships at the MoMA, in his signature shirts and suspenders, he managed to pull off "zany, yet inoffensive", apparently the magical cocktail for commercial success.)

So nu, CdGH&M is very pop, a perfect distillation of the CdG aesthetic. I was expecting a bland citrus like the energy series, because that would have been zany enough. (Dianu!) But no, they upped the ante, combining the larger than life smoky birch-tar/cedar of an amped up Hinoki with a fizzy citrus top note almost as an after thought. Like the clothing collection which sticks with dots as a major theme, and drives it home, the fragrance goes big and bold. (And much bigger and bolder than I would have expected.) H&M is not the place for subtle artistry, and the scent is as loud and brash as wood can be. Very cool.

David Ellis, DRUM PAINTING PROJECT, V5.0 2005

Sorry, I couldn't resist:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From the Yatzer design link to the restoration of Anthony Auerbach's Empire State Pavilion at the Queens Museum.

I was touched, (as I often am) by posts in Christopher Brosius' Blog. He describes the unusual connection he felt towards a stranger wearing his very personal Wild Hunt fragrance. The scent is brilliant, and in conjuring up the scent of a summer forest it has brought back my own memories of growing up.

Summers, my friends and I took a bus from our homes in Queens out to our summer arts day camp each morning. It was almost a two hour journey, so about half way we changed buses at a rendez-vous point in Queens. "Rendez-Vous" as we called it was the asphalt playground of a public school where we would wait half an hour for our second bus. But across the street was a small patch of wooded park which to us was a forest. We would explore the secluded reaches of the forest (often by necessity since Rendez-Vous had no bathrooms), and a friend who grew up in Russia even took us mushroom picking in this small green plot of land in eastern Queens.

Wild hunt is this quest, for an urban nature. Tamed in a bottle, we can find it daily, at the resting points in our journeys.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's like a remote control for your smell-o-vision. I just found this ten channel olfactometer by clicking on one of my own ads. Targeted advertising is amazing some times.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Viva la vulva!

Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. On view Brooklyn Museum

Sure, perfumery can be an art, but are there any applications for those who prefer to be shaken, not stirred?

Courtesy of Jezebel I present to you Vulva Original.

"Vulva Original is not a perfume. It is a beguiling vaginal scent which is purely a substance for your own smelling pleasure. Breathe in and enjoy, anytime, anywhere, the scent of a beautiful woman."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Smell-o-vision and Jasper Johns urge you to get out and vote. At least here in Brooklyn, the air is crisp and leaf scented. And if you need to clear your nose from the scent of all this democracy, the coffee today is free. (And if you're as lucky as I was this morning, so are the Red-Blue Doritos of Freedom.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fresh - Strawberry Leaves

Sarah Lucas, Spamageddon, 2000 -courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

An homage to the boldest fruit, she who wears her seeds on the outside. Sister to the rose, most feminine of flowers. Strawberry flowers are far worldlier than I, who in my unsophistication was shocked to discover their bottled scent. For in the world of Fresh they smell much like soiled pantyhose.

A wry comment on femininity. Perhaps this scent is a thesis project on the capitalist evisceration of the female body, extruded into bottles and sold as un elixir charnel. Conceptually astute, but I fear this is a scent I can recreate more cost effectively by embracing the lacuna between my own body and soap.

Still, bonus points for listing the ingredients: Alcohol, Fragrance, Water, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Citral, Citronellol, Geraniol, Isoeugenol, Benzyl Benzoate, Alpha-Isomethly Ionone, BHT

Saturday, October 25, 2008

tastes like burning...

Ant Farm: Media Burn (1975) videos available here and a shorter version here

The other day I stopped by Takashimaya and Bendels to sample the new fragrances. At Takashimaya, I developed new respect for Ineke Chemical Bonding and pretty much the whole line of Neil Morris Fragrances. In the brown somber hall of the minimalist Japanese store there was a radiant scent of cheer. What can I say, I love a good upbeat citrus, and these lines offered a range of appealing and unusual variations on this theme.

Henri Bendel is done up in bright colors, but the scents there were positively somber. A lovely perfumer was representing her line of 60's influenced scents. One of them even featured my own name so I had to try it on my skin. It was a nice mix of bright citrus, dry rose and a thick gray incense. I found it quite unusual. Standing next to her samples, the perfumer told me a little bit about her company when she excused herself for a brief coughing fit. I realized my own eyes were starting to water. When she returned I realized we were standing in a cloud of incense vapor! I walked away and my eyes thanked me.

