Nsikan Akpan told viewers how odors swirl through the air like turbulent dyes flowing through water. The physics of movement in each medium is similar, scientists say, and understanding how odors propagate through the environment could be an important step in developing better artificial “noses” to detect hidden explosives or chemical weapons or other contraband of interest. Such studies also are laying the groundwork for a nationwide study on how humans and animals use smells to map their surroundings. “The NewsHour takes a cue from YouTube with this innovative snapshot of how smells flow around us,” said Richard Hudson, long-time director of science production for Twin Cities Public Television. “Nsikan Akpan is engaging and accessible as he interacts with onscreen graphics.” He called the segment a “good creative stretch by the NewsHour.” Larry Engel, associate professor of communication at American University and a documentary film producer, said Akpan’s report “gave a new look at an old subject that was produced in an innovative way. It was fresh and lively, bringing elements of the best new filming and editing techniques from the web to the TV screen.” Akpan said he and producer Matthew Ehrichs are “drawn to stories about the journey of scientific discovery, rather than the end result.” Added Ehrichs, “We wanted to make something different but still respect the science.” Without diluting the importance of the research, he said, “We knew in this evolving industry that we had to push the envelope to make something full of energy yet quickly digestible.”

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