Human nose smelling

Human Nose Can Distinguish At Least A Trillion Different Odors



April 24, 2024

  • The idea that the human nose can distinguish at least a trillion different odors comes from a study published in the journal “Science” in March 2014.
  • Researchers at Rockefeller University conducted this study to estimate the human olfactory system’s ability to discriminate between various odors.
  • In the study, researchers used a combination of mathematical models and experiments to arrive at their estimate.
  • They found that the human nose is capable of distinguishing a vast and diverse range of odors, far more than was previously believed.
  • The number they arrived at, around a trillion, is significantly higher than earlier estimates, which had suggested that humans could only distinguish a few thousand different odors.
  • It’s important to note that this estimate is based on mathematical extrapolation and assumptions, and the actual number of distinguishable odors may vary from person to person.
  • Human olfaction is a complex and highly individualized sense, influenced by genetics, experience, and cultural factors. Nonetheless, the study demonstrated the remarkable sensitivity and discrimination abilities of the human olfactory system.