Do we have a sixth sense? The members of Heineken set out to explore this intriguing question. Throughout time people have been interested in what attracts one person to another; one claim is that humans, as well as many other species, emit a chemical scent called a pheromone. Prior to our first meeting, we each thought about what would be an interesting and pertinent subject for our project. At the first meeting, we discussed our options and decided the idea of an invisible chemical influencing our sex lives would be of interest to the entire class. After all, who at college isnít in some way or another drawn to discussions having to do with sex? The idea was originally sparked by the information on Rainerís homepage dealing with different molecules for smelly things. We first used Yahoo! in Netscape and searched through the web by topic. At first, it was difficult to find good information, so Jacque asked Dr. Glaser for advice. He suggested using Excite and other databases. This strategy was more successful and more information was discovered. Lycoís, Web Crawler, and InfoSeek were also employed. We estimate that we searched several hundred sites for the information we have included in this report. It really is rather difficult to find colorful and insightful pages on such a current and uncertain topic.
Pheromones are chemicals used for communication between individuals of the same species. The history of pheromones dates back to the 1870ís but the big breakthrough came in 1959. After 20 years of work involving the dissection of half-a-million silkworm moths, German chemist Adolf Butenandt identified an alcohol that carried the silkworm mothís attractive message. Since that monumental discovery, a flood of pheromone research has been unleashed, and entomologists have intricately studied the system responsible for these odorless chemicals. They found that it exists not only in insects, but is remarkably common in many different life forms.
According to Charles Wysocki, a neurologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, pheromones are sensed by the vomeronasal organ, which has been shown to exist in amphibians, reptiles, and most mammals. Some have argued that the VNO is an animalís accessory olfactory system, but Wysocki maintains that it is a primary evolved tool. People of this stance tell us that it is the system critical for some chemical signals, especially those that affect reproductive physiology or behavior.
With all of this research, pheromones have found their way into "corporate America." They are currently being employed in pheromone insect traps, which are available for many pest species. In addition, they are sold as a monitoring tool in agriculture, as a research tool to scientists and consultants, and for demonstration purposes to schools and colleges. However, the most interesting application we found was the use of pheromones in some new perfumes. Check out the company homepages for some "scents of love" such as Fire and Yes!
Now that youíve heard the story behind these fascinating chemicals, go and check out some colorful 3-D pictures of some common pheromones.