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The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses by Chandler Burr

The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses by Chandler Burr

Author:Chandler Burr [Burr, Chandler]
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Published: 2003-01-20T16:00:00+00:00


MRS. RIPPARD’S PERCEPTION of a difference in smell being a difference in physical space didn’t surprise Turin in the least. “Well, of course. You wouldn’t be surprised if a change in your eyesight or hearing changed the way you perceived the dimensions of the room around you. Smell is the same. It’s about where you are and what relation that has to other things in time and space.”

♦ ♦ ♦

ON OCTOBER 7, 1995, Turin collected his mail and found from Nature the responses of the second round of referees. He tore them open. They were even worse.

He spent a number of hours simultaneously numb and feverish. He thought seriously about dropping it, all of it, altogether—the theory, the experiments, everything. Then he decided there was only one thing to do, which was to grit his teeth and try again. He rallied and plunged into yet another response.

“I confess,” Turin began his response to Short, “that the unfairness and inaccuracy of some of the referees’ comments discouraged me to the point that I considered withdrawing the article from Nature and submitting it elsewhere.” To start with, as far as Turin could tell, Nature had clearly resubmitted to the original Referee 1 despite Short’s assurances that they wouldn’t. “I have reexamined the paper that you sent me,” Referee “1” had written scathingly (the “reexamined” wasn’t too subtle) “and still find it unsatisfactory for exactly the reasons given in my first report.” Turin, baffled, reminded Short that he’d agreed not to resend it to these people. Marshall Stoneham had recommended other people. Short replied that they had tried to get three completely new people, but the people they’d sent it to had said they didn’t understand any of it and had sent it back. So out it went to the same three who had rejected it.

At least this time Referee 1 deigned to specify a problem: “There is virtually no attention paid to . . . how a system scans electron energy.” “The answer is, of course,” Turin snapped, “that no scanning is involved, as I made clear,” and he once again quoted the paper’s description of a fixed number of receptors covering the full spectrum of vibrations. This—and not “scanning”—was the goddamn physical mechanism. Turin was sick of it: “Referee “1” . . . claims that there is no physical mechanism specified in the [paper] . . . a claim that is patently false. This is prima facie evidence that either he has not read it or that he has not understood it.”

Referee 1 then returned to saying that Turin had equated an electron-tunneling spectroscope with an optical/laser spectroscope. (Turin had explicitly done the opposite.) Referee 1 veered to take a wild shot at Turin’s “specific examples” (the molecular shapes Turin had assembled whose smells contradicted Shape), complaining that they didn’t explain how the mechanism would work—which was a job, Turin pointed out, that they were never intended to do in the first place.

Turin left Referee 1 for Referee 2. Referee 2 started with some throwaway sniping.



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