Orange juice science

Reading ingredients in the quintessential American breakfast drink feels good. It’s simply “orange juice.” I get a mental picture of a factory smushing the tangy orange balls until nothing else drips out. Then it strains some or all of the pulp and bottles the bright, vitamin C-filled juice. Three steps. At least, that was the picture I had until I overheard a conversation on my plane ride back from Science Online last month. A woman from the orange juice industry was explaining something I never thought to wonder about.

“You know how oranges taste different at different times of year?” she asked her seat partner.

“Yes,” I thought. There’s nothing more disappointing than a tasteless, or worse, bitter, orange.

“Well, that makes orange juice taste different at different times of year too,” she said.

“That makes sense,” I thought. And then she came out with the zinger.

“Except that every bottle of orange juice you’ll ever buy at the store tastes exactly the same.” Read the juicy details…

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Multicultural smell test kicked pumpkin pie out

A slice of homemade Thanksgiving pumpkin pie s...

Image via Wikipedia

By Emily Eggleston

Hopefully you didn’t have a cold this Thanksgiving because a blocked nose means a bland meal. Taste is mostly smell. Without smell, we’re cast into a world limited to food texture, temperature, and minimal flavor differentiation.

The study of smells extends into ancient history, according Jayant Pinto, a nasal specialist (aka an MD in otolaryngology). In his 2011 publication on olfaction, he called smell the mediator of safety, nutrition, sensation of pleasure, and general well-being.

If you smelled one of the millions of pumpkins pies baking in the U.S. yesterday it may have conjured many associations. Family gatherings, Thanksgiving feasts of yore, cold weather, cozy desserts. For the Irish guest in attendance at my Thanksgiving dinner, the pumpkin pie tasted and smelled like nothing familiar. It was a new dessert to try.

Unbeknownst to me, pumpkin pie is not a universally recognized treat or scent. That was part of the challenge Richard Doty, Avron Marcus and W. William Lee ran into when they tried to craft a smell test that could be used all around the globe. Follow the scent…

Beer Drinking and the Science of Taste

Collection of Beer Coasters by Steven Burke

By Kate Prengaman

From a dark, malty stout to a bitter pale ale, there are a lot of flavors to taste in beer.  But, it can be hard to understand and appreciate these flavors unless you understand the science of how we taste.

“We tend to be somewhat oblivious,” Jon Roll said during a presentation at the first Wisconsin Science Festival in September.  A University of Wisconsin professor of Bacteriology, Roll teaches classes in beer brewing. By learning about taste, he said, “I became much more aware of things I was not aware of before. I had more appreciation of the differences.” thirsty for more?