Luca Turin goes to Paris to test his theory about the sense of smell by meeting up with a master of creating perfumes. Odors come from inhaling molecules of chemicals. It is interesting to note that even when the molecules are very similar, with almost identical structures, the smells are quite different. The reverse is also true. Some molecules with very different chemical structures have the same odor. They do not have an obvious logical reason why they smell the same. Scientists do not yet know exactly what causes a specific odor.
The research of John Amoore is investigated. Amoore tested many individual's ability to smell the odor of pure chemicals. He was surprised to learn that almost all people have the inability to smell at least one odor. Amoore's idea was that there are receptors in the nose that allow the nose to figure out the shape of the chemical molecules. However, this theory is not able to explain why the tiniest molecules that fit in any of the receptors found by Amoore have different odors.
Luca Turin thinks the nose acts like a spectroscope to determine the specific vibration of the molecules, which form a distinct pattern much like a fingerprint. At first, this theory met with skepticism, but the U.S. Navy took up the challenge to fund Turin's research in order to make better bomb detecting equipment.
Amoore's receptor theory and Turin's vibrational theory are both put to the test and neither provides the complete answer, so the research continues.