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The Emperor Of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession and the Last Mystery of the Senses Paperback – 4 Mar 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (4 Mar. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099460238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099460237
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 125,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The Emperor of Scent is a gem of a book- I was mesmerised and enlightened by the many perfect asides woven into the main body of this incredible true tale." (Alexandra Fuller)

"With the contagious enthusiasm of a nerd given the run of a chemistry lab, he has transformed a chance meeting with a curious biophysicist named Luca Turin into an amusing and poetic adventure in science and art." (Washington Post)

"Ebullient- a book that celebrates the randomness and arbitrariness of discovery while also translating complex science into the colloquial- as its title indicates, The Emperor of Scent presents a larger-than-life autocrat and his interesting, engaging eccentricities-an inspired, exhilarating view of idiosyncratic science" (New York Times)

"Fascinating and lucid- the details of Turin's work unfold like a revelation. For his part, Burr does a fine job of turning both the science and the academic jockeying around a possible publication in Nature into a pulse-racing affair." (New Yorker)

"A brilliant, feisty scientist at the center of a nasty, back-stabbing, utterly absorbing, cliff-hanging scramble for the Nobel Prize. The Emperor of Scent is a quirky, wonderful book." (John Berendt)

Book Description

Patrick Suskind's novel Perfume made real - the true history of a scientific genius with eerie powers of smell who uses his gifts to solve one of the body's last secrets: how the nose works.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was never any good at the theory of physics, biology and chemistry, but this book brought the fascination and excitement of all the practical science experiments back after reading a mere 10 pages. The book, written by an intrigued journalist, describes the story of Luca Turin, a lively Italian biophysicist then researching the olfactory sense (sense of smell).

The author uses the style of an investigative journalist detailing all his meetings with the key protagonists, the two fiercely opposed camps of Shape and Vibration. The Shapists - connotations about "form over function" are not entirely innocent - propagate the theory that our sense of smell is based on molecular shape recognition by our nasal smell receptors. The Shape theory of smell has to date dominated this field of research. The Vibration camp has Turin as its standard bearer. His original research posits that our olfactory sense is based on electron-tunnelling by the nasal smell receptors. The molecules we smell are analysed through a process of biological spectroscopy making use of an electron's natural tendency to tunnel through molecules carrying, in this case, an olfactory perception. The spectroscopy consists of the molecule being "smelled" by the tunnelling electron, and subsequently exhibiting a vibration pattern. The vibration can be represented by a wavelength. Hence, the olfactory bulb in our brain differentiates between smells by matching the resulting objective "olfactory" wavelengths with subjective smell perceptions. If accepted by the scientific community at large - and it is by no way today - Turin's Vibration theory could be worth a Nobel prize.

However, the author fails to give Turin his full credit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chandler Burr writes beautifully about perfume. If only he would stick to it... When he strays off the subject onto anything else, he is excruciatingly bad and pretentious. This book charts the attempts of Luca Turin to have his theory of how smell works accepted by the scientific establishment. Burr is a complete convert: I, not being a chemist, am not so sure. But a very interesting read about perfume and smell and chemistry - good for popular science fans, but no match for Turin's own book.
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Format: Hardcover
I was never any good at the theory of physics, biology and chemistry, but this book brought the fascination and excitement of all the practical science experiments back after reading a mere 10 pages. The book, written by an intrigued journalist, describes the story of Luca Turin, a lively Italian biophysicist then researching the olfactory sense (sense of smell).
The author uses the style of an investigative journalist detailing all his meetings with the key protagonists, the two fiercely opposed camps of Shape and Vibration. The Shapists – connotations about “form over function” are not entirely innocent – propagate the theory that our sense of smell is based on molecular shape recognition by our nasal smell receptors. The Shape theory of smell has to date dominated this field of research. The Vibration camp has Turin as its standard bearer. His original research posits that our olfactory sense is based on electron-tunnelling by the nasal smell receptors. The molecules we smell are analysed through a process of biological spectroscopy making use of an electron’s natural tendency to tunnel through molecules carrying, in this case, an olfactory perception. The spectroscopy consists of the molecule being “smelled” by the tunnelling electron, and subsequently exhibiting a vibration pattern. The vibration can be represented by a wavelength. Hence, the olfactory bulb in our brain differentiates between smells by matching the resulting objective “olfactory” wavelengths with subjective smell perceptions. If accepted by the scientific community at large – and it is by no way today – Turin’s Vibration theory could be worth a Nobel prize.

However, the author fails to give Turin his full credit.
Read more ›
Comment 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone approaching this book has a problem; the subject of the book, Luca Turin, is fascinating, his brilliance undoubted, but his skills are difficult to describe to the lay reader. Chandler Burr has some descriptive skills, and manages to explain simply some quite difficult science. The trouble is that he has wrapped it up in a trendy, gossipy, women's magazine style of writing, and an additional, substantial problem is that he has both a tin ear for dialogue, most of which one imagines he is creating, and a liking for prose so purple that it becomes meaningless.

A sample, describing a group eating at a restaurant: "The food arrives en masse." (Food cannot arrive en masse; the phrase describes a group of individuals acting collectively) "trays and steaming platters of it," (ah, the singular 'it' referring to 'food', so the plural implicit in 'en masses' is now discarded) "and much shifting about and many bowls and spoons and plates being set down all at once like hail falling on the table" (Being set down, but then compared with hail falling! eh?) "They" (people not cutlery or plates) "pick up utensils and absorb the food as if by osmosis."
Osmosis, as teenagers in biology lessons learn, is the slow passage of water through a semi permeable membrane from a weaker solution to a stronger. Does Chandler think that osmosis sounds like a word implying speed? Wouldn't it be worth looking it up, and getting it right?

His tendency to prefer a breathless flow of words, of the style encountered in teen fanzines, is a bore throughout, and occasionally he opts for the bizarre: Turin is described sending an email to the editor of a scientific journal, Nick Short.
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