Jean-Claude Bradley
Top Seven Worst Odors Known To Mankind ... - http://antipollutionrevolution...
#2. Isonitriles. Unrecognizable by name but recognizable by odor, isonitriles have one of the most offensive smells known to humans. Collectively considered a non-lethal weapon in warfare because of their ability to sedate those who are unfortunate enough to smell them, isonitriles can foul up the air they're exposed to for several days. As stated by Ugi (creator of the Ugi reaction in organic chemistry), "the odor of volatile isonitriles has been describes by Hofmann and Gautier as 'highly specific, almost overpowering, horrible, and extremely distressing.' That's right; the smell is so bad, it will distress you. - Jean-Claude Bradley
Hey Jean-Claude, I've started reading "the emperor of scent." Glad you recommended it -- I'm going to learn a lot, especially since I know very little chemistry and nothing about scent. Also glad you recommended it, because it's helping me get past a bit of fanciful writing in the beginning and some parts I just don't believe. Also looking forward to learning about the parts you wrote about in your blog. - Steve Koch
No mention of mercaptans/mercaptoethanol or amines like putrescine or cadaverine? - Mr. Gunn
To culture strongyloides (a human parasite), you essentially ferment human faeces for a week or so. I'll back the resulting odor against anything else I've ever come across. *shudder* - Bill Hooker
A couple people in my lab in graduate school decided it was a good idea to throw away squid carcasses in the lab trash can on a Friday. I found it on Saturday evening and it was the closest I've ever come to hurling from an odor alone. And I almost hurled repeated as I carried it to the dumpster. Sorry J-C, but I guess degeneration of this thread was expected. - Steve Koch
MG - the list does miss some classic beauties like putrescine - that was the first compound I tried to make for fun as an undergrad. I used the Schmidt degradation of adipic acid and poisoned myself with hydrazoic acid: it felt like my head was going to explode. That's when I learned about the importance of using a fume hood :) - Jean-Claude Bradley
Steve - I will be curious to see what you thought of the book - especially as it pertains to the motivations of people in science. Besides that the chemistry and biochemistry is intriguing. - Jean-Claude Bradley
Curious to know whether Luca Turin's theory that the nose works like a spectrometer rather than a lock and key receptor system was ever (dis)credited...anyone know? - David Bradley
Bill - that reminds me of jenkem - a drug of choice for some made from fermented feces - - Jean-Claude Bradley
David - I don't know - it would be nice to hear from someone working in the field - Jean-Claude Bradley
Um, that story about jenkem freaked me out so much just now, I can't even think about what the worst smell I've ever come across might be. Jean-Claude, what were you trying to make that putrescine for - anything specific?... - steffi suhr
Jean-Claude, I'm inclined to think jenkem is a hoax -- but I will NOT be doing the obvious experiment... still giggling about self confessed jenkem hoaxter "Pickwick": "I just don't want people to ever recognize me as the kid who huffed poop gas." - Bill Hooker
Bill - there are lots of giggles to be had from the Wikipedia piece on jenkem. Hoax or not - what a great conversation piece - Jean-Claude Bradley
Steffi - I wanted to make it to know what it smelled like - and just the fun of making it - Jean-Claude Bradley
I have used quite a few isonitriles...benzyl isonitrile tops my list for most smelly isonitrile. - Khalid Mirza
Loving page 108 of "Emperor of Scent" (yes I'm reading): ' "...Oh, incidentally," [Turin] says, frowning, "the worst natural smell I've ever encountered in my life is rotting octopus. ... Once you smell dead octopus, you never forget it. The only thing that approaches that is isonitriles." He grimaces ' - Steve Koch
In my naive mind, I file squid and octopuses adjacently. Thus, I feel completely justified in almost vomiting from rotting squid smell, even though I've never smelled rotting octopus. But the science side of me is wanting to smell an isonitrile right now. Followed by a rotten squid, and then octopus. - Steve Koch
Steve - I forgot about that line in the book. I was talking with my students this week about the isonitrile stench and they don't seem to be too offended by the smell. I can tell when Ugi reactions are going on but the odor is not unbearable. Using the fume hood consistently probably makes it very manageable - Jean-Claude Bradley