Why McDonald's fries taste so good

February 14, 2011

An incredible article that is less about McDonald's fries and more about the history and inner workings of the flavor industry, and the relationship between sight, smell and taste.

A nose can detect aromas present in quantities of a few parts per trillion — an amount equivalent to about 0.000000000003 percent. […]

The chemical that provides the dominant flavor of bell pepper can be tasted in amounts as low as 0.02 parts per billion; one drop is sufficient to add flavor to five average-size swimming pools.

These observations remind me of something similar I read recently in Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (which is wonderful by the way), namely that 3% of our genome is devoted to genes for detecting different odors (i.e., each gene makes a receptor for an odor molecule). Wow!

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