Savvy marketers aren't the only ones who think smell is cool. To lots of other folks, that's as plain as the nose on your face:
Better electronic noses. They don't stink at their job (which includes quality control for the food industry), but they could use some improvements. English researchers recently came up with a big one: By adding faux mucus (a very thin layer of a gas-separating polymer), they improved electronic noses' sense of smell markedly. (But next to human sniffers, they're still not up-to-snuff.)
* Breath-giving news for babies. When premature newborns have trouble breathing, they're typically treated with stimulants (caffeine and doxapram), but that doesn't always help. In those cases, researchers in France recently found, a pleasant odor in the incubator may make all concerned breathe easier. Compared with two days when their air was unscented, the study's 14 infants experienced significantly fewer incidents of apnea -- breathing stoppages -- during the 24 hours when they got to smell the roses. . . well, actually, the vanilla.
* A nice place to visit. Having an MRI isn't exactly a day at the beach, but Florida Hospital's Celebration Health facility decided to try to make it seem like one. They named their MRI department Seaside Imaging, painted ocean murals on the walls, provided lounge chairs and rockers for patients, disguised the MRI machine as a sandcastle and scented the air to smell like the seashore. After the makeover, appointment cancellations were cut in half.