Google Doodle honours man behind chilli pepper’s spicy heat scale

By @iamkarlatecson on
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A worker holds harvested chillies at a chilli plantation in Pasir Datar Indah village near Sukabumi, Indonesia's West Java province, August 6, 2015. Picture taken August 6, 2015. Reuters/Beawiharta

Google treats visitors to its homepage with a new animated and fun Google Doodle featuring American chemist Wilbur Scoville, who invented an objective method to measure a chilli pepper’s “heat.”

For more than a century, the food industry has relied on the eponymous Scoville Scale, which rates the pungency of chilli peppers depending on their concentration of capsaicin. Capsaicin is the active component that gives the tongue-burning, tear-inducing qualities of peppers. 

In celebration of Scoville’s 151’st birthday, Google designed an interactive mini game that lets users help Scoville “cool down” various type of chillies for his experiment. Visitors of the search engine are asked to click the mouse at the correct point on a sliding bar to launch ice cream scoops at the evil chilli and neutralise it. The game gets more difficult as the chillies get hotter, starting from the non-spicy bell pepper and progressing to jalapeno, cayenne and others.

The mini game was created by Olivia Huynh in collaboration with artist Brian Kaas and engineers Corrie Scalisi, Tom Tabanao, Jordan Thompson, Kris Hom and Jk Kafalas.

“Spiciness is somewhat of a universal, comical experience, which I think opened the door for us to do something we usually might not be able to, like a fighting game,” Huynh said in a statement

She described the process of developing the Google Doodle, from making storyboards, to sketching, to designing the characters and metres. “Designing the boss peppers and animating Scoville's reactions to eating them were probably my favorite parts,” Huynh mused.

Scoville was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on Jan. 22, 1865. His book, “The Art of Compounding,” contains one of the earliest mentions of milk as an antidote for pepper heat. The Scoville scale is based on the organoleptic test, which uses human testers to measure pugency in peppers.

Based on the Scoville scale, the hottest chillies include the Carolina Reaper, Naga Viper and Trinidad Moruga, which reach more than one million Scoville Heat Units, or SHU. To put it in perspective, Carolina Reaper, which reach 1.5 million SHU is 500 times hotter than Tabasco, according to a report by The Guardian.