When is a chili pepper too hot? When it leaves you hospitalised for 23 days with a hole in your oesophagus, that’s when.
October brought us the gory story of a 47-year-old American who took part in an eating challenge and came off second best after he ate a puree of one of the world’s hottest chillies, Bhut jolokia, aka the ghost pepper, on a burger. The unfortunate, fiery fellow started sweating profusely, vomiting copiously and suffered chest and abdominal pains. He had to be taken to the emergency department, where doctors found a 2.5 cm hole in his oesophagus.
The rupture wasn’t caused by the chili itself, but was the result of excessive vomiting, a condition called Boerhaave syndrome after an 18th century physician whose patient died after vomiting up a particularly generous lunch.
Fortunately, this man made a full recovery after surgeons stitched him back together, although it’s probably best not to think too hard about his morning-after ring of fire. The Ghost Pepper measures 1 million on the Scoville scale, which rates the heat of chillies.
While that’s 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce, Bhut jolokia isn’t the world’s hottest chili. That honour goes to the Carolina Reaper, which can reach an eye-watering, and oesophagus rupturing, 2.2 million units on the Scoville scale – fear the reaper!
Science isn’t always serious. The Weird Science series, collated by the Australian Science Media Centre, serves up the most quirky, curious and downright bizarre science stories of 2016.