November 04, 2003

*Ask Jen

Reader Jeff D. asks, "Where do odors go? Do they dissipate beyond recognition or do the compounds break down after a while (or both)?"

Daniel takes this one: They dilute themselves in the natural air and in the wind. Odors are caused by chemical compounds being released into the air. When these chemicals land on the nerves in our nose, the resonant frequency of them is changed and this sends an electrical signal to the brain. Of course, each compound changes the frequency in a very specific way and the more of that compound that enters our nose, the stronger the smell. Of course, there is a limited amount of chemicals that can be released by the material (actually some of the compounds are formed through natural interaction with the air, but same idea...) and this material spreads out the farther away from it you are. It doesn't seem likely that the compounds would break down - that would take a large amount of energy - but I suppose it could happen, just not very likely.

Susie asks, "What's the derivation of the phrase 'Hobson's choice'?"

Tobias Hobson kept a livery stable in Cambridge, England, in the seventeenth century. He let out his horses in rotation only, and did not let customers choose. Hobson's choice was no choice at all.

Do you have a question for me? You can e-mail it. If I know the answer, I'll answer it. If I don't, I might make something up. If you have a blog, please include a link in your e-mail.

Posted by Jennifer at November 4, 2003 07:27 PM


Thanks, Jen! That's been bugging me for a long time...

Posted by: Susie at November 5, 2003 12:15 AM