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The Military Science

Indian Military Hopes to Weaponize the Searing "Ghost Pepper" 267

coondoggie writes "The military in India is looking to weaponize the world's hottest chili, the bhut jolokia or 'ghost pepper,' according to a number of news outlets. The Bhut Jolokia chili pepper from Assam, India is no ordinary pepper. In tests first conducted by the New Mexico State University in 2008 and subsequently confirmed by Guinness World records and others, the Bhut Jolokia reached over one million Scoville heat units, while the next hottest, the Red Savina Habenero, clocks in at a mere 577,000. Scoville units are a universally accepted measure of chili hotness."
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Indian Military Hopes to Weaponize the Searing "Ghost Pepper"

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  • OK ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:52PM (#31601608)
    ... but how does this compare to the Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango, also known as the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper?

    Scoville units are a universally accepted measure of chili hotness

    I thought SCOville was universally accepted to be a litigious outhouse?

    • Re:OK ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Terminal Saint ( 668751 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:33PM (#31602242)
      The problem with Scoville units(and the reason they're NOT a universally accepted measure of chili hotness) is that it's a subjective measure. It's based on taste testing. American Spice Trade Association pungency units are a better measure, as they're determined using high performance liquid chromatography.
      • by Rene S. Hollan ( 1943 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:49PM (#31602458)

        Modern expressions of pungency in terms of Scoville units set pure capsaicin at either 15,000,000 or 16,000,000, and use HPLC to establish concentration of same (and related compounds). A Scoville rating is then set based on the concentration(s) measured.

        So, knowing the reference standard, the measurements are actually quite objective.

        Nobody, as far as I know, uses taste testers anymore.

        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          Meaning that they take the fraction of capsicum and multiply by 15 million. It would make more sense just to give the fraction rather than copying the terminology of an obsolete subjective test, but I guess saying a pepper is 7% capsicum just doesn't sound as kewl as "one million scovilles!"

          I'm no expert on these things (I like my food bland), but it seems to me that the fraction of capsicum is at best a rough measure of hotness. Physical and chemical interactions would have a big effect on how much capsicu

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Rei ( 128717 )

            What I don't get is why they're focusing on capsaicin. Just because it's well known? Resiniferatoxin activates the same receptor (TRPV1), but 3-4 orders of magnitude more.

            • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @06:07PM (#31604510)

              My slightly more informed guess is perhaps because RTX isn't found in peppers.

              Just a wild guess though, but I would assume that since there is no RTX in peppers it would prevent them from measuring RTX in peppers.

              RTX comes from a leafy Moroccan plant similar to poison-ivy. Capsaicin is the primary TRPV1 antagonist found in peppers (the others found in peppers are nowhere near as potent or plentiful), thus capsaicin is the chemical to measure. Can't use it as a measure if it isn't there. Duh.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 )

            I'm no expert on these things (I like my food bland), but it seems to me that the fraction of capsicum is at best a rough measure of hotness.

            It varies from plant to plant, but you can get an average that is pretty accurate.

            It would make more sense just to give the fraction rather than copying the terminology of an obsolete subjective test, but I guess saying a pepper is 7% capsicum just doesn't sound as kewl as "one million scovilles!"

            That would actually be a hell of a lot less useful. For one thing, nobody knows how to equate 1% capsaicin to a relative hotness. What does that mean? It's like temperature - our local temperature is a fraction of sunlight absorbed by the earth, along with a boost caused by atmospheric retention factors (greenhouse effect and clouds). So why don't we say "it's nice out, 85% today"? Or "Man it was hot yesterday, must have b

    • Pepper Spray (Score:3, Interesting)

      So... they're trying to make pepper spray?
  • Screw invading Iraq, next time do India. Don't forget the nachos though!

  • There is something else I've weaponized, but it won't give you that searing sensation...

  • Not needed? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:00PM (#31601718) Journal

    From past experience I can recommened the development of a chicken Vindaloo bomb. It will cause injuries when dropped then again about 24 hours later.

  • Not the Next Hottest (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hardburn ( 141468 ) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:00PM (#31601726)

    The next hottest down would be the closely-related Dorset Naga, which is around 900k - 1M scovilles.

