The odour version of “white”

Meet Laurax, a not-very-bold, not-that-exciting new fragrance. According to a panel of sniffers, it’s neither appealing nor revolting. It’s “intermediately pleasant”. People almost trip over themselves to describe it in non-descript terms—“fragrant”, “chemical” and “perfumery”.

Laurax isn’t going to set the perfume world ablaze in the near future, but its scientific implications are fascinating. This bizarre scent is actually a set of completely different fragrances that all smell roughly the same. It’s the odour version of “white”.

— Read more at The smell of white – mixtures of many distinct scents end up smelling the same at Discover Magazine.

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2 Comments

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  1. Lys says:

    Only comment is that the color white isn’t the visual equivalent of neutral. Maybe Laurex is the olfactory equivalent of the (25%?) gray that printers set the background of their monitor to so that they can perceive the colors on their workspace properly. I mean this is Discover magazine and all.

    • alia says:

      Well in terms of signal processing I think they’re analogies were actually all right… “White noise” is an auditory neutral, but what it really is is a combination of many different signals that leads to a flat frequency spectrum (whatever ingredients — frequencies — you add in). The distribution of the color white is similarly flat — since all wavelengths are present.

      So what they’re trying to say about this “white smell” is that when you add many scents, you start to get a flat distribution of the different “scent frequencies” and it starts to smell something like a “white noise” equivalent to neutral. But the comparison with the color white is mostly in terms of having flat distribution (where all frequencies or wavelengths are present).

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