Ant Farm, Space Cowboy Meets Plastic Businessman, 1969. Performance at Alley Theater, Houston

After I left the store, my throat felt off and I realized it got worse as my sprayed hand neared my face. Psychosomatic or otherwise, the scent of incense seemed to grow, and tickle my eyes and the back of my throat with it's sooty fingers.

I'm not sure if this was my first allergic reaction to a fragrance or of something in that scent is a universal irritant. But seriously, yuck. I am now a huge fan of ingredient labeling on scent, because I want to know what this was so that I can avoid it at all costs.

Additionally, I was browsing PubMed the other day to put together ideas for an experiment and found numerous articles about the diffusion of synthetic musks into blood, breast milk etc. Double yuck. Besides the fact that many synth musks make me want to hurl, I try to avoid sneaky hormone-like chemicals whenever possible. My fondness for perfume makes this a sticky wicket, as lavender oil will grow extra boobs, and most fragrant things are going to be aromatic hydrocarbons which are likely to fuck with us in yet unknown ways. So my goal is to try to stick to the ones that do the least fucking. And no, this doesn't mean natural perfumery, because nature has graciously provided us with some of the most powerful toxins and mutagens known to man. It just means that I'm keeping my eyes open and noticing labels. I may not know what all the ingredients do, but I have a greater incentive to try to keep track of the effect they have on me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name: The Science of Smell

"Rose and Ant" from The Floral Stereoradiographs of Albert G. Richards at The Museum of Jurassic Technology

A quick heads up on a cool talk coming up in December:

A Rose by Any Other Name: The Science of Smell
Speakers: Leslie Vosshall, The Rockefeller University, HHMI;
Avery Gilbert, author, What the Nose Knows

Dec 2, 2008 • 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
A reception and booksigning follow until 9:00 pm.
The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St. at Barclay St., 40th fl.

It's part of the Science of the Five Senses series. More info is available at the New York Academy of Sciences site. Also, Leslie Vosshall will be giving a Harvey Lecture on May 21st. Harvey Lectures are free, open to the public, and some of the most fun you can have inside a geodesic dome.

Sniffing out the Diagnosis

Matteo Bonazzi, Listeria monocytogenes polymerizing host cell actin into comet tails (63X)(#48 in the 2008 Nikon Small World contest)

The Yale School of Medicine has a cool show on microscopy through the ages that featured a fun online quiz on food borne microbial pathogens. One of my favorite parts is this chart matching unusual scents to different diagnoses. Who knew tuberculosis smelled like beer?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I've been away, spending most of my time filling my skull with genetics rather than novel fragrances. (Speaking of which: If anyone has a good sagittal view of a mouse's skull where I can see how the olfactory system integrates I would be grateful like the Dead.)

I have sniffed a few cool new (to me) things:

Guerlain Eau de Lit:
Guerlainade citrus
turns to chamomile and hay.
600 count sheets.

Jules by Dior:
Strong and well rounded.
Propper dry woods and pepper.
A mensch for ladies.

Derby by Guerlain:
Guerlinade's winter
Citrus to spice transition
like dry mulled cider

Bill Blass #7:
a fizzy gin-joint
relaunch of a classic brand
(Nicely done samples)

Harajuku Lovers G:
creamy coconut
with a drydown of Play-Doh
fun for the weird kids

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Leslie Vosshall sells out!

Or rather, her talk sold out at the Secret Science Club's meeting last night at Union Hall. Fortunately I was able to sneak in to the standing room only event and catch the tail end of her talk.

I particularly enjoyed her scent world shout-outs. She highly recommends Avery Gilbert's book
    What the Nose Knows
, and offered props to the major aromachemical companies and their aggregation in her home state of New Jersey.

She mentioned a new paper on alarm pheromones, that showed that a mere whiff of the stuff could cause mice to freeze. (There is some hot coverage of the frozen mice over at NPR. It's good stuff.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

maDAME by Jean Paul Gaultier

art by Trenton Doyle Hancock.

  • "Dude! Lets make a smell!"
  • "Wouldn't it be punk to just throw some random stuff together?"
  • "Lets make it totally androgynous!
  • I've got some orange zest, fresh rose, and what the hell, a splash of grenadine..."
  • "Dudical!"
  • "Wait, it needs something else. How about a synth-musk, extra bilgey?"
  • "Perfect! Gag on that fascists!"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ageless Fantasy by Harvey Prince

Mr. Wilde, author of such works as The Portrait of Dorian Gray and The Yong King, a short story who's illustrations played a large part in my own potty training.

