Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Much Does Taste Depend Upon Smell?

Ever noticed that food doesn't seem to have as much flavor when you have a stuffed-up nose? 

A large part of your taste sensations come from smell, so when you can't smell very well, your sense of taste declines as well.  I've used Dum-Dum lollipops for this experiment, since they come in a multitude of flavors and we always seem to have a large number of them around the house after Halloween!

Have students work in pairs to do this experiment.

One student, the taster, closes her eyes and uses one hand to plug her nose.  The other student, the assistant, will then unwrap a randomly chosen lollipop.  He then hands it to the taster, who puts it in her mouth, while keeping her eyes closed and nose plugged.  The taster tries to identify the flavor of the lollipop.  The assistant records the taster's hypothesis. 

After making an initial hypothesis, the taster is then allowed to unplug her nose.  She tries again to identify the flavor of the lollipop.  Again, the hypothesis is recorded by the assistant.

And finally, the taster can open her eyes to view the lollipop, and make any final changes to her flavor guess. 

At that point, the flavor of the lollipop can be revealed and the two students can switch positions.

Of course, you don't have to use lollipops - any candy that comes in multiple flavors will work.  An experiment was put together as a follow-up to a Newton's Apple episode, in which jelly beans are used.  Check out the experiment, the explanation, and make sure you read the "Try This" suggestions at the end - I think I want to try the potato and apple experiment!

1 comment:

  1. I might be able to do this with Jelly Belly beans, but truthfully I often cannot identify the "fruit" flavor of lollipops even when I can smell them! Sounds really fun, though.