I assume most of my loyal readers have noses and are capable of smelling. While we’ve all experienced smells that permeate a room or close quarters, I’ve always wondered about a mysterious phenomenon where a smell extends across a large distance or volume. Take for example, just today. When I left my apartment to run some errands, I was immediately struck by a strong odour in the hallway leading to the elevator. It smelled very much like a Chinese fermented black bean. This odour was strong and slightly unpleasant. I initially thought that someone on my floor was cooking with these beans but I soon found out I was wrong.

Once I got down to the mall level of my place, I immediately noticed the whole area smelled like black bean as well. As I walked towards the Safeway, the smell lingered and did not go down in intensity. The odour was still there even up at the Skytrain level of the area where I was about to take a train. I would guess the area affected was at least a good city block. When I got home several hours later the smell was gone.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered something like this. Once before I’ve smelled something odd near my home that appeared to be very local and specific but when I got outside, the smell seemed to permeate an area of several blocks. When I was a university student, I’d sometimes detect a garbage type odour that seemed to span across a large part of the campus.

I’ve never been able to find the source of these large scale odours. It’s odd that something could disperse an odour that far. What is it? How does it go away as fast as it appears? Has anyone else experienced this?

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