The Cut directs us to WWD with tales of the "world's first anti-age perfume." Apparently Ageless Fantasy, the "ultimate youth perfume" is extra science-tastic because it is "inspired by clinical trials".

From the site:
"Research proves that men around women who used the perfume thought they were on an average 8 years younger! The Essence of Youth, this precious youth elixir is a blend of pink grapefruit, mango, anti-oxidant rich pomegranate, jasmine and musk."

They left out the links to these clinical trials. A quick search of PubMed turns up some articles linking the scent of grapefruit essential oil with sympathetic nervous system activity.

In a double-blind study, the scents of mango, pomegranate and musk were frequently mis-attributed to "bongs, thongs and sarongs."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jacques Garcia Silver Home Fragrance

Interior of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX

On on of the medical school secondary applications, there is question "If you could have three people of your choice (living or dead), over for dinner, who would you invite and why?"
Now is this just a silly question, or is this preparation for a career raising the dead? There's a great unmade Roger Corman movie about two slacker med-students furiously filling out their residency applications. Heres my ONE MILLION DOLLAR script:

  • Students bring back dead luminaries for dinner date.

  • Luminaries annoyed to be raised just for a dinner.

  • Dead luminaries form zombie army demanding their promised food.

  • Ramones reunite, play theme song as zombies take over school.

Dave points out that this movie has actually been made. I point out the differences between my genius concept, Frankenstein and Dr. Faustus. He directs me to the work of H.P. Lovecraft. He got me, the new DVD even comes with a matching highlighter!

Back to the scent:

I had expected Jacques Garcia, in it's heavy black glass bottle to be proper, perhaps even trite. Instead, when I sprayed it on my skin, I got a quick cool blast of the crypt. Wintergreen and lilies combine into something utterly necrotic. The opening is a little bit like the Frankenstein opening of JAR Bolt of Lightning.

After a few minutes, the creature rises and her breath is soft and warm. Apricots and tuberose compose this new life among us. It's one of most unusual examples of narrative perfumery, and I've never smelled anything quite like it. The art direction is by Rami Mekdachi who also collaborated on the fabulous collection for the Hotel Costes. The nose is Pierre Bourdon who has played with hot/cold flashes in Cool Water and Parfums Frederic Malle's French Lover. There is an excellent review of Jacques Garcia's sister scent Gold at Perfume Shrine and a wealth of information on Rami Meddachi at Aedes. Silver is available at LuckyScent and Bergdorf Goodman.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chaos by Donna Karan

Flame fractal by Roger Johnston

After the Non-Blonde's review comparing the old and new versions of the Dona Karen scent, I knew I had to give ot a sniff at Bergdorff's. As luck would have it, yesterday was one of their celebratory launch days, so the sniff was accompanied by Veuve Cliquot and little canapes of delicious meat pastes on tiny vegetables. Oh my!

Prior to the review, I had assumed Chaos would be a dark incense scent like Back Cashmere, but in reality it is a beautiful glowing thing. Red fruits, citrus and woods explode in bright shades of red and amber and then slowly collapse so that after an hour, the scent is a soft gray ash of incense and woods. It's the first olfactory reconstruction of the big bang I've ever smelled. Like Lovely Prism, the name conveys the broad spectrum of composit notes, and Chaos begins with a glowing fizzy note which reminded me of Demeter's Ginger Ale.

I love this narrative quality in perfume, and experienced it again with JAR Bolt of Lightning. Mr. Branch had spoken highly of it with a caveat that the first minutes may be stomach churning. The sales associate actually apologized that he had applied too much too my hand and asked me repeatedly to give it some time before "scrubbing" it off. (I was shocked that he used that word - perhaps he has seen someone describe it on a blog as a scrubber.) The initial thunderclap is represented by camphor, wintergreen, sharp green notes and something buttery. It reminded me of Cy Twombley's ancient-Rome-rendered-in-toothpaste-impasto work.

Cy Twombly, "Leda and The Swan" 1962

After the lightning comes the ozone, and the scent mellows to a warm green fog. I don't know how "warm" is rendered in scent but it smells like eating breakfast in the mountains - warm oatmeal and green grasses. It's very beautiful, and lasts for hours.

