A Moment of Science

The Hottest of the Hot

We all know that jalapeño peppers are hot. But in this Moment of Science, we are going talk about another pepper that is the hottest of the hot!

Time once again for the Big and Bad File, where we give science facts about anything that sets a record. Today’s Big and Bad File entry is the world’s hottest chili pepper. The hottest of all peppers is the Scotch Bonnet.

Grown in the Caribbean, the Scotch Bonnet looks like the little finger of an alien, all wrinkly and green. It also comes in red and orange and yellow. Capsaicin, an alkaloid that only appears in chilis, is what makes the pepper so hot. The placenta, or seed-bearing tip, of a Scotch Bonnet chili is so hot it can actually burn your hands just by touching it.

It gets better. There’s a scale of chemical hotness. The lowest possibility on the scale is a zero, which is where bell peppers fall. Jalapeños weigh in at 5,000. With that scale in mind, the Scotch Bonnets falls to a  whopping 300,000! Pure capsaicin, in fact, is so hot that its used by the FBI as a weapon. When sprayed in the air it acts very much like tear gas.

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