Demonstration: How to make bland food taste salty

Electrified chopsticks, soup bowls, and other eating implements can make bland food taste much saltier — much tastier.  The technology was honored with the 2023 Ig Nobel Nutrition Prize. The prize, awarded to Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura, for their experiments to determine how electrified chopsticks and drinking straws can change the taste of food. […]

Hypergunk, Nasal Warfare, and Musical-Taste Calcification

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has three segments. Here are bits of each of them: Nihilism and hypergunk — Irreducibly collective existence and bottomless nihilism aren’t for everyone. Or maybe they are. Jonas Werner, a philosopher at the University of Bern, Switzerland, published a crisp, perhaps irresistible, 16-page-long jotting called “Irreducibly […]

Wine expert expertise news (2 items)

Two recent bits of news, unrelated to each other, about people who celebratedly taste wine: 1. The 2018 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, for demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence […]

Using Electricity to Enhance Flavor: Electric Chopsticks

Electricity can add spice, so to speak, to taste. That is the implication of this new research study about electrified chopsticks, an electrified soup bowl, and other electrified eating utensils: “Augmented Flavours: Modulation of Flavour Experiences Through Electric Taste Augmentation,” Nimesha Ranasinghe, David Tolley, Thi Ngoc Tram, Nguyen, Liangkun Yan, Barry Chew [pictured here], and […]

Can Consumers Recognize the Taste of their Favorite Beer? (podcast #99)

Do people delude themselves about prizing — or even recognizing — recognizing the taste of their favorite beer? A research study explores that very question, and we explore that study, in this week’s Improbable Research podcast. SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free. This week, Marc Abrahams discusses a published taste-this-beer, taste-that-beer study. Yale/MIT/Harvard biomedical researcher Chris Cotsapas lends his voice, and his scientific expertise, […]

Simulated High-Altitude Taste Testing of Tomato Juice

The taste of tomato juice has been tested at high levels —or, rather,  at simulated high levels. This study contains details about that: “Odor and taste perception at normal and low atmospheric pressure in a simulated aircraft cabin,” Andrea Burdack-Freitag, Dino Bullinger, Florian Mayer, Klaus Breuer, Journal für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, March 2011, Volume 6, […]

The taste of electric currents (part 2 of 2)

Improbable recently profiled the work of the Miyashita Laboratory at Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan, where research is underway into the possibilities offered by ‘electro-gustation’. The lab has not only invented the electric chopsticks but has also investigated a possible way of encouraging diners to use less salt on their potato chips – with the aid […]

The taste of electric currents (part 1 of 2)

It was sometime around 1752 that Johann Georg Sulzer decided (for reasons best known to himself) to put the tip of his tongue between two plates of (different) metal whose edges were in contact. The results were, quite literally, shocking. He’d not only inadvertently stumbled across one of the world’s first electrolytic batteries, but it […]