Our sense of smell is tied directly to our memory—moreso than any of our other senses. But this is an elusive sense. We can capture what we find pleasing visually and auditorily with innovations in technology but doing so with the scents we love poses a whole other challenge.
Sure, we can snuggle up to our loved one’s clothing item, but those scents fade. So, how could we capture them? And how could they impact us? The artist we’d like to introduce you to in this article is working on accessing just this.
Without us even knowing, our brains are keeping track of the scents around us and filing them away with our memories and emotions.
How this happens is actually really interesting. It’s all because of how our brain is set up! Smells are processed by our olfactory bulb, which has direct connections to of the areas directly associated with our memories and emotions: the amygdala and hippocampus. Touch, sound, and sight don’t have this connection! 1
This makes scent a powerful tool; one that could be used to enhance our joy!
Our smells—the ones coming out of our bodies—are what really bonds us before anything else. They’re what determines our attraction towards each other! Every sniff holds encoded information about the person and signals to our bodies whether or not we’re compatible for connection. 2
If we had the ability to capture the scents of our favorite people around us, we could essentially make ourselves little time machines! With just one whiff, we could bring ourselves back to those moments that mean the world to us with the people who mean the same—your new baby, your partner, mother, and so on.
By combining science with art, Ani Liu is creating these time machines.
She’s a research-based artist with a B.A. from Dartmouth College, a Masters of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a Masters of Science from MIT Media Lab. And all that she’s been creating with this knowledge and curiosity is phenomenal.
See how she’s capturing the scents of her life in this following video as Quartz introduces us to her project!
Giving astronauts scents of home and so much more!
Check out how Ani is developing scent capsules to help astronauts find the comfort of home while they’re zooming around outside of our planet for months or years at a time by clicking this link.
And make sure you check out all of Ani Liu’s work over on her website. Each project is an innovative and fascinating look at our human experience! You can learn more about the one we saw in the video today, titled Holding Back is Another Kind of Need by clicking here.
You can also follow her on Twitter to stay up to date with her work!
Could capturing smells help with our healing?
Writing this article made me begin thinking about what, and whose, scents mean the most to me. I began contemplating how fleeting and impermanent scents are—once someone is gone, they’re gone. And with them, goes their scent. But if we could extract their smell, could this help with our healing?
Could we continue to hold these people close to us? Would we build new associations with their scents? Could these scents soften the blow that separating from the ones we love has on us?
And what about when we travel? Or move away from our homes for the first time? Or spend a stint in the hospital? How could having a vile of the scentsthat comfort us the most impact our experiences?
Or, what if, in the same way that we have photo albums, we could have a scent album?
Stay open to new possibilities!
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein
What scents would you like to capture?
- White, Amanda. “Smells Ring Bells: How Smell Triggers Memories and Emotions.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 12 Jan. 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-babble/201501/smells-ring-bells-how-smell-triggers-memories-and-emotions. Accessed 22 Mar. 2019.
- Everts, Sarah. “The Truth About Pheromones.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2012, www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-truth-about-pheromones-100363955/. Accessed 22 Mar. 2019.
- “Perfume Made from Human Scent.” YouTube, Quartz, 5 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y_7sGaHNHM&feature=youtu.be. Accessed 22 Mar. 2019.