Most of us are blessed with the sense of smell. For better or worse, things that we sniff can be good or bad. Certain scents can bring us back to a place in our memories. Sniffing a scent can alert us of a fine meal or can warn us of danger. For others, the act of sniffing a fine, white powder can be the danger!
Here are 10 incredible tales of the act of sniffing. Don't doubt your sense of smell. The nose knows.
1The animals that can sniff out an endangered species
Most people know that dogs have a super keen sense of smell. Dogs possess 20 times as many olfactory receptors as humans, and they dedicate 40 times more of their brain to processing smells. Detection dogs are trained to detect bombs, illegal drugs and blood. Police dogs/K9s that are used in drug raids are trained not only to locate narcotics, but people hiding from police and incriminating currency. Of course, there are hunting dogs that use their noses to search for game.
In the dense forests of Nigeria and Cameroon, there exists a gorilla so rare that scientists are using detection dogs to find more of these creatures and learn more about them. To track down the elusive Cross River gorillas, scientists are training the detection dogs to sniff the gorillas' poop.
Not only can scientists tell what these primates eat by studying their feces, but these specimens of doo doo that dog sniffers (also known as “scats”) find also contain DNA, gut parasites, and hormones, which can tell us about reproduction and stress levels. The researchers in this particular study of Cross River gorillas were after their DNA, which can be used to determine the sex and identity of the individual. This information can then be used to estimate population size, the numbers in a social group, how far the group moves around and how closely related the individuals are.
2The blind wine taster who is sniffing his way to the top
They say when you lose one of your senses, your other senses become heightened. For the people who have seen Hoby Wedler in action, they would be hard pressed to disagree.
The 27-year-old the Ph.D. student in computational organic chemistry at UC Davis has become a popular attraction at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, where he leads the monthly “Tasting in the Dark” series, in which participants are blindfolded and learn to appreciate and assess wine much like Wedler does.
Building on a mental catalog of scents as far back as he could remember, Wedler's sense of smell is so intricate, he knows what certain intersections in Davis smell and sound like. As a child in Petaluma, he once told his parents that one item of mail was not from the mailman, but from a neighbor down the street, just by its scent.
Now, Welder's sensory skills are starting to be respected in the wine world. “He's bringing a new dimension to our field and getting people to look at wine in a different way. It's breaking down barriers,” said Corey Beck, president and director of winemaking at the Geyserville Winery who adds, “he's better at describing wine than 99.9% of the other tasters out there.”
Welder knows his stuff, telling the Sacramento Bee, “Grapes have a lot more going on than we might think. When we add yeast and they start eating sugar and produce alcohol, it dissolves things and brings out flavors that we had no idea were there.”
Why stop at wine? Sierra Nevada recently enlisted Wedler to perform “Tasting in the Dark” for beer, and the first event quickly sold out.
In 2012, he was one of 14 people recognized in a ceremony at the White House as Champions of Change for their work with inspiring people with disabilities.
3The device created to get a legal high from sniffing…chocolate
Belgium is known for some tasty beers, incredible dishes like Moules-frites, and of course, their mouth-watering chocolate.
When the Rolling Stones played in Belgium in 1973, who knows what kind of drug-fueled shenanigans occurred among the band backstage? In 2007, Belgian chocolatier Dominique Persoone created a chocolate-sniffing device for a Rolling Stones party when the band came back to town. Yep, you read that correctly: a chocolate-sniffing device. It turns out, these devices have given chocolate lovers a great deal of, erm, “Satisfaction.” As of 2014, Persoone has sold 25,000 of these devices, which are based on Victorian snuff shooters.
The device propels a hit of Dominican Republic or Peruvian cocoa powder, mixed with mint and either ginger or raspberry, up the user's nose. Persoone also created chocolates flavored with bacon and onion, oysters and even grass.
The cocoa concoction gives users a legal high, but some doctors say inhaling food can be harmful, as bacteria can form in the nose.
"I just want to tease the customers," Persoone said. "I'm not the bad boy promoting drugs, not at all. I just want to tease the people."
4The rock star that sniffed his father
And speaking of the Rolling Stones, we can't leave out guitarist Keith Richard's claim that he snorted the ashes of his own father! For my money, this beats out the story about David Bowie, in the height of his cocaine sniffing days, storing his body fluids in his fridge for the best rock ‘n' roll sniffing related story of all time.
In 2007, the legendary guitarist known for being the poster boy for rock ‘n' roll excess made international headlines when he told the British music magazine the New Musical Express that he mixed his dad's ashes and snorted them. He later claimed that his remarks were taken out of context and his reps denied it.
But in 2010, Keef came clean writing in his autobiography, Life . He said, “The truth of the matter is that after having Dad's ashes in a black box for six years, because I really couldn't bring myself to scatter him to the winds, I finally planted a sturdy English oak to spread him around. And as I took the lid off of the box, a fine spray of his ashes blew out on to the table. I couldn't just brush him off so I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue. ‘Ashes to ashes, father to son'. He is now growing oak trees and would love me for it.”
Roll on Keith, roll on.
5The artist that made a cocaine sniffing Oscar statue
The Oscars are an institution. This ceremony, formerly known as the Academy Awards is, perhaps, the most popular and most loved award show celebrating cinematic achievements in the film industry. The Oscar statuette is the most recognized trophy in the world and has stood on the mantels of the greatest filmmakers in history since 1929.
