If You can Smell it, it has Mass

A clinical trial made in 2010 at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel observed that when male subjects are exposed to emotional tears — isolated from females crying during sad movies then deposited onto a small pad above the male’s upper lip, their heart and respiration rates, skin temperature, testosterone levels and levels of arousal dropped. The men hadn’t witnessed the act of crying, nor could they consciously smell the tears. Yet, they were influenced by its chemosignals.


The research could obviously be useful to manufacture pharmaceutical but Angela Bracco, who is currently showing her work at RCA’s Design Products (Platform 13) graduation show, speculated on the possibility to push the finding even further. Her project If You can Smell it, it has Mass asks whether it would be possible in the near future to mass-produce women’s emotional tears to decrease aggression in humanity. Women’s emotional tears could thus be used in prisons or as invisible warfare.

(The fact that the idea is scary and highly unethical doesn’t make it any less credible. After all, when did trivialities like ethics and morality stop governments?)

In the future, in a world where emotions of sorrow are valued high, tears are coveted for their use as means of pacification. The demand for copious quantities of emotional tears has pushed scientists to recreate human tears within the context of a laboratory. Although the ability to manufacture tears has allowed manipulation to the compound to heighten its potency, it is not to say authentic tears are seen as any less special.

Her graduation project therefore imagines a future clinic for the production and testing of emotional tears.


To ensure that tears are produce on a large scale basis, the clinic would host The Delilah Project, a big tear simulation machine that simulates human tear production. The glass sculpture takes the proteins, ions, enzymes and other elements within tears, mixes them together and processes them in a similar way that the human body is producing tears.

Because Angela’s background is in architecture, she also designed a tear chamber, a misted room where tears would be diffused. Inmates would thus enter the chamber and be submitted to these natural air born sedatives.

Finally, she made a Sad Cinema that uses clips of sad movies to induce tears. Women would sit down, have a good cry and their tears would be collected in a specially designed tear collecting device.

0male female tear gland differences WEB.jpgMale/female tear gland differences (image source)

All images courtesy Angela Bracco.

The RCA show opens today at the Battersea location (see map) and remains open until 1 July (closed 29 June.)