What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Question: When you smell a perfume, what are you actually smelling?  

Christophe Laudamiel: So when you smell a scent, whether it's your coffee smell... I mean, your coffee in the morning, yeah? Or a strawberry to a perfume from... that you would apply on your skin, a fine fragrance, you smell many, many, many molecules. So we're talking a hundred, two hundred, hundreds of molecules. And now it does not mean that the brain registers all these different molecules and it does not mean even that the best nose in the world sees hundreds of molecules and can write them on a piece of paper in one go.

The way it's processed, it's processed like patches, like facets. And even the best experts can smell only five to eight facets at a given time. But for the brain to register a facet, you have to have at least several components for each facet which together are going to give this signature that then you will recognize as coffee. But you won't be able to recognize the different things that you would see in coffee. Some of them, if you take them one-by-one, those facets... one is going to smell like a raw potato another one is going to smell like smoke, another one like toasted bread, another one like earth, and et cetera. But you don't really see all that. You will register it as coffee.

And in a complex perfume it's the same. You will register it as floral and you won't see the 20 molecules that were needed to recreate that floral boost in the fragrance. So it's true that when we create we can be playing with a lot of different ingredients but as I say it doesn't mean that when you smell, you analyze and see every single ingredient one-by-one. Maybe there is one, two, or three ingredients that are very important for the signature of the fragrance by themselves and you might recognize all of a sudden patchouli or mandarin
So, when we create a perfume whether it's a simple order or a complex perfume, it is true that we use many different molecules and many different naturals. Naturals are simply a complex mixture of different molecules that you find directly in nature. And a fragrance formula could have between 10, 20, to 80, 100 different of those ingredients. Now, when you smell that fragrance you are not going to see, even as the best expert, these 100 ingredients.

So it is like a Dalmatian dog, you don’t look at it as being a listing of 100 dots; you see it at the end just as a dog. And you can see how if you have this dog, on the black and white picture, you can remove a few dots from the dog, you will still see the dog and then at one point when you remove two or three dots, the dog is going to disappear in the whole picture. So that’s what we do in perfumery. We put enough of those dots to recognize a certain facet, a floral facet, a woody facet, and the brain then is going to register that as a floral note and is going to remind you of your grandmother and you’re going to say, “Oh, this is like my grandmother.” But to recreate the smell of grandmother, you have to have different molecules in there, some of them would have never – would never, by themselves, reminded you of your grandmother, but altogether, then you register grandmother, not the 20 molecules that are needed to do that.

Recorded September 9, 2010

Interviewed by Andrew Dermont

More from the Big Idea for Thursday, September 16 2010

 

How We Sense Scents

Newsletter: Share: