Let’s learn about taste | Science News for Students

activate: (in biology) To turn on, as with a gene or chemical reaction.

birds: Warm-blooded animals with wings that first showed up during the time of the dinosaurs. Birds are jacketed in feathers and produce young from the eggs they deposit in some sort of nest. Most birds fly, but throughout history there have been the occasional species that don’t.

cell: The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.

fat: A natural oily or greasy substance occurring in plants and in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs. Fat’s primary role is as an energy reserve. Fat also is a vital nutrient, though it can be harmful if consumed in excessive amounts.

flavor: The particular mix of sensations that help people recognize something that has passed through the mouth. This is based largely on how a food or drink is sensed by cells in the mouth. It also can be influenced, to some extent, by its smell, look or texture. (in physics) One of the three varieties of subatomic particles called neutrinos. The three flavors are called muon neutrinos, electron neutrinos and tau neutrinos. A neutrino can change from one flavor to another over time.

molecule: An electrically neutral group of atoms that represents the smallest possible amount of a chemical compound. Molecules can be made of single types of atoms or of different types. For example, the oxygen in the air is made of two oxygen atoms (O2), but water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O).

octopus: (pl. octopi or octopuses) Sea mollusks with a soft, sac-shaped body and eight tentacles. Two rows of suckers along each tentacle give the animal an ability to grasp and hold onto things. Cousins of the squids, these animals have a sharp beak-like mouth and good vision.

papillae: (sing. papilla) In biology, these are small round projections, or protuberances, from a surface. They range from pimples on the skin to bumps at the root of a hair or feather. The best known are those bumps on the tongue that host taste buds.

penguin: A flightless black-and-white bird native to the far Southern Hemisphere, especially Antarctica and its nearby islands.

receptor: (in biology) A molecule in cells that serves as a docking station for another molecule. That second molecule can turn on some special activity by the cell.

taste: One of the basic properties the body uses to sense its environment, especially foods, using receptors (taste buds) on the tongue (and some other organs).

taste buds: A collection of 50 to 100 or so taste receptors. They’re found on the tongues of land animals. When certain chemicals in food or other materials trigger a response in these receptors, the brain detects one or more of five types of tastes —sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami.A collection of 50 to 100 or so taste receptors. They’re found on the tongues of land animals. When certain chemicals in food or other materials trigger a response in these receptors, the brain detects one or more flavors — sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami.

umami: One of the five major tastes (along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter). It has been described as savory but most people find the mild flavor hard to characterize. It is particularly prized as a flavor in Japanese cuisines.

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