Unless it’s very obvious, we usually don’t pay much attention to the smell of the things around us. We also don’t really question why we like something or why we don’t, we just react accordingly. However, there’s smells that meet the nose. For example, why do books have a unique old smell? And why does freshly cut grass smell the way it does? In fact, why does anything smell the way it does? That’s why you’re here isn’t it? Keep on reading to learn some interesting facts about common, everyday smells.
Bibliochor is a fairly new word in the English language and it refers to the distinct smell of old books. This odor is produced when the chemicals that are used to make paper start to break down, releasing a smell that comes from cellulose and lignin; it’s what gives wood its texture. Also, there may be other compounds produced, depending on what materials were used when the paper was made. The ink and adhesive that hold the book together also adds to the scent.
2. Freshly Cut Grass
The smell of freshly cut grass is oddly satisfying and unique. But it comes at the cost of the grass, being unjustly mowed down. Since they don’t have mouths to express their pain, trimmed grass will instead release green leaf volatiles. When this is done, the grass goes into overdrive and their systems immediately deploy defenses against fungi and bacteria that might infect the trimmed tips. This chemical also works to seal in the tips of the freshly cut grass, the same way our platelets seal in our wounds by clotting the blood.
You know that pleasant scent just before it rains? That’s called petrichor and contrary to what you may believe, it’s not caused by the incoming rain itself, but rather, a microorganism. These microorganisms spend the majority of their lives breaking down the complex compounds in decaying organisms, and when they do, they release an alcohol known as geosmin. They also know when it’s about to rain and will begin to produce more geosmin in anticipation of it. So when the rain hits the ground, the geosmin becomes airborne and gets carried over longer distances, which we pick up on.
4. Seaside Smell
Many people find the sea to be very comforting and relaxing – whether it’s because of the spectacular view, the soft waves or the gentle breeze that carries a comforting scent with it. Just what exactly is the scent? It is a fragrance released by DMS or dimethyl sulfide, a by-product of bacteria that comes about when it feeds on a molecule called dimethylsulfoniopropionate or DMSP, which is released by the ocean-dwelling phytoplankton. For us, DMS is a very important molecule which aids in the formation of clouds and gives food a savory taste.
5. New Car Smell
New cars, like any other brand-new item, have a unique odor that is as dangerous as it is satisfying. This is because of the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are also known carcinogens. Along with the VOCs, the new car smell consists of several other scents such as the chemicals used in plastics, glues, vinyl, paints and other materials used to create the car. These scents will fade away after some time, but will eventually return during warmer conditions. This is why owners of new cars are advised to keep the windows open when it’s hot outside.
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