Biophysicist Luca Turin studies the science of smell. He's the author of Perfumes: The Guide, and the subject of Chandler Burr's 2003 book The Emperor of Scent. His next project: developing an artificial nose.

Why you should listen

Biophysicist Luca Turin studies the science of smell. He's a leading proponent of the vibrational theory of smell -- the idea that when our noses pick up a scent, we're reacting to the vibrational properties of the molecule we're smelling. (This is in opposition to the shape theory of smell, which imagines smelly molecules fitting into conveniently shaped receptors in our noses.)

His work on olfactory reception and the prediction of what a particular molecule will smell like has led to an interesting line of work: designing new fragrances and flavor molecules, as part of the firm Flexitral, where he is CTO. Coming up, he'll be part of a team in Biomedical Engineering at MIT, headed by Professor Shuguang Zhang, to develop an artificial nose made with natural receptors as part of DARPA's just-launched RealNose program.

He's the author of several books on scent, including Perfumes: The Guide and The Secret of Scent, and is the subject of Chandler Burr's 2003 book The Emperor of Scent.


 

 

Luca Turin’s TED talk

Luca Turin on the TED Blog

Science

The science of scent: Luca Turin on TED.com

November 7, 2008

What’s the science behind a sublime perfume? With charm and precision, biophysicist Luca Turin explains the molecular makeup — and the art — of a scent. (Recorded February 2005 in Monterey, California. Duration: 15:53.) Watch Luca Turin’s talk on TED.com, where you can download this TEDTalk, rate it, comment on it and find other talks […]

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Quotes from Luca Turin

Smell has this reputation of being somewhat different for each person. It’s not really true. Perfumery shows you that can’t be true, because if it were like that it wouldn’t be an art.
Luca Turin
TED2005 • 352K views Nov 2008
Fascinating, Informative