Saturday, November 28, 2009

Smells, music, antibiotics, and other things

Estoy leyendo "The Emperor of Scent", de Chandler Burr, acerca de Luca Turin, un científico con una teoría interesante acerca de cómo olemos. Propone que tenemos un espectroscopio de efecto túnel (electron-tunneling spectroscope) orgánico (hecho de proteínas) en la nariz, que analiza las vibraciones características de enlaces atómicos en las moléculas, y cada combinación diferentes de enlaces tiene un olor particular (como acordes musicales).

El libro está interesante, y he encontrado varias ideas/frases de él que me han gustado/entretenido, so I'll just stick them here.

Este es un extracto donde vienen sus ideas acerca de la belleza en los olores y del dilema natura VS nurtura acerca de cómo apreciamos los olores (los franceses con sus quesos, por ejemplo):
His second view on the nature versus nurture of smell, firmly held, is that one should seek the full spectrum of smells in one's life. "France", he says, "is a country that understands that, much as in music an orchestra is not just violins, the range of smells that makes life interesting includes some rather severe ones." So what determines what we like to smell? "Your taste in smell is part biology and part culture. Everyone who smells rotten cheese the first time — take Époisses, where you smell it about three rooms away, and one that is even more rare and heavenly and makes the Époisses positively spartan by comparison: Soumaintrain, from Bourgogne, specifically from Saint-Florentin, near Auxerre. When they smell that, Americans think, 'Good God!' The Japanese think, 'I must now commit suicide.' The French think, 'Where's the bread?'


Theres' a vibrational fifth in esters, you know. I've always thought that esters, fruity, are Mozart. The melon notes — helional, for example — strike me as the watery Debussy harmonies, the fourths. Beethoven in his angrier moments is quinolines, which you get in green peppers. Thus Bandit, a dark, angular Beethoven string quartet. There's a lot of perfumery that smells like Philip Glass's minimalism, a deceptive simplicity. Mitsouko I think is pure Brahms, the string sextets, extremely intricate but rather monochrome. Tommy Girl gives you Prokofiev's First Symphony.

But the rotten cheeses. Put it this way: Sauternes, this incredible thing, is a wine that is the direct result of rotting grapes being eaten by a mold. I mean, in an American hospital they'd hand out antibiotics to exterminate half the food in France.

Hablando de un vino (Sauternes):
A great Sauternes is a perfectly proportioned thing. Rieussec makes big-boned, stocky affairs. The '59, in a bottle for forty years, comes out the way James Bond emerges from a wet suit in a perfect tuxedo. It looks at you and murmurs, 'What kept you?'

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