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New Evidence For The Vibration Theory Of Smell (#GotBitcoin?)

The predictive power and galvanizing influence that theoretical models routinely enjoy in physics is only rarely replicated in biology. Lord Raleigh’s theory of sound perception, Francis Crick’s sequence and adapter hypotheses, and Hodgkin and Huxley’s model of the electrical dynamics of neurons are a few notable exceptions that have gone on to spawn entire scientific industries. Although it is hard to find comparable mechanistic drama unfolding in our current century, Luca Turin’s vibrational theory of olfaction has been a persistently fertile seed that has now ripened into a contentious fruit. New Evidence For The Vibration Theory Of Smell (#GotBitcoin?)

One way to judge a theory is by how hard its detractors work to disembowel it. Last year, one group went so far as to express human and mouse olfactory receptors in an in-vitro kidney cell preparation to see if deuterated synthetic musks with altered vibration signatures gave different responses. That group, perhaps not surprisingly, didn’t find a whole lot to support the vibration theory. Now, a study using live honeybees did. A group at the University of Trento led by Albrecht Haase was able to prove by direct imaging of the brain that the bee olfactory system can clearly distinguish odorants with different vibration frequencies despite having identical shapes.

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