Red Riding Hood: “What a big nose you have!”
Wolf: “The better to smell you with, my dear!”
While humans may consider eyes their most valuable sense organs, Kepler lives by his nose. He is continually waving it about to catch airborne scents or snuffling along the ground to enjoy an abundant cornucopia of odors.
Kepler will stop and be deeply interested in a spot on the ground where I can discern no apparent reason for his intense interest. Three different times on recent walks Kepler has stopped and dug beneath leaves to find a rawhide dog chew that he detected despite all the leaf mold smells.
Recently at a campground he started pulling toward a fire pit. In it was some fresh wood, charred wood, plenty of ashes, and an old wine box. But none of these smells stimulated Kepler’s jump into the pit. Underneath the wine box were two little wheat thins that he located and ate. From yards away in cold winter air he recognized the cracker scent as food he wanted, even though we don’t feed him crackers. He detected it despite many surrounding scents in the fire pit which did not interest him.
Kepler can even smell ice. Last week upon coming inside he bolted for a footstool and retrieved a recently-spilled ice cube from under it. He loves crunching ice chips as treats.
The human nose is an amazing organ even though it hardly compares with the sensitivity of a dog’s nose. The roof of the human nose contains 10 million scent receptors of 500-1,000 different types, detecting thousands of chemicals. Scent receptors are proteins folded to fit odor molecules of particular shapes. When odor molecules snap into receptors, olfactory nerves signal the brain.
For comparison, dogs average 220 million scent receptors. If the membranes in a dog’s nose were spread out, they would cover several king-size beds. Odors to dogs are like mathematics to people; they are the delight of their lives!
The sense of smell in dogs and people is very complex. A single odor may contain 1,000 different chemicals. A quick whiff generates activity throughout the brain. Strong emotional memories result because the nose is also connected to the brain’s limbic system which controls emotion.
Smell is essential for tasting food. Blocked noses yield tasteless food. As a child I applied this knowledge by pinching my nose shut whenever required to eat food I thought was horrible.
Trained perfumers can identify 10,000 different fragrances. To warn of natural gas leaks, a rotten egg smell is added. The nose can detect as little as one 400-billionth of a gram of this chemical in a quart of air.
Historically, doctors sniffed patients to diagnose diseases. Plague smelled like apples; scarlet fever and typhoid smelled like hot bread; measles smelled like fresh-plucked feathers; diphtheria smelled sickeningly sweet. Doctors smell the breath of unconscious patients to help ascertain the problem: a sweet breath could indicate diabetes; ammonia smells could indicate kidney problems; cyanide poisoning smells like almonds; arsenic poisoning smells like garlic.
Medical Alert Dogs for diabetes use their noses to detect the tiniest changes in body odor as insulin levels increase or decrease. Dogs trained in scent-based work alert parents, caregivers, or patients at the onset of blood sugar changes long before adverse reactions occur.
Dogs can smell the smallest changes in body chemistry. Scent-trained dogs can warn epileptics of coming seizures and bipolar people of their body chemistry going amok. Dogs can smell the minutest presence of an allergan like peanuts and warn highly allergic people.
Sir Bernard Spilsbury (1877-1947), the founder of forensic pathology and England’s real-life Sherlock Holmes, deduced much from telltale fragrances around crime scenes and corpses. Crime scene investigators still collect “nose” data.
Iron in the nose bone between the eyes makes the nose a compass. Experiments have shown some capability to determine direction by magnetic fields. Is this one of Adam’s original God-given abilities that has been mostly lost over six millennia of degeneration?
Bloodhounds are proverbial for tracking escapees. Dog noses of many breeds are invaluable in Search and Rescue operations.
The nose is a sophisticated multi-purpose air filter for the lungs. Nasal tissues trap foreign particles. The nose runs, bathing snared bacteria in dissolving chemicals. Sneezes eject larger particles at over 100 mph.
Who designed and engineered noses? Noses explode like a cannon, warn of danger, detect minute invisible chemicals, filter noxious elements, destroy germs, sense direction, generate pleasurable sensations, provoke powerful emotions, and give the breath-of-life? Who could even imagine, much less create, such a phenomenal multi-purpose tool?
I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)
Praise be to our omnificent God.
Questions to Ponder
- Which of your senses do you value most — sight, hearing, taste, smell, or touch? Why?
- Which sense most often tempts you to sin? How do you address this?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Read the sequel:
5. Kepler’s Business Card
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday January 14, 2015 A.D.
But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind? (Job 12:7-10)