Saturday, June 17, 2006

How does a seashell smell?

A feast for the nose. That's the best way to describe the exhibit we attended today. Not paintings or sculpture...this unpretentious but edifying display consisted of beakers, cylinders, flasks...and even security blankets, each one carrying a scent guaranteed to conjure up a flashback or two when sniffed.

The accompanying panels explained the connection between the olfactory sense and language, how there is sometimes a disconnect between the two. Like when you smell something that is so familiar but you just can't name what it is. That's called "the tip of the nose" phenomenon.

I especially liked the set of beakers arranged around a sandbox. Each fragrant liquid was redolent of the beach...I correctly identified the scent of suntan lotion and a plastic smell ... a beach ball.

Sorry, Baskin Robbins ... all those hundreds of great ice cream flavors are fine, but researchers have discovered that vanilla is known and loved best the world over. And its fragrance is also very soothing. That explains all the vanilla-scented body lotions and massage oils.

However, my favorite scent was in beaker #1, teasingly labeled, "You know this smell." They can't fool me...oh, the childhood memories ...of Play-doh modeling clay!

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