Wednesday, March 24, 2010

India's Hottest Chili Enlisted in the War Against Terrorism

The Associated Press reported today on the Indian Defense establishment's intention to use their hottest native pepper plant as a weapon against terrorists. See: Indian military to weaponize world's hottest chili.

Much scoffing about "curry bombs" and "grenade masala" has followed the AP report, but I think this idea is a great advance in the field of counterterrorism.

From the AP report:

The Indian military has a new weapon against terrorism: the world's hottest chili.

After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized "bhut jolokia," or "ghost chili," to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilize suspects, defense officials said Tuesday.

The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India's northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the crippling summer heat.

[TSB note: the bhut jolokia is indeed the #1 hottest chili, according to no less an authority than the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.]

It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.

"The chili grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defense laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defense Research and Development Organization," Col. R. Kalia, a defense spokesman in the northeastern state of Assam, told The Associated Press.

"This is definitely going to be an effective nontoxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hide-outs," R. B. Srivastava, the director of the Life Sciences Department at the New Delhi headquarters of the DRDO said.

Peppers have long been used to produce irritant sprays, such as Oleoresin Capsicum (OC). But those are made from cayenne peppers, which have a Scoville heat unit rating of 30,000 to 50,000. The highest law enforcement grades of OC are refined to about 5,000,000 SHUs, or at least ten times the potency of the unrefined pepper.

Cayenne pepper might be hot enough to make a pretty good weapon in some parts of the world, but in Indian culture it's merely a condiment. Totally harmless.

The bhut jolokia pepper starts with more than 1,000,000 Scoville units in its unrefined state, and I can only imagine how painfully hot it could get in its fully refined - weaponzied - form. Wow! Practically an organic napalm.

I bet it will be a rough couple of lifetimes for any dug-in Indian terrorist who gets saturated with that stuff.

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