Mythbusters did an episode about trying to foil a blood hound, when Adam played a convict who tried to make the dog lose his trail. Every trick he did failed like washing, changing clothes, going through water, masking the scent with coffee other scents.

Bears are thought to have the best sense of smell of any animal on earth. For example, the average dog’s sense of smell is 100 times better than a humans. A blood hound’s is 300 times better. A bear’s sense of smell is 7 times better than a blood hound’s or 2,100 times better than a human.


If due to some reason we suddenly gained sense of smell that rivals that of a bear. would our scent be an end of privacy, where everybody could simply smell our recent history (people we hang up with, what we ate, drank)?

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    $\begingroup$ I'll tell you what, my marriage would end after my wife found out how many times I go to Hooters for lunch. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 3, 2016 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ Damn it shouldn't have eaten garlic bread this morning, what do I do? Wait is that a cork... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 3, 2016 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ Your research seems to have answered your question for you, so what are you asking us to do? List things people would be able to smell more clearly? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Nov 3, 2016 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ Would what disappear? In the digital era, privacy is so twelve century! $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 3, 2016 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ I think you should define "privacy" in this context. There are multiple possible meanings, spanning the range from where you have physically been to where you are to who you have met to what you are thinking to what you have thought about to keeping knowledge to yourself and more. Focusing on some specific aspect of privacy may narrow this question down sufficiently to allow it to be reopened. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 3, 2016 at 14:47

3 Answers 3


I remember a story about aliens that had such a sense of smell, and the society was well developed with that in mind. Holding hands was intimate, as everyone would know you were touching.

One plot point concerned a substance smuggled in somewhere. The humans point out that they could not have done it because they could not make a smell-proof container and prevent smell transfer to the perpetrators etc. But those aliens could. That is, they do have smell proof containers and know how to handle things and decontaminate so as to keep the substance hidden.

So, my answer is that the same people would develop ways of hiding things in-line with what they can detect.


You are asking this as if it were a hypothetical. Humans have evolved a culture where you simply don't rely on your sense of smell.

Smells are bad, and noticing smells is impolite. Smoke and perfume are employed in mindboggling amounts and people shower all the time so that you cannot identify people by the composition of the sour-salty smell of their skin.

People with considerably stronger developed sense of smell than average are considered handicapped with it.

Giving people a stronger sense of smell will just lead to stronger taboos, and people who are making others uncomfortable by appearing overly conscious of smells will be less eligible for mating.


Spider Robinson, in his book https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telempath
did just that. The intended result was to make people unable to tolerate industrial pollution. Among the unintended consequences were (if I recall correctly):

  • People could now smell when somebody was lying if they were in the same airspace; they could smell lying.

  • Sexual honesty was now the norm; one's interest -- or lack thereof -- was evident to everyone in the room.

Well worth a read!

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    $\begingroup$ So trying hard to get is out? $\endgroup$
    – Masamune
    Dec 25, 2016 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Masamune: yes, pretty much! $\endgroup$
    – Catalyst
    Dec 26, 2016 at 1:47

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