Virtual Event: Harold McGee
A Field Guide to the World's Smells
in conversation with DAVID WEITZ
February 23, 2023
6:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome HAROLD MCGEE—noted food writer and author of On Food and Cooking—for a discussion of his new book Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells. He will be joined in conversation by DAVID WEITZ—Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics at Harvard University.
Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store
While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Nose Dive on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About Nose Dive
From Harold McGee, James Beard Award-winning author and leading expert on the science of food and cooking, comes an extensive exploration of the long-overlooked world of smell. In Nose Dive, McGee takes us on a sensory adventure, from the sulfurous nascent earth more than four billion years ago, to the fruit-filled Tian Shan mountain range north of the Himalayas, to the keyboard of your laptop, where trace notes of phenol and formaldehyde escape between the keys. We'll sniff the ordinary (wet pavement and cut grass) and the extraordinary (ambergris and truffles), the delightful (roses and vanilla) and the challenging (swamplands and durians). We'll smell one another. We'll smell ourselves.
Through it all, McGee familiarizes us with the actual bits of matter that we breathe in—the molecules that trigger our perceptions, that prompt the citrusy smells of coriander and beer and the medicinal smells of daffodils and sea urchins. And like everything in the physical world, molecules have histories. Many of the molecules that we smell every day existed long before any creature was around to smell them—before there was even a planet for those creatures to live on. Beginning with the origins of those molecules in interstellar space, McGee moves onward through the smells of our planet, the air and the oceans, the forest and the meadows and the city, all the way to the smells of incense, perfume, wine, and food.
Here is a story of the world, of every smell under our collective nose. A work of astounding scholarship and originality, Nose Dive distills the science behind the smells and translates it, as only McGee can, into an accessible and entertaining guide. Incorporating the latest insights of biology and chemistry, and interweaving them with personal observations, he reveals how our sense of smell has the power to expose invisible, intangible details of our material world and trigger in us feelings that are the very essence of being alive.
Praise for Nose Dive
“A deeply researched guide to the world’s smells, down to their volatile molecules.” —Tejal Rao, New York Times
“A book for the ages, which examines but also transcends food and drink through smell.” —Andre Simon Fund Food and Drink Book Awards, Special Commendation
The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here.
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