But it turns out there was no fire at all and the alarm sounded because of the heat from the peppers.
Quote: The pepper sensation is not, properly speaking, a taste. There are only five kinds of taste buds (salt, sweet, sour, bitter and MSG, the last only recently identified). Capsaicin itself is tasteless and odorless. What we describe as the "taste" of chili might better be described as the "pain" of chili (and we perceive this in parts of the body that clearly have no taste buds, to wit, the sphincter). One possible explanation for the appeal of chilies is that the body manufactures painkilling endorphins, akin to morphine, to counteract the pain, and endorphins themselves are pleasurable. In other words, we eat chilies because it feels so good when we stop. The heat of chilies is traditionally expressed in Scoville units, a subjective scale devised by the pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912. Jalapenos rate about 4,000 Scoville units, while the hottest habeneros score up to 400,000. One variety in southeast Asia has recently been evaluated at an incredible 850,000 Scoville units, a veritable vegetable Chernobyl.http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read...-the-seeds
The situation is entirely different for birds. While mammals will avoid food containing as little as 100-1000 parts per million (ppm) of capsaicin, birds will readily consume up to at least 20,000 ppm (mind, we're talking food that's 2% pure capsaicin here). The difference seems to be that bird receptor cells are largely insensitive to capsaicin. Certain chemical modifications can make capsaicin somewhat aversive to birds, which shows that it is the structure of the molecule that is the key. Capsaicin sensitivity is perhaps the most well known difference between bird and mammalian receptors, although birds also seem to be insensitive to many other substances that are irritating to mammals, including ammonia and naphthalene. (A contrasting case is methyl anthranilate, grape flavoring, which is aversive to birds but not to mammals.) This difference is exploited by some commercial bird seeds, which add chili powder or capsaicin to the mixture to deter feeder-raiding squirrels.
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