BSF’s News Digest October 2023

Our news digest has been slightly reformatted. The "in the spotlight" articles will contain a summary of the news, while the other - still interesting - articles will contain links only and will now be grouped by topic.

In the spotlight

New taste: Sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami and … ammonium chloride? | New Atlas
Researchers have discovered the mechanism by which taste buds detect ammonium chloride, exemplified by the salty licorice taste in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. This discovery suggests the existence of a sixth basic taste, although oleogustus was previously announced as the sixth taste.

Guinness World Records crowns new hottest pepper ǀ BBC
Pepper X has been crowned the hottest chili pepper in the world by Guinness World Records, surpassing the Carolina Reaper chili pepper after 10 years. For comparison, a habanero pepper typically hits 100,000 Scoville heat units, but Pepper X registers at 2.69 million units. As a proprietary pepper, Pepper X pods and seeds will not be sold.

AI took a creativity test. It scored better than 99% of humans ǀ ZME Science
A new study suggests that AI, while emulating creativity, is actually very creative in the way we currently judge creativity in students, complicating the debate on its true nature.

Will AI kill our creativity? ǀ The Conversation
Generative AI's ability to produce new texts, images, and audio is disrupting creative jobs. The Writers Guild of America demands AI be used as research tool, not a replacement for its members. AI tools like Claude and ChatGPT offer a creative experience, but their impact on creativity remains uncertain. Balancing human creativity with AI is crucial, and intellectual property law is key.

Can AI crave a favorite food? ǀ The Pennsylvania  State University
 Penn State researchers are developing an electronic tongue that mimics how taste influences our eating habits, providing a blueprint for AI that processes information more like a human being. The goal is to incorporate the emotional part of human intelligence, as human behavior is difficult to measure and replicate in a robot. Researchers are developing graphene devices to mimic taste receptors on the tongue, aiming to train AI systems to distinguish subtle differences in tastes.

Mars, PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz, and Givaudan on how AI can improve NPD ǀ Food Navigator
NPD takes time. Long hours of R&D lie between an idea and a product launch. AI, however, is helping a range of major companies generate product ideas, as well as do market research and gain insights into the minds of consumers.

AI nose startups take on our smelly world ǀ Crunchbase
Scent is becoming a more digitizable information, similar to images or sound. Technology to detect and identify odors is gaining broader adoption, with 20 smell-focused startups focusing on digital scent detection and odor-based cancer diagnostics, according to Crunchbase.

Laying a controversial smell theory to rest ǀ PNAS
Before the cloning of odorant receptors (ORs), two competing mechanisms for odor detection were discussed: chemical and spectral. The chemical theory posited that odorants respond to molecular attributes, while the spectral theory suggested the olfactory system detects molecular vibrations. Block et al. attacked the vibration theory using synthetic organic chemistry and heterologous expression of ORs, finding no evidence to support it.

Why human olfaction should not be modeled on theories and tasks of vision ǀ Frontiers in Psychology
This paper discusses the importance of understanding human olfaction, arguing that concepts borrowed from vision are not helpful in understanding its functions. Olfaction is a hidden sense, guided by unconscious perception and implicit memory. Flavors, and the pleasures gained from them, are most often consciously perceived. These are experiences mostly determined by olfaction, taste, touch and chemesthesis. A critical examination of the ecological and physical constraints of olfaction and the other senses should be given priority.

How odors warp our color perception ǀ Neuroscience News
Researchers discovered that scents can distort our color perception, revealing a complex interplay between our senses. In a study involving six different odors and a neutral task, participants' color perception skewed in alignment with established associations. However, this distortion was not uniform across all scents, highlighting the interplay between sensory inputs and our daily perceptions.

Classification of tastants: a deep learning based approach ǀ Molecular Informatics
This study uses deep learning models to classify sweet, bitter, and umami molecules in food and beverage industries. The models, trained on a dataset of 1466 tastants, show comparable performance and can be used for tastant design.

Coffee is more than flavor, the creation of a coffee character wheel ǀ Journal of Sensory Studies
This study gathered 679 sensory terms for describing coffee acidity, mouthfeel, and aftertaste from literature, sensory panels, and internet material and correlated into word maps. The reduced terms were arranged onto a coffee character wheel, providing a concise list for coffee cuppers to assess these characteristics. The reduced terms are organized from broad to specific, making it easier for coffee drinkers to evaluate their coffee.

How Sweet It Is! ǀ Food Technology Magazine
A visually oriented overview of sugar and sweetener ingredient trends.