Thanks for the feedback guys. Frankly I agree that testing for this kind of stuff in a lab is relatively useless. Nature is just too unpredictable in things like this and these studies are nothing more than an attempt to put a number on something that probably doesn't need a number to begin with. It really only comes down to marketing. The Bhut Jolokia was a clear exception in its time because it could be confirmed as hotter than the Red Savina on all counts by a large margin. Today there are too many strains at the top for us to try to say which one is #1.
A couple clarifications on strain have been made since I wrote this post so I thought I'd share them:
-The 7 Pot used was said to be the Jonah strain
-The Chocolate 7 Pot used was a Douglah that was renamed for the study because of its incredibly close genetic similarities to the Jonah
-The Scorpion used MAY have been a Butch T but it was not from the same batch of seed that set the record last year
The more I think about it the more I think that studying this fully would require more data points than is financially feasible. It might even be better to collect data points over several years and grow the same plants each year to try to eliminate changes brought on by growing conditions.
The bottom line is that the hype is just hype and if you want an insanely hot pepper, grow any of these varieties. The rest is just novelty brought on by marketing masquerading as science.
I guess I'll play the role of optimist for once. The interesting thing here is that it isn't so easy to answer the seemingly straightforward question "what is the hottest pepper in the world?". It's the inherently tricky thing with handling the superlatives for biologicals, isn't it? Sure, the hottest measurement of any pepper may currently be for Moruga Scorpion, but that's not even half the story. If we assume that capsaicin expression follows a normal function, we can expect that plotting out the values for each population of peppers will follow something like a Poisson distribution, with apparently very heavy overlap between the different superhots.
There is actually a lot of interesting, practical questions embedded in this, when you think about it. Trinidad Scorpion seems to be able to really deliver great mega-SHU consistency -- so why exactly is there so much scatter in the Moruga Scorpion samples? It would be great to see more datapoints -- both to gain an appreciation for the repeatability of the test, but also to see how well behaved our datasets really are. Is the Moruga Scorpion data truly monomodally distributed, or could we be looking at polydispersity? Could selective breeding within the Moruga Scorpion population eliminate some of the dispersity and bring up its mean?
I say i would rather hear the the results from the test designed by wilbur schoville then hear the results from the hplc test i know both are "accurate"
but i think it would be better to do the schoville test since its cheaper (its much cheaper to spend 15 bucks for 5 college kids to tell you if a pepper is hot or not then spending 10000 bucks for a machine)
The Scoville Organoleptic Test is a refined, systematic approach. With this method, human subjects taste a chile sample and record its heat level. Samples are then diluted until heat can no longer be detected by the taster, this dilution is called the Scoville Heat Unit, named for the man who invented it, Wilbur Scoville. A more technologically advanced test is an HPLC test, or High Performance Liquid Chromatography. An HPLC ‘sees' the heat compounds and records the amount in parts per million (ppm). A quick conversion from HPLC to Scoville is to multiply the ppm by 15 to get the Scoville Heat Unit.
If you have the tools in an academic lab, this kind of work can be done on the cheap; undergrad lab assistants are easy to fund, and autosamplers mean that samples can be run 24/7. I would contend that the Scoville organoleptic test is actually much, much more expensive and much less reproducible: you will burn through college volunteers far faster than chromatography columns (especially if you're expecting to pay five of them 15 bucks -- three dollars doesn't go very far these days). There's a reason that you won't see standard deviations expressed in those measurements. The good Dr. Wilbur lived and worked in an era before statistical analysis (not to mention chromatography) was applied the way it is now; he did the best with what he had available. Since the 1980's; there have been thousands of peer reviewed papers reporting the quantitative analysis of capsaicin, only a handful of those use organoleptic testing, and all of those papers are from Pakistan or China.
Edited by j.t.delaney, 05 March 2012 - 04:19 PM.