‘Giving computers a sense of smell’: the quest to scientifically map odours

  • October 28, 2023
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By digitising scents as we have images and sounds, researchers hope they can transform everything from food and agriculture to disease prevention

“Did you ever try to measure a smell?” Alexander Graham Bell once asked an audience of graduands at a high school in Washington DC.

He then quizzed the probably confused class of 1914 as to whether they could tell when one scent was twice the strength of another, or measure the difference between two distinct odours. Eventually, though, he came to the point: “Until you can measure their likenesses and difference, you can have no science of odour,” Bell said. “If you are ambitious to find a new science, measure a smell.”

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