    But that's if you believe the Scoville scale, which is a subjective measurement of capsaicin content. I've had sauces that advertise a 250k rating that don't seem as hot as some 50k stuff. Makers seem to artifically inflate their ratings all the time, and how the heat hits you can change a lot, too. I've never had the oppertunity to try a Dorset Naga myself, but I've heard they don't have much heat until about 20 minutes later (at which time you might have already had quite a few, popping them like candy).

    • by Thyamine ( 531612 ) <thyamine.ofdragons@com> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:12PM (#31601926) Homepage Journal
      Actually, the Scoville scale measures the actual amount of capsaicin in a pepper. The test that Scoville himself invented was subjective. But because of the work he did on it, they named the quantitative units after him.
      • Hugh, that's pretty cool. Does that mean that if they ever develop a quantitative measure of insect stinginess, they'll name the scale after Schmidt [wikipedia.org]?

        Cus that's one heck of a subjective scale. You gotta love some of his descriptions. A yellowjacket sting is "Hot and smoky, almost irreverent." Irreverent?! I'd say any fuckin bug that bites or stings me is being irreverent, and I can't see how pain can relate to reverence... I can imagine you saying irreverent things as a result of pain, but to describe p

    • There are some peppers (i.e. what we in Mexico call pimiento morrón -- Paprika or sweet pepper, depending on whom you ask) that have _very_ high capsaicin levels, but is completely non-hot, at least to our standards (I know that even Argentinians use it for salads, and you can't get any more non-spicy than Argentinians ;-) ).

  • They could try weaponizing extra-spicy Chana Masala too, but that might violate the Chemical Weapons Convention.

  • by logicassasin ( 318009 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:01PM (#31601742)


    Hopefully that's the right link.

    There's a burger in TX that uses this pepper called the Four Horsemen Burger. As of the taping of this episode of Man Vs Food, only three people had managed to finish one in 25 minutes, with an additional 5 minutes of waiting without liquids. The host of the show became number 4, though it looked like he wasn't going to get past even the first bite.

    Isn't that illegal (internationally) if a weapon causes this much pain and suffering?

    • I bet I could eat it in 25 minutes without any liquids for an additional 5 minutes after. BRING IT ON!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cocoronixx ( 551128 )

      Considering that Pepper spray is considered a chemical weapon and is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention (which India signed & ratified). I'd assume that this would fall under the same ban.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepper_spray [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_Weapons_Convention [wikipedia.org]

    • Fine, if you don't want me to use peper spray against you I'll just shoot you in the head with a 9mm pistol. Wait a second...
    • by DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:47PM (#31602440) Journal
      It depends on the person.

      I make Naga Burgers using these peppers:

      Ground beef (120g (1/4 pound) is normal.)
      Mustard ("stone ground" with seeds): about 1.5 oz (3 tablespoons).
      10-12 drops Blair's Ultra Death. Other hot sauce may be used, but it should contain Naga Jolokia peppers. Otherwise it's not a Naga Burger, is it?
      1-3 Naga Jolokia (AKA Bhut Jolokia) peppers, minced finely.
      Crushed black peppercorns.

      Mix beef, mustard, and hot sauce together. Once consistently mixed, form into a patty. Press the crushed black pepper into the patty to coat the surface (like for steak a poivre [wikipedia.org]). Grill or pan-broil quickly at high temperature to sear the outside & cook the inside to medium-rare. Resulting burger should be quite hot.

      That burger they just put the peppers on top, not sure how much it would affect the flavour.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by a whoabot ( 706122 )

        I was under the impression that ground beef had to be thoroughly cooked. Is this only true for certain cases then?

    • by Stele ( 9443 )

      Now that's a lot of seriously unhealthy-looking people.

    • by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @04:28PM (#31603074) Journal

      In India it's a weapon, in Texas it's a condiment. Yeah, that sounds about right. ;)

  • From TFA "When deployed, the grenade showers the targets with a dust so spicy that in trials subjects were blinded for hours and left with breathing problems." Still pretty mild compared to weaponized mustard.
  • India had weaponized chili peppers long ago - it's called Andhra cuisine.
  • Funny videos (Score:4, Informative)

    by TopSpin ( 753 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:04PM (#31601794) Journal

    Eating raw Jolokia is a source of some mildly entertaining videos. [youtube.com]

    • There's also this entertaining reading [livejournal.com], entitled "THE DAY MY ARSE DIED". Weird thing is, the guy looks just like me when I had a beard, and I ate a phall many, many years ago. It brought back some painful memories. :-)

  • In this case "the goggles do something"...

