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When you think of your sense of taste, what part of your body comes to mind? The tongue, of course! The tongue is covered in little bumps called papillae, which contain many taste buds. These little receptors are responsible for helping us distinguish salty from sweet, bitter from sour, and the savory taste we called “umami.” Adults have anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 taste buds!
We know taste is important, but have you ever walked into a room to smell one of your favorite meals cooking? You can almost taste it just by smelling it in the air! Your sense of smell is actually quite important to your sense of taste, not only before eating to assist your appetite, but also while you are eating. You have probably noticed this if you’ve had a cold or stuffy nose, and nothing really tastes the same.
How to do the Taste With Your Nose STEM Challenge
NOTE – you will NOT be putting any food directly in your nose for this challenge. That could cause serious injury, not to mention discomfort and embarrassing explanations.
The Challenge: Design an experiment to determine how important your sense of smell is to your ability to taste.
Materials: Jellybeans of different flavors (You could use different foods but be aware that their shape and texture might give away what they are. Jellybeans are good because they are all the same size and shape, with only the flavor being different).
Challenge Criteria: Develop a way to test how accurately you can identify jellybean flavors while eating normally, then while holding your nose to block your sense of smell. Remember, good science requires data! Make sure to write down your results as you go.
Was it more difficult to identify flavors while holding your nose? Looking at a diagram of the nose and mouth, can you find an explanation for your results? How could this new knowledge help you when you have to eat food you don’t like very much?
Use your method to test your friends and family and see if they get the same results!