Back to the subject of chaos, it reminded me of the first bouquet of flowers Dave ever gave me: a romanesco, or as I called it, fractal broccoli. Such a wise Mr. Mandelbrot who linked our concepts of chaos and order through a vegetable.

Those fractally inclined bight like to listen to the Sweet Child o Mine at the Self-similar GNR midi synth.
Q: Huh?
A: They used recordings from GNR albums, speeded them up, and used the resulting tone patterns to re-compose the songs. More detail is available on their website.

Fractal chaos? Perhaps you prefer intellectual property anarchy in the form of unlicensed sampling. That references social chaos and turbulent weather? Well then the K-OTIX have what you need.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hot Lavender Boobs!

Do you want big lovely boobies? I credit my Avalon Organics Lavender Nourishing shampoo with one of the finest compliments I've received. When asked about my role in our band, Viki said "Duh, you're the one with the fine rack!" Awwww!

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine from 2007 suggests that Lavender and Tea Tree Oils may be just what the doctor ordered. Or if you are a pre-adolescent boy with gynecomastia it may be just what your doctor has told you to stay the hell away from.

The article includes case reports of three pre-pubescent boys:

"The patient's mother reported applying a compounded "healing balm" containing lavender oil to his skin starting shortly before the initial presentation. The gynecomastia partially resolved within 4 months after application of the healing balm was discontinued..."

"In Case 3, the patient was exposed intermittently to various over-the-counter personal-care products containing lavender oil. His twin brother used the same lotions but not the scented soap, and gynecomastia did not develop in him."

They also followed up with in vitro studies examining the role of lavender and tea tree oils in activating estrogen receptors, and inhibiting androgenic activity.

I love lavender, and love wearing lavender based scents, but this is enough to ensure that I refrain from ever using the oil at full strength, (which is a good idea for any essential oil, really). As for the boobies, as a caution to those seeking bodacious tatas, estrogen is a well established cancer promoter. Sigh, you win some and you lose some. Just one more example of how "natural" isn't necessarily healthier.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Robert Mapplethorpe, Leatherman II, 1972

This is what cops smell like?

With official notes of citrus, verbena, jasmine, thyme and leather I was expecting Mapplethorpe, and instead got Ryan McGinley.

On my skin I smell a little citrus, then a fragile fresh hay. After a few minutes, medicinal phenol and toothpaste notes creeps in, and the composition smells like the pale teal image of a future hospital. Perhaps our gendarme is a fresh faced young resident, blanched by the surgical lamps, chewing hay and carefully washing his hands. This is somebody's kink, but not mine. I'm even embarrassed to find it a little creepy. This is one of the weirder interpretations of masculinity, and like McGinley;s work it eloquently expresses fragility and vulnerability, but brings in an antiseptic quality that turns my stomach. I'm curious what it smells like on other people.

From Ryan McGinley's website.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

L'artisan Fleur de Liane

Henri Rousseau. (French, 1844-1910). The Dream. 1910 at the MoMA

When the Scented Salamander described the new vine based Fleur de Liane I was intrigued by the concept of "eternal feminine" embodied in the moist embrace of a jungle plant. Or as I like to call it Green Vajeen.

Georgia O'Keeffe
Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV, 1930

Well I just got to smell it at Barney's and it is fabulous, the scent of the Tropical Pavillion at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. It was only a quick sniff, but I wanted to share these first excited impressions. Of the "green" fragrances I've smelled, this is the first to capture the lush foliage of that jungle greenhouse. The official notes include guava, and though there is a slight sweetness it is not a fruity tropical concoction, but rather a dense and soothing forest that will be a great joy to wear in the cooler months. It captures jungle rain without calone or the mysterious molon notes of Apres la Mousson, instead relying on what seem to be moss and cut stem notes to conjure up the rain.

If you need a reason to consider research training at the National Museum of Natural History, I can give you two.

1: Viki worked in their Hall of Insects for a summer, and observed that in April the bee hive produced fragrant yellow honey from D.C. cherry blossoms, but that by July the honey had become foul smelling and black, as the bees discovered the much closer ice cream wrappers and spilled sodas at the entrance of the museum.

