Your Quantum Nose: How Smell Works

Your nose uses quantum tunnelling to smell! This crazy conclusion comes from the latest interpretations of the evidence about how our smell receptors detect odour molecules. This video summarises the two models of smell: shape theory and vibration theory, and concludes that you need both to explain how we smell.

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The main reference I used for this video was “Life on the Edge” by JohnJoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili. Which I highly recommend, it is very well written and contains some brilliant science explanations. The field of quantum biology is utterly fascinating.
Here are some other links you can look at if you want to find out more:

To err is to human, and I human a lot. I always try my best to be as correct as possible, but unfortunately I make mistakes. This is the errata where I correct my silly mistakes. My goal is to one day do a video with no errors!

1. I misspelled Planck’s Constant and wrote Plank’s constant. Silly me!

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Also, if you enjoyed this video, you will probably like my science books, available in all good books shops around the work and is printed in 16 languages. Links are below or just search for Professor Astro Cat. They are fun children’s books aimed at the age range 7-12. But they are also a hit with adults who want good explanations of science. The books have won awards and the app won a Webby.

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Written by lena

Foodie, Performer, Water Protector, Avid Baker, Syndicate Aggregator. I probably still live in my mom's basement.


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  1. If you don't know why you are subscribed to this channel, I just changed the channel name from DominicWalliman, so you probably subscribed after my Map of Physics or Map of Mathematics videos. Even though I changed the name, everything else is the same, and I'll be doing more of the same kind of videos! Sorry for any confusion.

  2. Great video! Can't the fact that the proteins that participate in quantum tunneling are chiral account for the different smells of enantiomers? Like having a chiral Raman spectrophotometer?

  3. hallo i found your excellent channel a few weeks ago. i'm following your creations about 3/4 times a week. but unfortunately my english is bad and the only traslation i find is the "simulataneous" in ht e options of subtitles. it's not very good. do you think you can incude italian subtitles for all videos in the future? i hope yes. i wish and i hope to show your works to kids and children an discuss about with them so, a good translation should be very useful. thank you, bye, Antonio.

  4. My theory is : Nose is using external light to vibrate the molecules, even in dark, because we are never into "absolute darkness" there are always a few photons roaming around, even on the vast darkest places on universe

  5. What about the sense of smell in other animals? Do the same theories apply, or are there different ways of smelling? Maybe it would be easier to investigate how receptors work in some animal noses rather than in humans?

  6. Molecular vibration is not smell. Smell is Venus Flytrap style of many receptors in combination. No vibration needed.

  7. not confirmed yet and read more about shapes. there are many different tricks our body uses to widen the range of molecules recognized with few different receptors.

  8. Hi,
    The answer to the shape/vibration/chirality problem is birefringence. The polarized light contains spin information. Problem solved.

  9. Did you make this video after compiling research papers or read it from a book? Read the book "The Life on the Edge" by Jim Al Khalili which talks about more such amazing phenomena.

  10. I love your videos and the posters are so good! Never did I have a clearer picture (quite literally) of all kinds of sciences. This is amazing, thank you so much for divulging knowledge to those who are not experts in this field, great work.

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