August 16th, 2008

Naga Jolokia

To start: source"

For ecology graduate student Joshua Tewksbury of the University of Montana in Missoula, the hot pain of biting into a chili pepper is one of life's great pleasures. He's also come to think of it as a lesson in evolutionary manipulation. > Chill plants pump their fruits full of capsaicin, a chemical that stimulates pain-sensing neurons in the mouth.

After field studies in southern Arizona, Tewksbury may have discovered why the plants go to such great lengths. Mammals such as cactus mice and desert pack rats find capsaicin unpalatable--a good thing for the plant, because the animals' digestive systems would destroy the seeds within the chilies. Birds can't taste the chemical, however, so they freely eat the chilies. Chili seeds eaten and then expelled by birds are three times more likely to germinate than those that fall off the plant naturally. In lab tests, Tewksbury found that rodents greedily eat specially bred, capsaicin-free peppers. "Chilies clearly benefit from knocking mammals out of the picture," he says.

And for fun: Naga Jolokia

In 2000, scientists at India's Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) reported a rating of 855,000 units on the Scoville scale,[1][4] and in 2004 an Indian export company called Frontal Agritech obtained a rating of 1,041,427 units,[5] which would mean it is almost twice as hot as the Red Savina pepper and roughly equal to the similar-looking Dorset Naga,[6] which is derived from the Naga Morich. For comparison, pure capsaicin rates at 15,000,000–16,000,000 Scoville units.

In 2005 at New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute near Las Cruces, New Mexico, Regents Professor Paul Bosland found Naga Jolokia grown from seed in southern New Mexico to have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304 SHU by HPLC.

In February 2007, Guinness World Records certified the Bhut Jolokia (Prof. Bosland's preferred name for the pepper) as the world's hottest chili pepper.[7][8]

The effect of climate on the Scoville rating of Naga Jolokia peppers is dramatic. A 2005 Indian study that compared the percentage availability of capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin in Naga Jolokia peppers grown in both Tezpur (Assam) and Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) showed that the heat of the pepper is decreased by over 50% in Gwalior's more arid climate (similar temperatures but less humid, much lower rainfall).

For comparison, your average Jalapeño has a rating of only 2,000.

Scientist says "Bigfoot" fails DNA test

Reporters flock around radio host Biscardi, and Bigfoot hunters Dyer and Whitten. The two men who claim to have found the remains of a Bigfoot specimen.

AOL news has posted an article about the Bigfoot press conference that took place yesterday:

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PALO ALTO, California (Aug. 15) - Bigfoot remains as elusive as ever.
Results from tests on genetic material from alleged remains of one of the mythical half-ape and half-human creatures, made public at a news conference on Friday held after the claimed discovery swept the Internet, failed to prove its existence.

Its spread was fueled by a photograph of a hairy heap, bearing a close resemblance to a shaggy full-body gorilla costume, stuffed into a container resembling a refrigerator.
One of the two samples of DNA said to prove the existence of the Bigfoot came from a human and the other was 96 percent from an opossum, according to Curt Nelson, a scientist at the University of Minnesota who performed the DNA analysis.
Bigfoot creatures are said to live in the forests of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. An opossum is a marsupial about the size of a house cat.
Results of the DNA tests were revealed in an e-mail from Nelson and distributed at the Palo Alto, California, news conference held by Tom Biscardi, host of a weekly online radio show about the Bigfoot.
Also present were Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, the two who say they discovered the Bigfoot corpse while hiking in the woods of northern Georgia. They also are co-owners of a company that offers Bigfoot merchandise.
Despite the dubious photo and the commercial interests of the alleged discoverers, the Bigfoot claim drew interest from Australia to Europe and even The New York Times.
Biscardi said the DNA samples may not have been taken correctly and may have been contaminated, and that he would proceed with an autopsy of the alleged Bigfoot remains, currently in a freezer at an undisclosed location.