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How Many Smells Are There?

How many smells are there? It’s an odd question, but give it some thought. Mentally flip through the pages of your personal smell catalog. You find burnt toast, shaving cream, Grandma’s kitchen, and pine trees. With a little effort you can come up with a lot of smells, but putting a number to them is difficult. How does one count the odors of a lifetime, much less all the odors in the world?

Author Avery Gilbert explores estimates from various scientists, fragrance manufacturers, and chemists who suggest that humans can detect anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 different smells. Researchers have found that no two people smell things the same way. There’s a scientific reason for it, and it all has to do with your DNA. There are about 400 genes coding for the receptors in our noses, and there are more than 900,000 variations of those genes. These receptors control the sensors that determine how we smell odors. A given odor will activate a suite of receptors in the nose, creating a specific signal for the brain.

Possible Preaching Angles:

Scripture often speaks of the uniqueness of fragrances. For example, 1) Christians spread the fragrance of Christ to others. Some people will be attracted and others will be repelled (2 Cor. 2:14-16); 2) Our prayers and sacrifice are a pleasing aroma to God (Ex. 29:18).

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