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Still Waters

Can You Name That Smell?

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Ask a group of people to describe the color of a sheet of paper, a cloud, or a glass of milk, and chances are they'll all say "white" .But ask the same group to describe the smell of cinnamon, and you'll likely get a potpourri of answers, ranging from "spicy" to "smoky" to "sweet" and sometimes all three. When it comes to naming smells, humans struggle to find concise, universal terms. Indeed, scientists have long thought the ability was out of our reach. But a new study indicates that the inhabitants of a remote peninsula in Southeast Asia can depict smells as easily as the rest of us pick colors.


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