  • Crisis (Score:3, Funny)

    by NEDHead ( 1651195 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:10PM (#31601872)
    A pepper gap such as this cannot be tolerated. The security of our nation depends on meeting or exceeding these advances! At the very least, a space based pepper shield should be a highest priority. Pepper is Not A Game! Oh, wait, it is. My bad.
  • Is this needed? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:13PM (#31601940)
    The article implies that 1,000,000 scoville's is nasty stuff compared to the habenero. Yet when looking at wikipedia's entry on the scoville scale, it says law enforcement pepper spray is rated at 5,000,000 to 5,300,00 million scovilles. In other words, the pepper spray currently on the market is already stronger than the bhut jolokia. So what's the news then, if they are developing a weapon with significantly less strength than what's currently on the market?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by WillyMF1 ( 867862 )
      That was my first thought too... also, according to Wikipedia they synthesized pure capsicum back in the 1930's. Is this just a some way to produce it cheaper by somehow distilling it out?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Cheaper, possibly less infrastructure needed (in terms of refining capacity, etc)

        Also sends some wealth out to the farming areas where these are grown.

    • Not to mention, some sauces such as Dave's Ultimate Insanity (which I had to sign a waiver to purchase), Blair's 3am, etc, are already pushing food additive properties into the multi-million scoville units.


      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        (which I had to sign a waiver to purchase)

        That's just for marketing purposes, not to satisfy any legal requirement.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      One spritz and you're south of the border! MMmmmm, incapacitating.

  • So it should be safe to use on your food. http://www.madeinnewmexico.com/647293003150.html [madeinnewmexico.com]

    I can't wait to taste this in a batch of chili.
  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:17PM (#31601988)
    The active ingredient that makes that pepper so hot is Capsaicin, the same stuff in pepper spray.

    Is it actually cheaper for them to use the local grown pepper with a variable yield than just using the pure substance with a controlled yield?

    The article says they want to use it for troops in cold areas. This scares me. It heavily implies that some moron in charge has no understanding of science. Just because it tastes hot doesn't mean it'll help avoid hypothermia in the slightest. (In fact, they are more likely to succumb to hypothermia if they try to 'reduce' the 'heat' from those peppers by taking off clothes or drinking cold liquids or sucking snow.)

    I'm going to throw out a guess that this isn't about the effectiveness of the pepper, but rather a homegrown movement to use a local product (in an inferior form) rather than a possibly foreign product. Sometimes the politicians in India are know to do stupid things like that.
    Come to think of it, sometimes US politicians do the same thing...
    (Buy American! Even if it's a piece of crap that costs three times as much as the one made in Canada, or where-ever.)

    One last thing, don't forget that exposure to high doses of Capsaicin can seriously mess you up, and in some extreme cases, kill.
    (For example, gassing someone who has asthma.)
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Where do you think they get pure capsaicin?

    • It's not difficult normalize the capsaicin content in the process of extraction, therefore there is nothing inherently inferior about taking this direction. Most herbal extracts specified that the active parts are normalized to X% +- a bit. Green tea extract would be a good example.

      You could perhaps argue that synthesis is cheaper or whatnot, but you must compare the abundant farmland and no shortage of people to grow them vs having an insdustrial plant and appropriately trained personnel, and so forth.

    • This scares me. It heavily implies that some moron in charge has no understanding of science.

      I'm going to go out on a limb and say this doesn't exactly break new ground.

  • Sorry, but why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mother_reincarnated ( 1099781 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:17PM (#31601994)

    I must be missing something here:

    1) I'm pretty sure it's a banned weapon militarily speaking.

    2)Who cares which pepper the capsaicin came from!? How would this be any different than any of the current commercial pepper sprays/balls/bombs?

    • Re:Sorry, but why? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:51PM (#31602502) Journal

      2)Who cares which pepper the capsaicin came from!? How would this be any different than any of the current commercial pepper sprays/balls/bombs?

