Friday, April 25, 2008

Headspace Analysis, social ramifications

I don't think I've posted before on "headspace analysis," but those who are close to me in physical location may have heard me ramble about it. In perfumery, it is the remarkable and revolutionary ability to analyze how something smells through the use of gas chromatography. This allows scents that are difficult to capture through traditional means of extraction to be replicated chemically: gardenia, carnation, or stargazer lily scents in perfume, for instance, are always artificial and can presumably be made rather faithful now that headspace analysis allows for chemical replication of what the flower smells like a few centimeters from its "head."

Perfumery houses like Demeter and its upscale and much more exciting offspring, CB I Hate Perfume, synthesize aromas that don't necessarily hark from flowers: CBIHP's "Burning Leaves" is one of my favorites, and Demeter is known for its dirt, grass, tomato, and other cheap but fascinating aromas.

On a wild flight of fancy, I wondered what it would be like if a police state began analyzing headspace and carrying "sniffing machines" capable of finding wanted persons. Truth is stranger than fiction... it's as easy as employing dogs to do the finding. Who needs sniffing machines?

On the other hand... there is an inherent potential for such massive inaccuracy as to usher in a new age of Keystone Cops (only this time, they're in your airports and infiltrating your universities). If a gardenia's headspace can be synthesized in a cocktail of chemicals sufficiently to fool a human, how much will it really take to fool a dog?

Dreadful. Will there be perfume houses run by criminal masterminds bent on disguising criminals as innocent people with their dog-stunning masterpieces? Better yet, will there be politically-minded performance-artist perfumers disguising everybody as criminals, a la V for Vendetta?

Don't bother stealing the story idea; I'm already writing it. Heh heh. But I thought I should share.

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