The first patent for a nose flute, or ‘Nasalette’, as it was called, was registered in 1892. The idea was that it left your hands free to play other instruments at the same time.
Nose flutes were already played in SE Asia, the Pacific islands and the Congo at this time. In 19th century Fiji, couples used them to seduce each other. Traditionally, one nostril would be plugged with a rag or piece of tobacco while blowing the flute through the other, so you could enjoy a nicotine hit while performing a recital. Captain Cook came across Nguru, the nose-flutes of the New Zealand Maoris, in 1769. On the same voyage, his fellow explorer Joseph Banks recorded that nose flutes were one of only two instruments used by the Tahitians – the other being the drums. The Tahitians’ nose flutes could play four notes out of which, Banks recorded, they made one single tune that ‘serves them for all occasions.’
In 1909, Tatler featured a photograph of a man in India playing a nose flute and bagpipes simultaneously a feat described by one musicologist as 'a peak of woodwind virtuosity'.
The nose contains erectile tissue. This engorges and deflates on each side of your nose alternately, opening and closing the passage to each nostril. In 80% of us, one nostril is always doing most of the breathing, while the erectile tissue has partially closed off the other one. You can demonstrate this by breathing onto a mirror; the larger circle of condensation comes from your dominant nostril, which means you have an erection in the other one. The dominant nostril swaps round every few hours.
This is called the nasal cycle. Another way to test if you’re experiencing it is to close one nostril and breathe in through the other one, and then reverse that process. In most of us, one nostril will be significantly easier to breathe through.
The nasal cycle may exist because each nostril performs different functions; breathing through your right nostril increases blood glucose levels, while breathing through your left nostril does the opposite. It’s therefore thought that people with abnormal nasal cycles, who breathe through their right nostril for many years without swapping, may be at higher risk of diabetes.
Better a snotty child than his nose wip'd off.
When you are down and out something always turns up - and it is usually the noses of your friends.
Cloudesley Shovell captained a fleet of ships that was wrecked off the Scilly Isles in 1707, killing himself and almost 2,000 sailors. Cloudesley’s friend, Mr Child, recorded that when he found his body, its nose bled.
At the time a nosebleed was considered a sign of affection, even in the dead; a dead body could indicate that a friend was with them by bleeding from the nose. Mr Child took it as a sign that he’d always been the captain’s ‘particular friend’.
Stuffing salt pork up your nose to cure nosebleeds repeatedly comes up in 20th century medical literature. In 2014 it was decisively proven to work when a 4-year-old girl with a bleeding disorder was hospitalised. The only treatment that would stop her nose bleeding was stuffing strips of cured salt pork up her nose. It’s thought to work because it induces swelling, which blocks the blood vessels.
Motocross racers use nose magnets to help them get more air. Small discs of metal are attached to each side of the nose, and two powerful magnets are attached to the nose bridge of their goggles, so that their nostrils are pulled open as they ride.
Trout can leave home for up to 3 years and travel more than 300km away, but they always find their way back, partly because they have tiny compasses in their nose that point the way. A few of the cells in their nose contain magnetite, the most magnetic mineral, meaning that these cells literally swivel around and point in the direction of the earth's magnetic field.
Not only can trout sense the direction they're travelling, but they may also be able to judge their precise latitude and longitude based on the strength of the magnetism they're sensing, since magnetic strength varies with distance from the poles.
Similar, though smaller, deposits of magnetite have been found in the human sinus. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors may have used these to navigate – literally following their noses.
A 14th century London doctor wrote that you could test if someone was dead by applying a roasted onion to their nose and 'If he be alive, he will immediately scratch his nostrils.'
'Grog-blossom' is an old-fashioned slang term for the red nose supposedly due to drunkenness.
A pig's snout is 2000 times more sensitive than a human nose.
Because the nose, like the genitals, contains erectile tissue, it really does grow when we lie.
In Japan you can buy sweets called ‘Snot from the nose of the Great Buddha’.
When greeting one another, white-faced capuchin monkeys stick their fingers up each other's noses.
The name 'Mungo' is Latin for 'I blow my nose'.
Proboscis monkeys can have noses up to a quarter of their body length.
Sharks use their noses to navigate. In 2016 researchers blocked sharks’ nares (fish equivalent of nostrils) with cotton wool soaked in petroleum to render them anosmic, then tracked their swimming patterns. They took much more tortuous routes than the control groups of sharks, swam more slowly and seemed disoriented. They probably use their noses to detect chemical in the water that give them clues as to where they are. The marine biologist who led this experiment was called Andrew Nosal.
Most fish have two pairs of nostrils, a forward facing set for letting water in and a pair of 'exhaust pipes' for letting it out again.
It used to be thought by some that the male opossum mated through the female opossum's nose and she then sneezed the young into her pouch, this is because the babies are so small it is extremely rare to see them being born. The female does make sneezing noises into her pouch before the babies arrive, this is to clean out the pouch, moisten the path into it and probably to soothe her swollen teats.
The Star-nosed Mole looks like an ordinary mole, apart from its nose which sprouts 22 bright red fleshy protrusions that squirm like fingers. It is an extraordinarily sensitive organ - with 25,000 sensory receptors and 100,000 large nerve endings - more than six times as many as a human hand.
Humans have approximately 12 million olfactory receptor cells and can detect more than 10,000 scents.
Useful things you can do with the grease that collects on the side of your nose include smoothing out the scratches on telescope lenses, lubricating fly-fishing equipment and greasing your fingers when playing the bagpipes.
The 18th century naturalist, Thomas Pennant, said the moose's nose was the 'perfect marrow, and esteemed the greatest delicacy in all Canada.'
American boxer Daniel Caruso was psyching himself up for his bout in the Golden Gloves competition in 1992 by punching himself in the face. He punched too hard, broke his own nose, and was disqualified as unfit.
Dutch winemaker, Ilja Gort, insured his nose through Lloyd’s of London for a reported $8 million.