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No. 90: Nov-Dec 1993

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A Tale Of Two Noses

The vomeronasal and olfactory  sensory systems
The vomeronasal and olfactory sensory systems. (L. Stansass, M. Reingold)
First: An Anecdote. Some 30 years ago, D. Berliner, at the University of Utah, was studying human skin. To acquire raw material, he scraped skin cells from the insides of casts discarded by skiiers who had had broken bones. From this debris, Berliner extracted numerous chemical compounds. As far as anyone could tell, these substances were odorless, so he stored them in open flasks. However, Berliner noticed that when people were working in the lab with the flasks, they were more friendly and relaxed than normal. He could not divine the reason until some months later when he decided to cover the flasks of skin-derived substances. Curiously, the lab workers soon reverted to their usual grumpy selves! What could account for this strange behavior change? Knowing that animals often communicated with one another employing chemicals called pheromones, Berliner suspected that the flasks had been releasing odorless human pheromones. Sure enough, analysis of the skin-derived materials proved him correct.

Next: A Look Up the Nose. Biologists have long realized that animal noses actually contain two sensory channels. The first is the familiar olfactory system, which humans also possess. The second channel is the vomeronasal system. In animals, each system has its own separate organs, nerves, and bumps in the brain. The function of the vomeronasal system is pheromone detection. It was widely believed that humans had long ago discarded this sensory system along evolution's trail. But a closer look at the human nose by B. Jafek and D. Moran, affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell Center at the University of Colorado, revealed that all humans examined displayed two tiny pits on both sides of the septum, just inside the the opening of the nose. Behind the holes were tubes lined with unique cells that could well be pheromone detectors, since they responded positively to puffs of air laden with pheromones.

In conclusion, we humans actually do have a sixth sense, and we are all enveloped in an aura -- not the luminous aura of the mystics but a cloud of pheromones. Somehow, our attitudes towards others are likely affected by these pheromones. (Blakeslee, Sandra; "Human Nose May Hold an Additional Organ for a Real Sixth Sense," New York Times, September 7, 1993. Cr. P. Gunkel)

From Science Frontiers #90, NOV-DEC 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

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  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987