Television has once again invaded reality. Normally I approve of this unconditionally, because it usually involves supernatural powers or really attractive people. This occasion, however, might require delicate handling.
Do you remember the episode of The Simpsons where Homer eats the Guatemalan insanity peppers at the chili cook off? I know that you do.
Well, it seems that Guatemalan insanity peppers do exist, after a fashion. Researchers at New Mexico State University have recently revealed that the Bhut Jolokia pepper is, by far, the hottest pepper known to man. It turns out that the Bhut Jolokai (also known as the Naga Jolokia) is from India, not Guatemala, but the term “insanity pepper” may still be applicable.
The second hottest pepper in the world, the Red Savina, registers at about 500,000 on the Scoville scale (the Scoville scale is a somewhat subjective test, but is generally accepted as the best measurement pepper hotness, or piquancy). The Bhut Jolokia measures in around 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale, with a variety cultivated in Dorset, England reaching as high as 1,600,000. As a reference point, standard grade US pepper spray (used by police, people afraid of bears, etc) has a lower end Scoville rating of 2,000,000. Pure capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers spicy, rates between 15,000,000 and 17,000,000.
A fun fact: it was recently discovered that tarantula venom and capsaicin activate the same pain pathways in mammalian brains.
In case you are somehow unfamiliar with Guatemalan insanity peppers, you can watch this.