Try This: Tasteless Medicine
Why can't I taste medicine when I plug my nose?
How many scientists does it take to make a stink bomb?
Nose plug or your hand
Equal-sized pieces of apple, potato, onion, and jicama
Place the blindfold over your eyes and plug your nose.
Have your assistant place one item into your mouth at a time, and try to guess what it is based only on how it tastes.
Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.
— Helen Keller
Your sense of smell is a major factor in how food items taste. When your nose is plugged, you lose your normal ability to taste. Aside from their textures, you probably couldn't detect the difference between the items you tasted. When you unplug your nose, all the flavors should come back, although the strongest ones might overwhelm the others.
Have you ever had a really bad cold? If so, you might remember that your food tasted pretty bland. When your nose is stuffed up, you again lose the sense of taste that you are accustomed to. As soon as your cold cleared up, you were able to taste things again!
What's Going On?
Can you figure out these small picture clues? When you think of a word to go with each picture, fit it in the grid going up and down. Then you will need to add some extra letters to the shaded row. When you're finished, you will have the name of a group of important body functions. We gave you the Es to help you complete this experiment!
QUESTION How can I taste different flavors?
EXPERIMENT OVERVIEW In this experiment you will place different food items on different locations of your tongue to determine which taste buds can sense which flavors. You'll test sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.
SCIENCE CONCEPT Our tongue has thousands of tiny taste buds on it. Each one reacts to a certain kind of taste. Taste buds that respond to the same taste are grouped together in certain locations on your tongue. Therefore, you will always taste salty foods in certain places, sweet foods in other places, and sour and bitter foods in still other places, no matter what food you are eating.
Small bowls containing the following:
A diagram of the tongue, shown on page 103
Atypical human has around 116 taste buds per square centimeter at the tip of the tongue, compared to an average of 25 taste buds per square centimeter near the back of the tongue.
Dip a cotton swab in the lemon juice and spread it around your mouth.
Mark on the diagram where on your tongue you sensed this sour taste.
Dip a second cotton swab in water and then into the sugar. Spread enough around in your mouth so that you can tell where your tongue senses this sweet taste.
Repeat this same procedure with the salt and the instant coffee (a bitter taste).
Record on the picture the locations where you sensed each taste.
Check your picture to make sure that you have covered each part of the tongue. If you missed one, repeat the experiment to find the taste sensed by that part of the tongue.
QUESTIONS FOR THE SCIENTIST
Which parts of the tongue responded to sour?_______________________
Which parts of the tongue responded to sweet?_______________________
Which parts of the tongue responded to salty?_______________________
Which parts of the tongue responded to bitter?_______________________
Does your diagram of the tongue explain the location of sores after eating too much sugar?__________________________________
Try other foods that you know to be in one of these four categories. When you eat them, try to see if you can taste them on the part of your tongue that you marked in this experiment. Try plugging your nose and testing for these four tastes. Does your nose affect your ability to recognize tastes?1