November 23, 2011

From coumarin to Tonkene: Luca Turin TED-talk

Luca Turin is a biophysicist who studies the science of smell with particular focus on the vibrational theory of smell, eg a theory that states that what we perceive as our nose noticing a smell is in fact our reaction to the properties of a molecule. Basically this means that he deals with how molecules smell. 

A few years ago he gave a TED-talk on this. Now, my childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist so that I could work with dolphin rehabilitation was destroyed by my brains total inability to excel in chemistry. So this talk demands some energy and focus from me. But if you are a more scientific kind of thinker this will probably be like a night at the cinema for you. And it is an interesting talk as it touches upon the issue of natural vs synthetic ingredients. Luca Turin is also just generally a great speaker. There is a section about coumarin (which I wrote about yesterday remember?) with this super-nerdy quote.

"So they asked us to make a new coumarin. And so we started doing calculations. 
And the first thing you do is you calculate the vibrational spectrum of coumarin, 
and you smooth it out, so that you have a nice picture of what this sort of chord, 
so to speak, of coumarin is. And then you start cranking the computer to find 
other molecules, related, or unrelated, that have the same vibrations."

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