A controversial theory that the way we smell involves a quantum physics effect has received a boost, following experiments with human subjects.
It challenges the notion that our sense of smell depends only on the shapes of molecules we sniff in the air.
Instead, it suggests that the molecules’ vibrations are responsible.
A way to test it is with two molecules of the same shape, but with different vibrations. A report in PLOS ONE shows that humans can distinguish the two.
Tantalisingly, the idea hints at quantum effects occurring in biological systems - an idea that is itself driving a new field of science, as the BBC feature article Are birds hijacking quantum physics? points out.
But the theory - first put forward by Luca Turin, now of the Fleming Biomedical Research Sciences Centre in Greece - remains contested and divisive.
The idea that molecules’ shapes are the only link to their smell is well entrenched, but Dr Turin said there were holes in the idea.
He gave the example of molecules that include sulphur and hydrogen atoms bonded together - they may take a wide range of shapes, but all of them smell of rotten eggs.
"If you look from the [traditional] standpoint... it’s really hard to explain," Dr Turin told BBC News.
"If you look from the standpoint of an alternative theory - that what determines the smell of a molecule is the vibrations - the sulphur-hydrogen mystery becomes absolutely clear."
Molecules can be viewed as a collection of atoms on springs, so the atoms can move relative to one another. Energy of just the right frequency - a quantum - can cause the "springs" to vibrate, and in a 1996 paper in Chemical Senses Dr Turin said it was these vibrations that explained smell.
The mechanism, he added, was "inelastic electron tunnelling": in the presence of a specific "smelly" molecule, an electron within a smell receptor in your nose can "jump" - or tunnel - across it and dump a quantum of energy into one of the molecule’s bonds - setting the "spring" vibrating.
But the established smell science community has from the start argued that there is little proof of this.
4 beheaded in Saudi Arabia less than a week into King Salman's rule 2015-01-30 3:13 Comment: So when will the the "Human rights" promoting liberal west elite decide invade Saudi Arabia like they did Libya?
Members of Magic Movement stage a mock execution scene in protest of Saudi Arabia beheading of eight Bangladeshi workers in October 2011.
Four people have been executed in Saudi Arabia less than a week after 79-year-old King Salman assumed power following the ...
Swedish Office Block Pushes Microchips on its Staff 2015-01-30 2:12
Sweden is heading over the cliff in multiple areas, all at once. They are pushing the abolition of cash, run amok state feminism, gender war, pacification of the police and perhaps even more frightening: open borders. A policy that have given the country a "gold medal" in asylum seeker acceptance. Run away
Charlie Hebdo: Where Neocons, Zionists, Masons and Communists Converge 2015-01-30 1:20 Charlie Hebdo, raising the banner of revolt, has always regurgitated precisely what the “system” required.
Charlie Hebdo (CH) came out of the New Left milieu of the 1960s and is a product of the 1968 revolt against President Charles de Gaulle. It happens that the most famous of the New Left revolts came at a time when (1) the CIA was ...
The Liberation of Auschwitz 2015-01-30 0:12
This article is perhaps a day late, but it will be some time before talk of the Holocaust subsides in the mainstream press, especially now that we are to have a vast new Holocaust Memorial Centre built with £50 million of taxpayers money in central London, to replace the rather unimpressive one that already exists in Hyde Park.
In the various ...
Facebook’s New ‘Chinese-style’ Political Censorship System Goes Global 2015-01-29 4:35
Last week 21WIRE reported on Facebook’s new communitarian policy whereby readers can ‘flag’ content as “fake news” if they believe it’s not real, or if they do not like it. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo False Flag event, the social media giant is now allowing governments to determine what is ‘good free speech’, and what is not.
“An article ...