It used to be thought that human noses could only detect around 10,000 smells, although many scientists thought that was probably a bit too low. A new study suggests that number is much higher–that humans can distinguish among 1 trillion different scents.
“Ten thousand is kind of pathetic — it’s a pretty low number,” study author and molecular neurobiologist Leslie Vosshall of Rockefeller University told the Washington Post.
This study went like this, as the Post noted:
The researcher came up with their number by creating mixtures of 128 different odorous chemicals and testing how well 26 different people could distinguish among them. The ability to distinguish between closely related compounds varied from one person to another.