New smell discovered: It's 'olfactory white' as in white noise
New smell discovered: Scientists have created a 'white smell,' a 40-compound blend of scents in the middle of the pleasant-edible scale. The new smell was discovered by scientists in Israel.
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After three days of sniffing their version of Laurax in the lab, the participants were given four new scents and four scent labels, one of which was Laurax. They were asked to label each scent with the most appropriate label.Skip to next paragraph
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The researchers found that the label "Laurax" was most popular for scents with more compounds. In fact, the more compounds in a mixture, the more likely participants were to call it Laurax. The label went to mixtures with more than 40 compounds 57.1 percent of the time.
Another experiment replicated the first, except that it allowed for participants to label one of the scents "other," a way to ensure "Laurax" wasn't just a catch-all. Again, scents with more compounds were more likely to get the Laurax label.
The meaning of these results, the researchers wrote, is that olfactory white is a distinct smell, caused not by specific compounds but by certain mixes of compounds. The key is that the compounds are all of equal intensity and that they span the full range of human smells. That's why roses and coffee, both of which have many smell compounds, don't smell anything alike: Their compounds are unequally mixed and don't span a large range of smells.
In other words, our brains treat smells as a single unit, not as a mixture of compounds to break down, analyze and put back together again. If they didn't, they'd never see mixtures of completely different compounds as smelling the same.
Perhaps the next burning question is: What does olfactory white smell like? Unfortunately, the scent is so bland as to defy description. Participants rated it right in the middle of the scale for both pleasantness and edibility.
"The best way to appreciate the qualities of olfactory white is to smell it," the researchers wrote.
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