The Book: Smelling to survive The amazing world of our sense of smell
Edition 20
Place of the event
Date of the event
17.09.2022 12:00
Being able to perceive the surrounding chemical environment allows animals to adapt to external conditions, find resources or companions, as well as avoid various types of enemies. And the sense of smell is also a vital component of the human experience.

At Pitti Fragranze, on Saturday, September 17, Bill Hansson, neuroethologist and director of the Department of Chemical Ecology at the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany, presented some of the most amazing stories from the world of olfactory research – collected in his book, "Smelling to survivehe," published in Italian by Aboca Edizioni. He was led in this fascinating conversation by Giovanna Zucconi, the journalist who curated the Italian preface to the book.

"You can close your eyes, but not your nose," the Swedish author said. Our olfactory system is relentlessly working and protecing us from so many threats by warning us of dangers looming ahead – such as the smell of smoke in a fire or the smell of spoiled food.

Humans rely heavily on olfactory information, but there are species that have a more developed sense: insects, for example, and dogs that can detect disease via smell. 

"We will never be able to understand what a dog can smell," Hansson explained. He noted that it is still possible to exercise this sense by intentionally and carefully smelling different elements, such as cinnamon, lemon or vanilla, every day.

As for the future of our current smellscape, the author said it's hard to predict what will happen, but did say two things are certain: as temperatures rise, smells will increase; and exposure to ozone will change olfactory profiles.