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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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  • Re:Tastes great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:58PM (#31601694) Journal
    It does taste good. Has an excellent, complex and slightly smoky flavour. Also about as spicy as most pepper spray.
    I am American, not Indian, BTW. Just a pepperhead.
  • 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).

  • Re:Tastes great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:13PM (#31601938)

    Yes but capsaicin is a fat-soluble compound. Water won't dissolve it (which is why drinking water or most liquids do nothing to stop a burning tongue), but milk, yogurt, or any other fat-containing liquid will dissolve it and wash it down the throat, nearly neutralizing the effect.

  • 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?
  • 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.)
  • Pepper Spray (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheLostSamurai ( 1051736 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:36PM (#31602286)
    So... they're trying to make pepper spray?
  • 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 []). 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.
  • Pakistan and China (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jamrock ( 863246 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:49PM (#31602472)

    Why does India need all these weapons?

    Three words: Pakistan and China. They've been to war several times with the former, and have had bloody border clashes with the latter. India has also blamed Pakistan for terrorist violence over Kashmir, among other things, including the bloody attack on the Grand Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

    It's worse now that Pakistan has nukes, but realistically Pakistan is not a viable military rival for her much larger and far more populous neighbor. The scenario that keeps me up at night is the growing rivalry between the world's two most populous countries, India and China. As China's economy booms and she becomes more assertive on the global stage, both nations will find themselves on a collision course in a competition for resources, and it's interesting to see how it will play out in the coming decades, particularly from a political standpoint, considering that it's a contest between the world's largest democracy and an authoritarian giant (my money is on India).

    I'm not Indian, by the way, and I'd be very interested in hearing the viewpoints of any Indian and Chinese Slashdot readers. In your opinions, will the 21st Century see the development of a bi-polar world all over again, with competition and rivalry between two economic powerhouses who espouse radically different political philosophies?

  • 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 Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @04:59PM (#31603566) Homepage

    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 @05:55PM (#31604350)

    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 been 88%!!" Do you see the problem? That figure is useless, to get the same granularity we have with fahrenheit or celcius we'd be using four decimal places in our percentages - that's not natural. Same thing with peppers. I don't know what "1% capsaicin" means, but I do know how hot a jalepeno is, and I do know that if a jalepeno tops out at 15,000 SHUs, and a habanero tops out at 500,000 SHUs, that a habanero is thus about 30 times hotter than a jalepeno and I definitely don't want to eat one raw.

    Also, the test is obsolete, but the unit is not. The test worked to provide a base scale of heat, and it actually gave a pretty good way of differentiating exactly how hot the peppers are compared to each other. It is subjective though, so you can't go back and repeat the test with someone new and expect even similar results.

    However, since they had a baseline from the original test, they could quantify the original unit size based on pure capsaicin - all you need is a pepper's SHU base number, and an average figure for the amount of capsaicin in the pepper, and scale the unit accordingly. Thus you get about 15,000,000 SHUs as a maxium with pure capsaicin.

    The SHU scale also tells me that this Ghost Pepper is one hell of a hot pepper - % of capsaicin doesn't convey that to me the same way.

    Sounds like Scovilles are "universally accepted" only by marketeers and culinary masochists.

    I don't exactly see a massive push to market hot peppers - the people who like them search them out, and the SHU is perfect for that. Those who don't wouldn't be swayed by a marketing add.

    Besides, hot foods are a rush, a bit masochistic, sure, but a hell of a lot of fun. How else can you have fun while just eating? I said JUST eating, not eating and other activities. I already know how to have that kind of fun. ;)

  • by jamrock ( 863246 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @07:15PM (#31605230)

    Thank you for your reply, and in fact I agree 100% that India will prevail because of democracy. As Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except of course for all the others." In my opinion, the most basic political right is freedom of expression, and so long as India allows it and China does not, the full potential of the Chinese people will not be met. The Right To Information Act of 2005 is another great step forward by India, and I believe it to be an example to most other nations.

    It is a remarkable coincidence that when I first read this Slashdot thread, the quote at the bottom of the page was by Harry Truman: "If you have a government that is truly efficient, you have a dictatorship." Pure efficiency is not possible without trampling on the freedom of citizens. What I find interesting about China is the fact that their long history has been so tainted by chaos, disorder, foreign interference and exploitation, and unimaginable human suffering, that it is not a mystery why there is such a hunger for order, which is what the Communist Party purports to provide, and how they came to power in the first instance. It is my opinion that preserving social order is the foremost concern of the Chinese Communist Party, human rights be damned. But as Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Those who would trade security for liberty deserve neither".

    Chinese society has historically changed so incredibly slowly that the Information Age must seem like a nightmare to the Communists. The sense I get is that the Communists feel that the forces of history are against them, and that inevitably they will fade into memory. Since the passing of Mao Zedong, they have seemed to be searching for a way to preserve order within Chinese society while at the same time positioning China to step onto the global stage, while still remaining Chinese. Their booming economy and reputation as "factory to the world" may be taken for granted now, but I am old enough to remember when their fledgling experiments with capitalism seemed so out of character that the world was stunned by it.

    The world was rightfully horrified by the atrocities in Tienanmen Square, but what struck me at the time was that people were surprised by the brutal reaction of the authorities. I was most surprised by the fact that the demonstrators were allowed to gather in the first place, and remain there for three days. I remember talking with friends as the demonstrations entered the second day, and they were all gleeful that change was coming to China. I was almost in tears and practically pleading with the TV for them to leave: "You've made your point, and the authorities are signalling that they've heard you by allowing this gathering, now go, for the love of God!" My friends thought I was crazy because I predicted that it would end in tragedy and bloodshed.

    China has undergone what is for them dramatic change in the last thirty years, and continues to change. It's just that the rate of change isn't enough by the standards of the rest of the planet in this day and age. One thing that people ignorant of Chinese history should keep in mind is that China will change at her own pace, and to hell with what everyone else thinks. But like evolution, political change in China comes so slowly that it seems unnoticeable until it is put into context. I personally believe that China will transition to democracy sometime in this century, but by the time they do India will be a superpower.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"