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You Smell Funny

By: Donna Fontenot to chemistry

Has anyone ever told you that you smell funny? Hopefully not, but if so, they likely weren’t talking about your odorprint, but in reality, your sense of humor (or any other trait or mood) may have some relevance to how you smell. Just as each of us has our own unique fingerprint, we may also each have our own unique odorprint.

bad smell

If we make the leap to assume that we do have a unique odorprint, then we can also begin to ask questions such as:

  • Can our odor reflect our state of health? If we could “read” our odor, could it tell us if we have cancer or diabetes or some other disease?
  • Does our smell reflect bits of our personality or our moods?

We’ve long used dogs to track humans based upon smell, so it’s not difficult to understand that we very likely have our own special “stink”. But scientists aren’t relying on assumptions based on dog trackers. They are discovering more about our odorprints through scientific research. And interestingly, they are working on creating devices that can detect and analyze scents. These devices, much like drug-sniffing dogs, can be used in various government and defense scenarios.

Imagine walking through an airport security machine that analyzes your scent, looking not only for substances that should not make it onto the plane, but also for signs of emotions that could signify deception or intent to cause harm. Obviously, this is a Big Brother scenario that is scary in its implications, but the ability to analyze scent has many more possible uses that don’t violate personal privacy.

The ability to detect disease or identify a person based only on an odorprint alone is already science fiction meeting reality. Any other possible uses can be left to the imagination – or better – the researchers to discover.

Some of the researchers making such discoveries and advances in odorprint analysis include the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Kenneth G. Furton of Florida International University, and Brian A. Eckenrode of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counterterrorism & Forensic Science Research Unit at the FBI Academy, in Quantico, Va. You can read more about what each of these groups are researching, and what they believe the possibilities are for this area of focus in this C&ampEN article.

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