Friday, February 8, 2013

Trouble with the Curve - PART ONE

 To seat 39H, flight LH504.

"CLINT EASTWOOD: AHA! Joe may have played absolutely flawlessly the whole week we’ve been watching him, but I just spotted that he has a slight imperfection with his grip which makes him vulnerable to curve balls but not vulnerable enough to have actually missed a single pitch yet! Even though a good coach could correct the problem in a matter of weeks, my decision is that he can GO FUCK HIMSELF.
AMY ADAMS: But you’re nearly blind, how did you spot that?
CLINT EASTWOOD: I heard it. It sounded like someone hitting a curve ball improperly."

(extracted from the movie Trouble with the Curve by Clint Eastwood)

A baseball pitcher needs to know how to throw 4 balls: the basic ones which are the fastball and the off-speed pitch, and two breaking balls - the slider and the curveball.
You will see curveballs in the professional league only, or at least they are more common among professionals for the simple fact that it requires some degree of mastery to deliver it, and also because of the safety of the pitcher.

The secret to understanding a curveball is the speed of the air moving past the ball's surface. As the ball spins, its top surface moves in the same direction in which the air moves. At the bottom of the ball, the ball's surface and the air move in opposite directions. So the velocity of the air relative to that of the ball's surface is larger on the bottom of the ball.

What difference does that make? The higher velocity difference puts more stress on the air flowing around the bottom of the ball. That stress makes air flowing around the ball "break away" from the ball's surface sooner. Conversely, the air at the top of the spinning ball, subject to less stress due to the lower velocity difference, can "hang onto" the ball's surface longer before breaking away.

As a result, the air flowing over the top of the ball leaves it in a direction pointed a little bit downward rather than straight back. As Newton discovered almost three hundred years ago, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, as the spinning ball throws the air down, the air pushes the ball up in response. A ball thrown with backspin will therefore get a little bit of lift. (explains the exploratorium in an adaptation of the book "accidental scientist", published by Henry Holt & Co, 1997)

There is a discussion whether the curveball is an optical illusion or not. Fact is that the spinning of the ball is what it makes it hard to hit, but this spinning results into an optical illusion that changes the position of the perceived break from where it is actually breaking. In a nutshell, it creates an illusion of direction.

Just as curveballs, perfumes create illusions. Perfumers combine chemical or natural ingredients to create olfactory representations, and this is what it makes them so special.

Let's take a popular fragrance as an example, such as ANGEL EDP by Thierry Mugler - launched in 1992. It became famous for being the first gourmet fragrance of the market. Did not sell well when it was launched, but today it became an iconic perfume of the 90's, and a winner of the FIFI Fragrance Hall of Fame Award (an award that recognizes a fragrance as a classic, being in the market for 15 years or more).

Mugler fragrances - Mugler website

Givaudan created for Thierry Mugler an illusion of tenderness, while Angel provoked an illusion of being in a cloud of cotton candy, caramels, chocolate, honey and vanilla to wearers around the globe. For the first time in history, one could crave a fragrance on the skin. This illusion was mastered by a combination of notes of melon, coconut, mandarin orange, cassia, jasmine, bergamot and cotton candy, honey, apricot, blackberry, plum, orchid, peach, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, red berries, rose, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, musk, vanilla, dark chocolate and caramel. (FRAGRANTICA.COM)
But what made Angel famous for, in times where women could not profit from botox, was the fact that it gave the illusion of youth. Mature women bought Angel because they actually felt younger wearing them.

Also iconic and from the 90's, Acqua di Gio brought a large dose of calone, a chemical odorant responsible for the sea-breeze note used in many fresh perfumes. Calone offered perfumers the possibility to create olfactory illusions of watery - airy, marine - smelling fragrances. Compositions with etherial abstraction. The illusion created offered the pleasure and the freshness one feels with a plunge into the ocean. Young men bought this fragrance because it created the illusion of lighter days, of the new modern man, of freedom and reconnection to Nature. 

Another fascinating aspect of fragrances is not only the smell, but the textures they evoke. Perfumes can be leathery, silky, velvety, creamy, furry, harsh, smooth, thick, buttery, fluffy...
Perfumers can create illusions of textiles, so you will feel their touch.
We can't forget Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, can we? The reason why this fragrance is known by every perfumista is because of the soft warm touch of cashmere it evokes. You can actually feel like wearing cashmere!

Leather in perfumery evoke nobility, luxury, sensuality. It contains a mix of natural, primitive, sexual and yet of successful, aristocratic, military or adventurous connotations. It can bring illusions of coziness when combined with powdery or creamy notes. It can give illusion of manhood when associated with animalic or sensual notes, such as civet, ambergris or musk.

To be continued.
In the PART TWO I will continue to discuss olfactory illusions and representations.
I will also discuss the intrinsic relationship of perfumers and baseball players & curveballs and of course, what is the trouble with curve! Be connect!

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