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Smells Like the Real Thing

Sensing systems that mimic noses and taste buds

Whether bulbous, Roman, or pug, the nose gets all the credit. But the actual star of smell is an unassuming patch of tissue, several centimeters square, tucked up inside each nasal cavity. After a whiff of a peach or a lilac, this tissue captures the volatile chemicals traveling into each nostril. The chemicals bind to receptors on the tissue's millions of neurons, the neurons relay the information to the brain, and voilà—you know that the peach is ripe and the lilacs are in bloom.

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