      You don't have to be a chemical engineer to understand that the process of extracting the capsaicin costs money. In theory, you are right, it doesn't matter where it comes from. But if you can get it at high concentrations without much processing, apart from simple drying and grinding (which would be necessary preparatory steps also for the extraction of capsaicin by pentane or some such solvent), then there is no reason why not use it in that form. Besides, pure capsaicin would be too strong and too expensive to be used directly, and would have to be diluted and perhaps mixed into a support material, such as calcium carbonate or such.

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      The hippies will be happy knowing that they are getting doused with organic free trade capsicum rather than some polluting lab created capsicum.

  • by Securityemo ( 1407943 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:25PM (#31602126) Journal
    ...Isn't this going to be a war crime, even if it's very good at neutralizing personell for a while without killing them? Granted I've never been hit with pepper spray or similar, but from the descriptions given by police cadettes (having to have a dose used on themselves before being allowed to use it) I would probably (besides the self-defense trial issues) batter someone quite severely rather than spray them with that stuff. And that's *normal* pepper spray. It would probably be used for temporary area denial (or whatever the proper military term is), sure, but when I saw this I got quite vivid flashes of screaming women and children.
    • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:37PM (#31602294) Journal

      quit being such a wuss

      • Allright. That’s one spray of pepper for you then.

        (yells) Waiter! One spray of pepper for table #31602294! And make it extra long!

        (Monty Python style screaming woman from the kitchen:) Incoming!

    • I've gotten the juice from these things in my eyes (mistake cooking Naga Burgers, see above for recipe) and it burns a bit. My eye watered for almost 5 minutes, and it was rather hard to keep open. I'd not really call it torture though, it wasn't that bad. I'm also very, very used to spice, reaction will vary from person to person.
    • I've been in a bar where someone pepper-sprayed somebody else and the place cleared out in minutes. I'm asthmatic but it's mainly allergy induced, and I was coughing like crazy and I couldn't see because my eyes were stinging and watering like crazy. I wasn't even sprayed directly, it was just in the air. At first I didn't know what was happening until I got outside and my mouth felt like it was on fire.

      Not fun for about 5-10 minutes until everything was more or less back to normal. After that, I couldn't i

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      I was at our local police college not too long ago. I thought that the pepper spray was deliciously spicy and that was about it, plenty of other people like myself who aren't effected by it either. My sinus is completely messed up which makes using it on me, useless.

  • There are already well established techniques for concentrating/purifying capsaicin.

    It's even done commercially for non-weapons uses, plenty of hot sauces have Scoville ratings well above that of any natural pepper - http://www.hotsauceworld.com/bl6amrepeexe.html [hotsauceworld.com]

  • is that they are making hand grenades with this ghost pepper, have they considered painball guns and instead of paint in the paintballs use powdered or jelled ghost pepper
  • I would like to recomment Buth Jolokia as a great chili, beyond just the high capsaicin content: it's a chili with a particular, very pleasant flavor.

    As for "weaponizing it", there is one problem: individual sensitivity to capsaicin is extremely variable.

  • Could they mean that Bhut Jolokia has some different isomers of capsaicin with differing effects from "standard" pepper sprays? I'd have looked it up on wikipedia but they're down at the moment.

  • The 'hotness' of all peppers is caused by the presence of one particular chemical: Capsaicin.

    The nature of the pepper is irrelevant unless you are eating the raw pepper. Pure CAPSAICIN will always have the maximum possible Scoville value of about 16,000,000.

    The idea of the 'special' extra hot is moronic. Anyone can take a regular old jalapeno pepper, distill it's juices down 1,000 time and make something hotter than the Bhut Jolokia.

    In fact, law enforcement grade pepper spray is at least 5x worse t

  • by winomonkey ( 983062 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @04:10PM (#31602798)

    In fact, Indian farmers say Bhut paste can be used for everything from sauces to tear gas. And there in lies the military's interest.

    The Indian military is interested in the many uses of Bhut paste? I ... I don't know how to respond to this in a mature manner.

  • Pure Capsaicin [wikipedia.org] is at 16 million Scoville.
    So you might say that 1/16th of that thing is pure Capsaicin.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva