Geeky treats #3: The nose knows

by Stephanie Chasteen on December 8, 2010

Here’s a fun science experiment that you can do around taste.  You need to work with a partner on this one.  Get yourself some lifesavers, or other hard candy.  Plug your nose, cover your eyes, and have your partner give you a piece of candy.  Try to guess the flavor.  It’s really hard!  A related activity is to give a volunteer a wedge of apple and a wedge of potato and see if they can tell the difference (with their eyes and nose squeezed shut).  Most people can identify sweet or sour with their eyes shut, but it can take a little bit more time to recognize other flavors.  That’s because the taste receptors on your tongue (bitter, salty, sweet) are a really rough brush for determining flavor; it takes a bit more input to get the richness that we call “flavor.”  We rely on scent to do this work for us.  After you’ve had the candy in your mouth for a while, the scent does travel through your mouth to your nose through your sinus passages.  Oh, and by the way, the idea that the tongue has a taste map is a mythread my older post about that here. For more info: My Teaching Tips podcast, “It’s a Matter of Taste”, or  The Knows Nose activity

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