Humans sense 10 types of smell
Even though humans can detect thousands of different aromas, two U.S. scientists contend that we smell only about 10 basic categories of scents.
Using a preexisting set of odors and descriptions, Jason Castro, of Bates College, and Chakra Chennubhotla, of the University of Pittsburgh, ran them through a computerized model and concluded that all the world’s smells largely fit into 10 groups that reflect attributes of the natural world, such as "danger" and "food." The scientists say there are only two categories of smells which cause a human’s stomach to turn – those described as pungent and decayed.
"If you know these basic categories, then you can start to think about building smells,” said Castro. "We have not solved the problem of predicting a smell based on its chemical structure, but that's something we hope to do."
He said it would be important to start testing the theory on more complex aromas, such as perfumes and everyday smells.
Other scientists have taken issue with the findings, arguing that there are thousands of permutations of odors.