The Covid Conundrum

One of the most mysterious symptoms of COVID-19 is the widespread anosmia. That is, people lose their sense of smell. The most interesting part about it is that we really don’t have a good mechanism to describe it. Here’s my take:

I’ve discussed time perception in great length in other posts. For the sake of this one, time is essentially either perceived quickly or slowly. In any given amount of time, a certain amount of particles travel up the nasal passages. The shorter this sampling rate, the fewer the particles that register per unit time. Thus, when time is slow, smell could suffer.

Taste is also something that seems to diminish with smell, especially with COVID-19. I think the same concept applies. If less information hits the tongue in a given amount of time, you will have less taste. So the slower time is perceived, the more information is needed to make up the difference. And since the amount of information is likely the same, taste may suffer,

Watery eyes also seem to correlate the loss of taste and smell. In an older post, I theorize about how time perception could explain crying. This is no different. When time is slow, if blinking does not increase, the eyes are essentially being held open for longer stretches of relative time. And when the eyes are held open for long stretches of time, they water.

In conclusion, some of the main symptoms seem to be pretty easily explained by looking at them through the lens of time perception. And according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is almost always the best.

Smell With Your Eyes

Preliminary reading: Hawking [Eye] Radiation and We Are All Pit Vipers

So if you did your preliminary reading, you’re up to speed on the theory. In the same way that snakes and cats use their eyes to hone in on prey, humans can use them to enhance their sense of smell.

As long as even a single molecule reaches your nose, it’s potentially something you can sense. For a neural system that can detect single photons, it shouldn’t be surprising that the nose is incredibly sensitive as well. Some odors can be detected when there is only a few milligrams per thousand tons, or a drop in an an Olympic-size swimming pool. Substances with stronger odors have odor thresholds [how much of something you need to smell it] in parts-per-billion.

How does it work?

The infrared radiation heats the object [if your eyes are on it] just a very small amount. No one has discovered this yet, because it doesn’t happen all the time, and it doesn’t happen to everyone.

Does all of this sound ridiculous to you? Here’s how you can prove it to yourself: take your phone, your drink-whatever is closest-and hold it up to your nose. Note the smell. Now look down at the part you are smelling and continue. You should notice more depth to the smell. Like you took something out of the fridge and put it in the microwave, but on a much smaller scale. Why does that happen? Because your nose is sensitive to chemicals that make up things. When you heat it up, it gives off more of those particles, so the smell is stronger, and more accurate. So your eyes heat up your food ever so slightly, giving your nose just a little bit more information. With an organ that is sensitive to parts-per-billion or even parts-per-trillion, just a couple more molecules can add much more depth to the smell.

Sources: 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odor_detection_threshold
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olfactometer