Ambergris – Whale Vomit Can Make You Rich

By Anupum Pant

It is yellow/gray, smells really bad and can make you rich [image]. Ambergris, or commonly known as whale vomit is a waxy, hard, flammable substance that sells for several thousand dollars a pound. Although it is known as whale vomit, it is usually excreted (not vomited) by the sperm whale. It is formed by the lumping of Bilary Secretions in a whale. They can’t be digested and are often excreted by whales. These lumps can float for years and might get washed to the beach or are found in whale abdomen.

A fresh lump would be black and slowly a lighter colored coating forms on it with age. Generally, lighter colored pieces have a sweeter smell because they have cured in the ocean for a longer time.

What makes it so costly?

Firstly, it is rare to find a lump of Ambergris. Secondly, as this substance ages, it leaves the stink and starts emitting a sweet, musky odor. Not all people like this smell. Other than its unique scent, the perfumes made of this substance last much longer than other scents that tend to evaporate. Both these reasons make it a substance in high demand.

Although the scent can be mimicked by using chemicals, there is nothing like using the real substance. Thus, whale vomit will always carry a premium price.

This year, Ken Wilman, while walking his dog on the beach, spotted a 6 lb lump of whale vomit that turned out to be worth £100,000.
Note to self: So, the next time you are going out for a walk on the beach, take your dog with you. And go on walks more often.

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The Musty Old Book Scent

By Anupum Pant

Note: Since I’ve been getting quite a lot of visitors on this blog now, I think it would make sense to imbue a conversational tone in my posts. At least with enough readers, I won’t feel as if I’m talking to the air. So, instead of just creating a repository for archived trivia, I’ll take freedom to write my blogs in a more personal way from now on. You’ll have to wait for comments though (Tomorrow I’ll tell you why). Till then, you can get in touch through my about page.

The state of reading

No longer does a major chunk of human population has the drive or patience to go through a long chain of black letters. Instead, we prefer a stream of individual quick-visual-gags (memes). Others like to listen to audio books while they are slashing fruits on their smart-phones; some others like to ‘read’ info-graphics instead of blog posts.
A blog post without images is quickly discarded as an uninteresting one (like mine). Nevertheless, I believe, among those billions of people on the internet now, there is a tiny chunk of people who like to read. And a tinier part of that tiny chunk of people have come here to read this. I salute you. Salute me back on twitter.

That said, I’m not against info-graphics. I love them too. Also, it doesn’t mean I’m against audio books or memes.

So, if you’ve read past the two paragraphs above, I can safely assume, you are one of those who like to read. And I think we’ll connect well if I state – There is nothing like the smell of an old book; or a fresh book for some. Both ways, I think it makes sense to book lovers.

The smell according to experts

Unike Petrichor, the smell of old books does not have a specific name but you could call it “musty” in a good way. Experts need a much more detailed phrase to communicate the subjective experience. Back in 2009, the lead scientist who looked into what actually caused the smell described it as:

A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness. [Source]

The pleasant aromatic smell is due to aromatic compounds emitted mainly from papers made from ground wood which are characterized by their yellowish-brown color. They emit vanilla-like, sweetly fragrant vanillin, aromatic anisol and benzaldehyde, with fruity almond-like odor. On the other hand, terpene compounds, deriving from rosin, which is used to make paper more impermeable to inks, contribute to the camphorous, oily and woody smell of books. A mushroom odour is caused by some other, intensely fragrant aliphatic alcohols. [Source]

What causes the book scent

A typical “old book” smell is a mixture of fragrant volatile substances and does not comprise of any single compound. So, all books do not smell the same, as materials and printing inks vary from book to book.

As a book ages, a compound called Lignin that makes up the cell walls of wood used to make paper, starts breaking down. It releases a smell that is a lot similar to Vanilla. In fact this is the same compound that makes Vanilla smell like Vanilla. This smell is a major contributor among several other scents that make up the characteristic book scent.
Other factors that may cause the scent to vary could be due to the kind of ink and chemicals used to process the paper.

Bring it home

It is a good thing for book worms who just can’t stop smelling their books. A creative enterprise, Lucky scent, sells it in a bottle – Paper Passion perfume – sold here.

If you prefer reading eBooks and at the same time also miss the sweet  book scent, you’ll find this interesting – Classic Musty Scent and New Book scent.

Another company CafeScribe shipped “musty-smelling” scratch-and-sniff stickers with every eBook order. I’m not sure if they still do it. This was around 6 years back.

Disclaimer: I’m in no way related to the above products, they aren’t affiliate links.

Things You Should Know About Farts

by Anupum Pant

Flatulence, an expulsion of intestinal gas, commonly known as fart, is something no one likes to talk about because it is considered a taboo, almost everywhere in the world. To top it all, some might even sideline this article by tagging it as a vulgar one. In my defense, that is exactly the purpose of my blog – To talk about things no one will talk to you at school (or anywhere else). Our inclination here is to learn.

Avoid shaming others for it.
Firstly, it is important to know that, irrespective or gender, race or nationality, farting is an invariable result of digestion and everyone does it about ten times a day. Even dead people fart. So, by shaming someone for letting it out in an accidentally loud way, is hypocritical on your part; it [shaming others] can be avoided. As Eric Auld says, it is okay to fart.

Do not hold it.
Secondly, it is not okay to hold flatulence to avoid embarrassment. Doing this, has the potential to cause a life threatening condition called diverticulitis. This disease is prevalent among the urban people for obvious reasons. Urban people have a greater societal pressure to hold it, than a free-living farmer. To give you an idea, 30 million Americans are currently suffering from it (old data).

What is it?

Principally, it is a mixture of gases taken in through mouth with food and gases which are produced while digesting food. The composition of ‘gas’ varies with, people, the kind of bacteria in their stomach and the kinds of food they eat. Oftentimes, people don’t hate their own smell; at the same time, detest the gases coming out from others. A fart is comprised of gases like Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide, Oxygen and Methane. It smells bad due to the presence of Hydrogen Sulfide, Mercaptans and Ammonia. And the presence of inflammable gases like Hydrogen and Methane makes them inflammable.

Farts in a humid environment can seem worse because during such conditions, our sense of smell is enhanced. This is the reason why farts smell worse in a shower.

Minimizing the effect

Although, there is no way you can end this trouble from your life, you can adjust your diet a bit to prevent this from happening in excess. Beans, cauliflower, corn, eggs etc are some foods which are notorious for producing gas in your body. These foods release a relatively greater amount of gas than other foods while getting digested in the intestines. Cutting their intake can help (of course consult your doctor first).

Another way to lower the problem is to prevent the odor from troubling others. This can be done by using products like “odor-proof undies”.

Coughing or suddenly moving your chair could help you to mask the sound.