There was a smell of Time in the air tonight. He smiled and turned the fancy in his mind. There was a thought. What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, one hundred billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing. That was how Time smelled and looked and sounded. And tonight - Tomás shoved a hand into the wind outside his truck - tonight you could almost touch Time.
If you said “from the sky,” then congratulations! You are hilarious. But it’s a lot more interesting than that. The pungent perfume that accompanies rainstorms carries special chemical signatures, some born from lightning, some from deep within the soil.
And beyond just being pleasant and nostalgic, those smells are actually useful to some living things, such as telling plants when it’s time to grow, guiding camels across the desert, and even signaling some fish when it’s time to get “romantic”.
Take a big whiff, because there’s a science storm a-comin’!
Is it Better to Walk or Run in the Rain?
Excellent logical and physical analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of various mid-precipitation avoidance strategies, but it leaves out an in-depth look at the dynamics of “dancing in the rain” and “jumping in puddles”.
The chemical structure of geosmin, the compound behind the smell of the Earth after rain, which itself is known as petrichor. Geosmin is a compound released by certain soil bacteria called Actinomycetes, and falling rains cause it to be released into the air. We are sensitive to 10 parts per trillion, or one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Next time you’re dancing in the rain with someone you love, tell them how much you like the smell of (4S,4aS,8aR)-4,8a-Dimethyl-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-octahydronaphthalen-4a-ol.