Olfactory Dreams

I was having dinner with NB at a restaurant, when I noticed that several patrons at nearby tables were smoking. I found this a little bit peculiar, in part because smoking is illegal in Chicago restaurants, but mostly because NB is far more sensitive to cigarette smoke than I am, and she hadn’t noticed anything. As NB paid the (relatively modest) bill by filling out a second mortgage application, I decided that I must be dreaming, because otherwise NB would have complained about the smoke. By that point, I couldn’t remember whether I had detected the smokers by visual cues or by olfactory ones, which made me curious as to whether one can “smell” during a dream.

Cue to lunch the next day, when (now at a sandwich shop) I bring up the topic of whether one can have olfactory dreams. Nobody seems to have any idea, but I notice Toby Handfield and Mike Liddell having lunch at the adjoining table, so I ask them. Toby tells me that before Liv could talk, she had vivid dreams involving her sense of smell, which she explained by pointing to the corresponding eigenvalues on a piece of paper. Unfortunately, this was still part of my dream, so it didn’t really answer the question. Later on, we ended up on a tour of the workshop of a master brewer, which was filled to the brim with bottles of armagnac and port which the brewer used to make fine adjustments to the final product. (I did end up tasting the result, but it did not leave much of an impression – perhaps because I couldn’t smell anything.)

Cue to today, which, while hopefully no longer dreaming, I am still curious about the same question. It is suggested


here that such dreams are indeed possible, but not particularly common (especially amongst men). Unfortunately, I rarely remember my dreams, so I started a dream diary to record them; this is the sixth entry in about as many months. (None of the previous entries contain any remarks concerning smell, however, there is an entry about Toby Gee joining the biology department at Berkeley.)

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