Sunday 27 July 2008

Smelling or tasting?

I have seen I can summarize my philosophy about these small experiments in just one word: EMOTION, which means

  • Enjoy = fun!
  • Measurements = objectivity
  • Observation
  • Thought = we need a (specific) idea/belief to test
  • Incentive = we need a motivation
  • Originality = creativity
  • and the four Noes:

    1. No great, revolutionary ideas required
    2. Not a lot of time required
    3. Not a lot of material required
    4. Not a lot of knowledge required

So, the last weeks I have been quite busy, but that's just a cheap excuse (see the second no). The real reason I was not posting anything here is not time, it is just because I am not very used to it. Accepting it is the first step. The second step is doing something about...

So I will speak about a small experiment I did some weeks ago.

I was curious about the interaction between gustation and olfaction. Everybody knows that blocking your nose it is much more difficult to detect the flavour of everything, but I wanted to check this. I chose a specific idea to test:

I can tell the difference between the taste of olive oil and sunflower oil when I block my nose

So, to do this, and to make an objective measurement, I couldn't simply block my nose and try both oils, as my mind could still make me think I can tell something, just because I know the answer. I also needed not to know which one it was.

I put in two cups a little bit of each oil. To make it completely random, I closed my eyes and I asked my girlfriend to flip a coin. Then, she had to leave the cups in a place depending on the result.

After that, I tried one of the cups while blocking my nose. It was a very strange feeling! A viscous fluid in my mouth. No taste at all. It could have been bicycle oil. But I thought I still could tell something. So I tried the second cup (still nose blocked, eyes closed, of course). This was amazing: exactly the same sensation! (It might seem obvious, but making the experiment is really interesting, as you don't have to believe in that: you feel it).

Actually you can still "cheat", as olive oil seems to be more viscous than sunflower oil. But you have to practice a bit, and I didn't. So I went out on a limb and said something. I can't remember what I said, but I was wrong.

Then I did the same, but without blocking my nose. Even before trying the oil it was completely obvious which one was the olive oil. It was as clear as telling blue from red.

It was an interesting experiment. Maybe next time I will check if it is possible, with some practice, to tell who's who by their viscosity.

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