SFSL Roundup: Perfume, Stinky Animals and Cosmic Smells


Catch a whiff of the cosmos! (Ron Chapple/Taxi/Getty Images)

Oh man, do we have a nose full of Stuff From the Science Lab for you this week! We depend on our sense of smell to process the world around us, and both of this weeks' episodes get down to the science of both fragrant and noxious odors. It's quite a journey, as we'll take you from the perfume bottles of Paris to the strange atmospheres of the outer planets.

In Smells like Science, Allison and I will serve up a smorgasbord of scientific stench research. Can research subjects tell the difference between body odor and cheese? What are the most pungent plants and animals? And you might want to borrow Professor Farnsworth's smelloscope, because we're going to coast through all the smells in the solar system. We'll ponder astronaut reports that the moon smells like gunpowder and that space itself has a distinctive odor.

And if that podcast leaves you smelling too much like a Jovian moon, then allow us to waft our next podcast in your general direction: The Science of Perfume. Whether you go for a light touch of Beyoncé Heat or an all-out hippie baptism in patchouli oil, we'll discuss just what's going on chemically and in the brain. Just be warned: Heavy doses of this podcast might cause crowds of Parisian lowlifes to tear you apart and eat you.

So there you have it! From cosmic scents to Jay-Z-enticing fragrances, we have the science covered this week.

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About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.