2: This young scientist in their program is the first thing that comes up when you search for "butt nut". (Lodoicea maldivica) And doesn't he look like John Kratz?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The New York Academy of Science presents a podcast: What the Nose Knows by Avery Gilbert

On-trend perfume concepts for the fall of 2008: 90's revival

Dewberry Chalk
CK1 & Diet Peach Snapple
Crushed Necco Wafers at the bottom of a Jansport backpack

Hear me now, smell me later

From a very cool 2007 review of current findings in olfaction: The scent of life. The exquisite complexity of the sense of smell in animals and humans
(EMBO reports 8, 7, 629–633 (2007) doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7401029)

CO2-sensitive neurons expressing Gr21a (green) and Gr63a (red), proteins that together are necessary for CO2 detection in Drosophila. The neurons target a specific region of the fly brain, which is dedicated to processing the smell of CO2. Credit: Vosshall Laboratory, Rockefeller University. Reprinted with permission from Macmillian Publishers Ltd [Nature, Jones et al, 2007].

Participation in the Vosshall lab's study on the Physiological Effects of Androstadienone Exposure is open on the RUCares site. I haven't had a chance to participate in any of her experiments but they sound like a great way to get in touch with one's own olfactory perception.

The scent of life
article offers an excellent summary of the controversy surrounding Luca Turin's controversial model for understanding odorant receptors.

The major model is the odotope theory where the shape of the odorant determines the selective binding to the receptor. Only a small portion of the odorant binds so it is possible for different odorant molecules to activate the same receptor, and potentially for a single odorant molecule to activate multiple receptors depending on the contact point.

In contrast, Luca Turin's model proposes that when an odorant comes in contact with a receptor with a congruent vibrational pattern, the electrons jump to a higher energy state activating the receptor. I confess that I don't know much about electron tunneling, the main phenomenon behind his theory, but I have never heard of it as part of a biological phenomenon. Electron tunneling offers extremely cool applications in bio-imaging, and electron excitation is the physics behind modern fluorescence microscopy, but I have never heard of it as part of a biological system - which doesn't mean that it's not true, but it's significantly more complicated than the predominant model and does not seem to explain certain biological phenomena. For example, it doesn't seem to explain why the chirality of molecules would have such a large impact on our perception of their odor.

R Carvone smells like spearmint, S Carvne smells like carraway.

For example, let's look at Carvone , a simple ring structure that's frequently used in Organic Chemistry texts as an example of chirality or "handedness". When a molecule and it's mirror image (or enantiomer) cannot be superimposed, they are said to be chiral. For example, looking at your left hand, your right hand would be it's mirror image or enantiomer, but you can't superimpose them. Right hand sure looks like the left hand, but they are not conformationally the same as anyone who's ever tried to jam their left hand into their right glove will attest. And this can at least in part explain the difference in odorant receptors - if you have a left glove shaped receptor protein, it's going to be activated preferentially by left hands, though as the jamming experiment dictates you might have some success trying to force a right hand in there.

So this is my simplistic understanding of odorant receptors - that we can smell thousands of scents based on the activation of only 400 types of odorant receptors because the specificity is low enough that many odorants activate multiple receptors. It's this pattern of activated receptors that is translated by the brain into what we understand as smell.

No discussion of science is ever complete without a picture of Jeff Goldbulm (or possibly Alan Alda. In this case, his role in The Fly is an homage to the humble Drosophila who have assisted the Vosshall lab in illuminating the neural anatomy of olfaction. Any and all tributes to Erik Kandel will feature Mr. Goldblum's famous line from Annie Hall: "I forgot my mantra."

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eau Fraiche de Rosine

A lovely image of Karen Finley by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. A celebration of America.

My Sneak Sniff of Eau Fraiche de Rosine just arrived, in time for a weekend in Newport. Although the press release states that Eau Fraiche is based around a yellow rose accord, it strikes me less as a sassy Texan than a prim New Englander. Although the dry rose scent reminds me very much of Tommy Girl (which I like), the most distinctive thing about the pleasant off-dry fruity floral is a lovely honeysuckle note. Later I get some pears, just a hint of Petite Cherie. Then the ambrette, and a slightly carroty musk. The top notes are listed as citrus but I smell more of a banana aldehyde, perhaps a contribution to the yellowness of the composition.

But I do love honeysuckle. As a kid, I had a scratch and sniff book about Winnie the Poo, and it was the pages about honeysuckle, pine forests, and the fireplace that were my absolute favorites. The honeysuckle page, reduced to a moist mess was how I first figured out that odorants don't necessarily taste good.

All American off to the beach scents 7/31/08
1. Tartine et Chocolat Ptisenbon
2. Eau Fraiche de Rosine
3. Un Jardin sur le Nil
3. Demeter Bubblegum
4. Tommy Girl