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Smell Defense: A Role in National Security?


Pond5 Photo
The notion first occurred to me after a party in the 90s. 

A friend and I bought food trays from a rather gourmet grocery store to take to this party. We did notice, at the time of purchase, that the crudité tray smelled a tad cruder than it should, but we reassured ourselves that the broccoli on the tray was most likely only a little less than fresh. Besides, we were running late. 

After the party, we noticed that no one partook of said broccoli whose odor had by now developed loud, non-woodsy tones. We loaded the leftovers, broccoli included (Maybe it's still edible, we thought. These were, after all, our "salad days.") into my friend's station wagon and headed home. 'Twas a dark and cold mid-winter's eve. Notwithstanding the frigid temperature, about two miles into our ride, we opened all the car windows  to relieve our nostrils from the out-gassing of the fast-aging broccoli going rotten as fast as the proverbial gingerbread man could run. 

My friend started driving faster as though we could outrun the smell in the back seat. We started laughing. We soon reached the point where we couldn't stop laughing. We gagged on the smell and laughed through our tears. It wasn't just the inane idea of trying to rush ahead of the terrible smell, but it also occurred to us that rotten broccoli would make a great security device. Hang some over your door, and no burglar would break in. No dog would poop in your yard. No solicitors (religious or otherwise) would ring your doorbell. We thought this was brilliant and hilarious, more hilarious because it was brilliant...or more brilliant because it was hilarious. My stomach hurt from laughing so hard.

Our brainstorm returned to mind last week when I opened my refrigerator door and... Sacre bleu! I couldn't see it, but the nose knows. Even after you close the refrigerator door to shut the smell up, the odoriferous bouquet remains in the air for at least 15 minutes. 

I surveyed the refrigerator. I hunted behind jars. I found broccoli in a bag, shoved behind something taller than it was. There it had waited on me, for at least a week (more? yes, probably); then, tired of waiting, it grew irritated, festered, and began to emit that smell of je ne sais quoi...mais un je ne sais quoi terrible, bien sûr

Then, comme un coup de foudre, it dawned on me that here in my humble kitchen was the answer to security, large and small, national and personal. Who could possibly endure the smell of rotten broccoli? Who could last at evil tasks as that foul smell grew stronger and filled the air, soaking into one's very cells? 

All that is needed is an algorithm to launch this smell at the cyberthieves or cyberspies. This stubborn redolence (redolence is not in the dictionary, but it should be) could seep through keyboards or waft from speakers. Who wouldn't leave off whatever they were doing to get away from such nasal assault? You think a mask would be enough? Then, you have never let your broccoli fester long enough, or you would surely know that no over-the-counter mask is strong enough to entirely block the smelly molecules from one's nostrils. Has even a hazmat mask been tested against rotten broccoli fumes? The truth is that we do not yet know if man can create an apparatus that can thoroughly protect the nose from la mauvaise odeur de brocoli pourri.  (Take note, lanugage students, it smells good only when there is a pot in front of the pourri.)

Think of the mobile possibilities for personal security. Walking alone and being followed on a dark street? Activate the rotten broccoli smell app. Better yet, buy a "burn" phone, dedicated to your protection. Activate the odor app, throw the phone behind you, and run. Trade the hard work of self defense for smell defense!


All right, then, programmers, elite, head-hunted hackers, Silicon Valley moguls, get cracking. I've handed you the answer to the cyber security question on a silver --- oops--- in a cellophane bag inside a brown plastic bag inside a plastic trash bag. All you need to do is work out that super-secret algorhithmic thing. Our homeland is depending on you.

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