Not a review, today, but a scientific tidbit that may interest you. An article caught my eye in the current issue of the Economist, describing a new system for the categorisation of smells.
‘Although the human sense of smell is keen, it is hampered by a lack of precision. When presented with hundreds of odours, the nose can simultaneously distinguish only a few. Keenly aware of these problems, Alírio Rodrigues at the University of Porto in Portugal and his colleagues compiled an extensive list of scent descriptions from the existing databases used by the perfume industry. They found that eight general terms for scents (citrus, floral, green, fruity, herbaceous, musk, oriental and woody) could work as families to which more than 2,000 specific scents could be assigned. The team then plotted these eight families onto a map that resembled the plots on a radar screen.’
It turns out that Rodrigues’ “radar” is able automatically to categorise perfumes according to scent-family. Obviously, as the Economist points out, the potential impact of this reaches further than perfumers…
So might we one day see wine tasting relegated to the status of ‘quaintly old-fashioned’ activity – like basket-weaving or letter-writing? By 2030, will all our tasting notes be mechanically generated? It’d doubtless work out cheaper than hiring all these temperamental winos. And fewer hangov sick days.
Well, clearly the answer to that is no. But I couldn’t help but throw in a childishly provocative rhetorical question.
When a machine starts being able to generate metaphors, though? Then I’ll be worried.