For the 87th annual Oscars in February 2015, street artist Plastic Jesus made his own depiction of the golden figure. A few days before the ceremony, the artist put up a life-sized statue at the cross section of Hollywood Blvd. and La Brea in Los Angeles, depicting the Oscar statuette on all fours sniffing a couple of lines of cocaine.
Plastic Jesus claimed that the Oscar in the doggy style position sniffing lines of coke was meant to make a statement on Hollywood's "hidden problem of drug addiction" and how it "effects hundreds of people in the showbiz industry."
The previous year, Plastic Jesus made an Oscar statue with a needle in his arm, reportedly a statement on the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose just weeks earlier.
Only time will tell what next year's Plastic Jesus Oscar will be doing…
6The film that you could sniff
In 1981, filmmaker John Waters released one of the all-time great cult classics, Polyester. The film starred drag queen Divine, a regular in Waters' films as housewife Francine Fishpaw. Francine's life is in turmoil, as her porn theater-running husband is having an affair, her daughter is dating all the wrong boys, and her son has a big foot fetish. Francine finds happiness when she meets her dream man, Todd Tomorrow.
Oh, did we mention the movie was presented in ODORAMA? ODORAMA films are experienced with scratch-n-sniff cards given to audience members. Audiences watch the movie and when a number appears on screen, they scratch the corresponding scent. Number one is a rose but from there, the smells get worse. The 10 smells on the card are as follows: roses, flatulence, model airplane glue, pizza, gasoline, a skunk, natural gas, a new car, dirty shoes, and an air freshener.
Waters wasn't the first to have a film with aromatic aromas you could sniff. Polyester was an homage to the 1960 film Scent of Mystery , which was presented in Smell-o-Vision and made by osmologist, Hans Laube and Hollywood producer Michael Todd Jr. This film time-released 30 different odors into the air of the theaters through a system of tubes, known as a “smell brain.”
7The dog that saved her owner's life by sniffing out her cancer
If you're a dog owner and lover, you share a special bond with your dog. Marian Cooper of Birmingham, England not only loves her dog Flo but her bond is even more special due to the fact that Flo saved her life.
The dog persistently nudged Marian's right breast until she checked herself out and discovered a lump. As Marian later recounted, “Flo kept nudging me and digging at me. No matter how many times I put her on the floor, she would always climb back up.” The nudging and sniffing was enough to send Marian to see her GP, who referred her to a local hospital where she was found to have a grade three malignant tumor, which was later removed. "When the doctors removed the tumor they told me it was grade three and if I hadn't found it things would have been much worse," said Marian. Since Marian's tumor was removed, Flo's behavior returned to normal.
The grateful dog owner is thankful for her dog's acute sense of smell adding, “I thought she was just being annoying, but without her I'd probably be dead.”
8The lady addicted to sniffing baby powder for 16 years
Just when you think you've seen it all on the TLC television series, My Strange Addiction , you turn on an episode you haven't seen and you get another jaw-dropping story.
For instance, let's take a look the third season. Jaye from Houston, Texas is addicted to sniffing baby powder. According to the then 28-year-old, her addiction started when she spilled powder and inhaled it by mistake. Thus began 16 years of baby powder addiction. Jaye estimates that she has snorted 1,125 pounds (around half a ton) of powder since her obsession began.
It is thought that inhaling talcum can cause aspiration pneumonia, which comes from breathing in foreign substances – a condition that can damage the airways. When confronted by friends on the show about the potential health risks, the powder sniffer says that she hasn't encountered any side effects and insists she doesn't have a problem.
Seems to me when you look in the mirror and see someone who looks like Scarface, you might have a little issue.
9The parties where you can sniff to choose your mate
Tired of being single and sick of the bar scene? Scared of Tinder? Is speed dating not your bag? How about going to a pheromone party? This alternative dating trend is apparently popular in London with sniffing parties hosted by organizer, Judy Nadel.
Each attendee agrees to wear the same cotton t-shirt for three nights in a row, with no deodorant or perfume to bring to the party. The clothes, infused with the scent of the wearer's body, are placed in plastic bags with numbers on colored labels: pink for women, blue for men.
Those who like the smell of their dream partner snap a picture of themselves with the bag. The images are then projected onto the wall, and the lucky owners of the chosen t-shirts have the chance to meet their admirers.
The idea is inspired by a 1995 experiment with the belief that pheromones – chemicals that are fundamental to the sexual behavior of animals – can also be picked up by humans.
10The insects that can sniff out bombs
Bomb sniffing dogs have, sadly, become commonplace throughout airports all over the world. Now bees are being trained to recognize the scents of ingredients that make up bombs.
Honeybees have the natural-born ability to sniff with their antennae to sense pollen in the wind and track it down to specific flowers. Bomb-detecting bees are strapped into tubes in a box. When the bees pick up a suspicious odor with their antennae, they flick their proboscises (a tubular feeding organ than extends from their mouths). Cameras pick up the bees' moving proboscises, which alerts the authorities that there is trouble brewing.
In our opinion, safety makes this whole bee-sniffing situation as sweet as honey.