- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Biophysicist Luca Turin is the subject of this engrossing scientific journey in which the glamorous world of perfumery serves as backdrop to a modern version of the biblical tale of David and Goliath. Turin plays David, a man with a theory of smell that contradicts the currently accepted one. Goliath is played by "the Big Boys" -- the powers-that-be at the world's leading fragrance houses and the scientific establishment that Turin repeatedly attempts to woo with a controversial theory.
Turin's theory holds that the vibration of electrons is the basis of the biological mechanism that determines smell. This is radically different from the established theory, which holds that scents are recognized according to their molecular shape. Turin refutes this by proving that two molecules can have the same shape but smell completely different. However, for the perfume houses to accept Turin's theory would mean an expenditure of millions, even billions of dollars and would leave many of their scientists out on the street.
What makes Turin an engaging character is that along with being a scientist, he is a gifted "nose" who writes a highly respected perfume guide. At first, Turin tries to go the conventional route with his theory, submitting a paper to Nature, the top scientific journal in the field. The referees at Nature reject the paper. Turin then makes several trips to "the commercial altar," only to be turned away after the scientists at the big companies reject his theory. Though Goliath would appear to be the winner this time, Chandler Burr's book is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to take a peek into the hush-hush political process of scientific discovery. Vivian Kelly