Why we consider some smells to be really, really bad.
April 4, 2009 1:05am CST
Today I was watching a BBC documentary on the sense of smell and why we have it. A man was in the middle of an African dessert and he went and 'visited' animal flesh that had been left to rot in the African son for days and days. It was black and grey and he could hardly talk, the smell was that bad. He explained that if we ate something like that it would potentially be fatal to us because of all the bacteria growing. The smell puts us off it and warns us not to eat it. So bad smells are for our own safety. I thought it was really interesting. Then he agreed to take part in an experiment with some other people. This involved some scientists mixing all undesirable smells together in a beaker. These smells included vomit, rotting flesh and poo among other lovely scents. He was placed in a chair in a room and wore a big mask over his head with a nasal line placed. The smell came through the nasal line right into his head. He was connected to various monitoring equipment as well. Let me just say it was painful to watch. He got up, ripped out the line and ran out of the room within about 20 seconds. Afterwards he said that he was sure crowds could be controlled with a smell like that. I think that would be a better idea than using violence. So what's the worst smell you've ever smelled?
4 Apr 09
Hi coffee that sounds a really good documentary and I do agree with you something like that would be brilliant to stop crowds from nearly killing themselves...it is also interesting to know that it is our smell that warns us what not to eat and what we can. Personally I cannot think of the worst smell I have smelt at this precise moment..but am sure there has been! littleowl
• United States
4 Apr 09
Hey coffeeshot! That was a very interesting although kind of icky discussion! That poor man! I hope he got paid well for his trouble! I have smelled some really bad smells in my time! There are alot of things that I don't like the smell of and they are mostly certain foods like liver, some fish, veggies, etc. But the worst smell that I ever smelled was when my dog got sprayed by a skunk! It doesn't smell like it does when you smell it outside! It overpowers the whole house and the smell gets into your throat and eyes and it burns really badly! It takes a long time for the smell to get out of the house! It took even longer to get the smell off the poor dog!
5 Apr 09
Wow!~ Biological warfare!~ I wonder they could use fart smells for that? Haha!~Hmm...what's the worst smell, I don't think I can recall one for now but I really can't stand sometimes people with bad armpit smell?Sometimes the feel is like having a thousand needles pricking my nostrils
• United States
5 Apr 09
So, smells warn us not to eat things! That's interesting. I never really thought of that. But then I got to thinking... What else is a reason why things smell bad... I'll be blint... flatulence... (sarcasm) Like we'd EAT that! Why does THAT have to smell? Further more... when flatulence is odorless, why do people still hold their noses and make a scene? Orange or Apple (or any scent) of soaps and cleaners smell WONDERFUL - but they are harmful to eat/drink. That contradticts with what you posted... isn't the world so confusing?? Love this topic - makes me think! :D
7 Apr 09
You have a good point. I guess apple soap is artificially made so it's probably more the ingredients in the soap that are bad for us as the apple and orange scents are not pure apple or orange jiuce. As for farts being dangerous...um..yeah i guesss they only smell dangerous!
8 Apr 09
I think it would be a fantastic idea to harness bad smells for use in crowd control! No harm to anyone, but it would sure pull them up fast! I know they used to use curry powder to mask the fact meat had gone off - so I'm always suspicious when supermarkets have specials on marinated meat! The worst thing I've ever smelled? Not sure. I have an excellent sense of smell (but barely any sense of taste), and I find when I pass a cafe when they have scorched the milk, it makes me want to gag.