Musings – cultural VOCs and global isoprene patterns

Text by Lauri Laanisto

Measuring volatile organic compounds (VOC), finding their pathways and translating the signals behind them is one of the main focus of our work group. Among the most common VOCs is isoprene, which, when emitted to atmosphere, affects climate conditions through ozone forming, and so on.

So, a while ago – in 2008 – Ülo coauthored a paper asking “Why are estimates of global terrestrial isoprene emissions so similar” (link to full text), where they concluded that “Rather, we urge modellers to be bolder in their analysis, and to draw attention to the fact that terrestrial emissions, particularly in the area of biome-specific emission capacities, are unknown rather than uncertain.

Well, I think I´ve now managed to put together a perfect analytical model explaining the mysterious similarity in isoprene emissions! A paper published couple of months ago studying the VOCs of cinema goers “Cinema audiences reproducibly vary the chemical composition of air during films, by broadcasting scene specific emissions on breath” (link to full text) caused this eureka-moment.

You can see from the figures (for example Fig 2) that the isoprene emission profiles of people watching the same movie are really similar, borderline identical. And we all know how dissapointingly generic and flat is the mainstream cinema today. That´s it! Cinema and TV are the isoprene sources that makes global terrestrial patterns so similar… These unvaried films and shows pollute the atmosphere with unvariable isoprene levels. So, if you work on VOCs then less Netflix could literally help you to find statistically significant results… (Or just watch Godard´s “Breathless”.)


Scene from Breathless

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