comedy · funny · science · Uncategorized

Smelly Maps

I have a regular running route of which I circle at least **text missing** times a week (Ahem… I’m a student, I try my best, but assignments always get in the way). On this run I do a large loop, exiting my house from the right side of my garden, weaving through urban shopping streets, lush parks and suburban areas to return back home on the left side of my garden. What this constructed loop provides me with is interesting variety. Listening to music and staring into the distance in mindless meditation/sweaty concentration most of my senses are busied by the action and remain oblivious to my surroundings, yet, my carefully varying route still gives me pleasure. This is because of the smellscape I’m running through.

First I smell a set of shops; meat, fish, fried food and then mothballs. I’ve just run past a butchers, then a fishmonger, then a Chinese takeaway and then a second hand store. I then run past a park where I smell grass, trees and mud and know that I’m near the end of it when I smell the faint smell of books coming from the give-and-take library box set up by a local citizen, and so on and so forth.

This is a smell map that I’ve created for my run, or a ‘Smelfie map’ as researchers in the field would put it. Smell maps are a descriptive map assigning colours and intensities to different smells throughout a city. Data collected from volunteers both in person and over social media collaborates to paint a beautifully unique picture of different cities.

Much like a perfume, researchers say each city has base notes, mid-level notes and high-notes.

Residents of cities become relatively immune to base-level notes, noticing only mid-level smells, like fish markets or factories, and high-level smells like goods from a leather shop. I guess I’m just beginning the overall picture of my running route.

The reason why these researchers are interested in smell maps is their potential to create more enjoyable cities. They explain that city officials and urban planners deal with less than 10 bad odours out of 1 trillion potential odours recognisable by humans. Ultimately they want to make cities smarter while making occupants happier.

Through their smell maps they have also discovered further information on our minds connections between smells and colours. A useful way of grouping smell categories and finding patterns between smells.

This map shows which parts of London smell like nature (green) and which parts smell like traffic pollution (red)


This map shows which parts of London smell like nature (green) and which parts smell like traffic pollution (red).

The busier roads stink of emissions, and the parks smell like nature.

The data correlates with air quality maps.

Here’s a map of the areas of London that smell like animals.

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(Castro/Mapbox/Open Street Map)

The busier roads stink of emissions, and the parks smell like nature.
The data correlates with air quality maps.

Here’s a map of the areas of London that smell like animals.

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(CartoDB/Mapbox/Open Street Map)

Here’s a map of Barcelona showing emission smells and nature smells.

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(CartoDB/Mapbox/Open Street Map)

 

 

Learn more:

Different completed, interactive smell maps http://goodcitylife.org/smellymaps/index.html

http://goodcitylife.org/index.html

http://sensorymaps.com/about/ A blog by Smell enthusiast; Kate Mclean (Heading image by Kate)

uercia, D., Aiello, L. M., Schifanella, R. The Emotional and Chromatic Layers of Urban Smells. Proceedings of the Tenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM 2016)

 

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