smell

Not Exactly Rocket Science

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The English language is full of metaphors linking moral purity to both physical cleanliness and brightness. We speak of “clean consciences”, “pure thoughts” and “dirty thieves”. We’re suspicious of “shady behaviour” and we use light and darkness to symbolise good and evil. But there is more to these metaphors than we might imagine. The mere…

Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid drinking alcohol and for good reason – exposing an unborn baby to alcohol can lead to a range of physical and mental problems from hyperactivity and learning problems to stunted growth, abnormal development of the head, and mental retardation. But alcohol also has much subtler effects on a…

Bad experiences can be powerful learning aids for our sense of smell. A new study reveals that electric shocks can make people more sensitive to the differences between very similar chemicals that previously smelled identical. Every day, thousands of different molecules waft past our nose. Many of these are uncannily similar and some are more…