Study Bolsters Quantum Vibration Scent Theory
How does the sense of smell work? Today two competing camps of scientists are at war over this very question. And the more controversial theory has just received important new experimental confirmation.
At issue is whether our noses use delicate quantum mechanisms for sensing the vibrations of odor molecules (aka odorants). Does the nose, in other words, read off the chemical makeup of a mystery odorant—say, a waft of perfume or the aroma of wilted lettuce—by “ringing” it like a bell? Chemistry and forensics labs do this all the time with spectrometers—machines that bounce infrared light off mystery materials to reveal the telltale vibrations that the light provokes. Olfaction might, according to the vibration theory of smell, do the same using tiny currents of electrons instead of infrared photons.
A story for the April 2013 issue of Scientific American
Also, from an article I wrote for IEEE Spectrum on Feb. 14, 2011, "Nose Works Like a Scanning Tunneling Microscope": Researchers upend understanding of olfactory organs with quantum tunneling experiment