Scent event

The Bell Museum brings “smell scientist” Avery Gilbert to pontificate on the “Seduction of Scent”

WHAT: The Seduction of Scent WHERE: Bell Museum of Natural History WHEN: Sat., April 18, 7 p.m. TICKETS: $30 advance, $35 at door, members receive $10 discount What does the air smell like as you read this? Are you conscious of the hints of bus exhaust, shampoo from the person sitting next to you and the musty paper smell of your textbook as they waft through the air? Scent and its impact on our daily lives is mysterious, and thatâÄôs why the Bell Museum is bringing smell scientist Avery Gilbert to campus to speak about its powers, both seductive and scientific. And Gilbert knows his stuff âÄî not only has he written a book on the subject, âÄúWhat the Nose Knows,âÄù but heâÄôs had a hand in developing the scent of everything from Elizabeth TaylorâÄôs ubiquitous White Diamonds perfume (a mainstay of your Mom or grandmaâÄôs perfume cabinet, most likely) to cat litter. âÄúItâÄôs the most underrated [sense]. It has a lot more impact on our lives than we realize,âÄù Gilbert said. âÄúMuch of the time weâÄôre not directly aware of smells. TheyâÄôre on the fringes of our consciousness. [Smell] alters our moods without us even realizing it. It can make us relaxed. It can make us feel uncomfortable, like the smell of a doctorâÄôs or dentistâÄôs office. ItâÄôs always pinging away at the back of our minds.âÄù Gilbert, who began his career in the realm of smells, started as a research psychologist interested in animal behaviors and how animals communicate by scent. He conducted an experiment with human subjects to see whether or not people could smell the animal scents and transferred his academic path to the human variety. âÄúWe started doing research on peopleâÄôs fragrance preferences and built it into a full-scale group with labs, research, all to learn the mystery of why one person likes [a scent] and another hates it,âÄù he said. âÄúThereâÄôs something fundamental about perfume.âÄù Gilbert will be introduced by University bee expert and professor Marla Spivak, who will talk about the little buzzersâÄô contribution to the world of scent. âÄúThe things we smell in nature, sometimes theyâÄôre not necessarily intended for our nose. Flowers are talking to moths, bees, hummingbirds; plants are talking to hogs that will be munching the fruit that falls from the tree,âÄù Gilbert explained. âÄúHumans are sort of an incidental factor there. The orange tree for example âÄî we like the scent for our bodies, but itâÄôs to discourage caterpillars. We corrupt the chemical warfare of plants and animals and use it for our aesthetic.âÄù Besides his scientific forays into the wonders of the nose, Gilbert has started a blog, First Nerve, in which he examines the impact of smell on pop culture and discusses new scientific developments in the scent-centric world. âÄúPeople want to know about smell and about smell science. ThereâÄôs no authoritative source. I enjoy talking about science in a way that everybody can understand,âÄù Gilbert said. âÄúIâÄôm in one of the goofiest fields you can imagine.âÄù