Image Credit: iStock (fire) / Wikimedia Commons (Tobasco) // CC BY-SA 3.0

Image Credit: iStock (fire) / Wikimedia Commons (Tobasco) // CC BY-SA 3.0

15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Tabasco Sauce

Image Credit: iStock (fire) / Wikimedia Commons (Tobasco) // CC BY-SA 3.0

Image Credit: iStock (fire) / Wikimedia Commons (Tobasco) // CC BY-SA 3.0

The little glass bottle is a staple on restaurant tables, but how much do you really know about the ubiquitous pepper sauce? 

1. That signature shade of Tabasco red is all-natural, and it’s more than just for show. 

The Tabasco chili peppers that make up the bulk of the “original red sauce” undergo a series of color changes before reaching peak flavor and heat. From humble beginnings as petite green pods, the peppers make a long, colorful trek, first turning yellow, then orange, and finally the deep, signature red that signals when it’s picking time. Unseasoned pickers who haven’t yet cultivated an eye for the perfectly ripe red have a handy aid to ensure they don’t pick prematurely, called “le petit batôn rouge”—a small wooden dowel painted in the only shade of red that matters.

2. Tabasco sauce is a family affair. 

A product so widely distributed doesn’t much seem like the product of a small, local business, but Tabasco’s roots are tied to a single place and family tree. In 1868, Edmund McIlhenny planted his first crop of peppers on Avery Island, Louisiana; 140 years and five generations later, his own descendants are mashing those peppers’ descendants. 

3. The hot stuff is popular almost everywhere. 

Although the recipe doesn’t change, the labeling does: before packing up product for international orders, the McIlhenny Company translates its list of ingredients into 22 languages and dialects. The appropriately labeled bottles are then shipped off to 180 countries and territories, and counting. 

4. The precious pepper seeds have their own designated bank vault. 

Growing crops is inherently unpredictable, so the McIlhenny Co. is understandably wary of putting all its eggs in one basket. Once the best plants from a season’s harvest have been selected as the source of the next year’s seeds, the dried pepper seeds are stored in two locationsone of them a local bank vaultto ensure that even in case of, say, weather-related disaster, there will still be plenty of peppers to go around.

5. Even the salt is proprietary. 

The makers of Tabasco sauce would never stoop to ordinary store-bought salt! No, the occupants of Avery Island extract the salt needed to age the mashed-up chili peppers from mines located directly beneath the island itselftalk about vertical integration. 

6. The name “Tabasco” is of Mexican origin, though anything beyond that is uncertain. 

Before the word TABASCO® became stylized in all caps with a registered trademark symbol after it, the name simply denoted a particular Mexican state. Various etymological histories exist for the word before it became a place name: the official Tabasco sauce website claims it originally meant either “place where the soil is humid” or place of the coral or oyster shell. Other histories suggest it was the name of a river, a Mayan phrase meaning “our lord of the eight tigers,” or a Nahuatl expression for “flooded land.” Today, it’s mostly synonymous with hot sauce outside of Mexico.

7. Tabasco sauce was originally packaged in cologne bottles. 

When enterprising businessman Edmund McIlhenny first decided to package his well-loved sauce, the vessel that seemed most appropriate to him was a used cologne bottle. Though his friends and family didn’t seem to mind whatever hints of alcohol and fragrance might have lingered, it’s probably for the best that McIlhenny thought to order a shipment of brand-new “cologne bottles” before pouring in the sauce for commercial distribution. 

8. If it’s good enough for Her Majesty, it’s good enough for anyone. 

Tabasco seems to be Queen Elizabeth II’s hot sauce of choice—in 2009, McIlhenny Company was given an official warrant of appointment designating it an official supplier to the British royal household. It’s also served aboard Air Force One.

9. There’s a heat level for everyone. 

The Original Red ranges from about 2500 to 5000 units on the Scoville scale, which measures the apparent heat of a substance. The habanero sauce throws hotter peppers into the mix, while the remaining varietieschipotle, garlic, jalapeño, “sweet and spicy”are all varying levels of mild.

10. Army rations wouldn’t be the same without it.

The American military has included Tabasco sauce in its Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) since the 1980s, for which many a soldier has undoubtedly been grateful. The British army has since treated their own military personnel to Tabasco sauce in their rations. 

11. Astronauts love it, too. 

As if pre-packaged, rehydrated meals weren’t bad enough, one of the unfortunate truths of space travel is that astronauts on a mission will inevitably experience their sense of taste growing duller. To compensate for the general lackluster quality of their meals, astronauts have been known to pile on the Tabasco sauce. 

12. The barrels used to age the pepper mash had a tipsy first career. 

The oak barrels in which the soon-to-be Tabasco sauce hangs out for up to three years while acquiring its subtleties of flavor are repurposed from their original use as receptacles for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey. Of course, the top layer of wood is first removed from the barrels to minimize the risk of an accidentally boozy batch of Tabasco.

13. The bottle’s top served a specific purpose. 

Edmund McIlhenny’s 19th-century customers weren’t used to the idea of a “hot sauce,” and so they were overly generous with their usage. After scorching their tongues, they complained that the stuff was “too hot.” McIlhenny then attached a sprinkler-style top to the bottles to force people to use less (and stop complaining to him about it). 

14. It is possible to buy an entire jug of Tabasco sauce.

The largest commercially available vessel of Tabasco sauce is a whole gallon normally marketed to food service outletsbut if you can get your hands on one for personal consumption, no one here’s going to judge you for it. 

15. There’s Tabasco-flavored everything. 

You name it, the McIlhenny Company has probably found a way to work their signature condiment into it: popcorn, steak sauce, mayo, mustard, pickles, Spam, Slim Jims, chili, chocolate, and more. At the Tabasco Country Store on Avery Island, there’s even Tabasco-flavored ice cream. Beyond that, it’s probably best to draw the line. 

Live Smarter
Nervous About Asking for a Job Referral? LinkedIn Can Now Do It for You

For most people, asking for a job referral can be daunting. What if the person being approached shoots you down? What if you ask the "wrong" way? LinkedIn, which has been aggressively establishing itself as a catch-all hub for employment opportunities, has a solution, as Mashable reports.

The company recently launched "Ask for a Referral," an option that will appear to those browsing job listings. When you click on a job listed by a business that also employs one of your LinkedIn first-degree connections, you'll have the opportunity to solicit a referral from that individual.

The default message that LinkedIn creates is somewhat generic, but it hits the main topics—namely, prompting you to explain how you and your connection know one another and why you'd be a good fit for the position. If you're the one being asked for a referral, the site will direct you to the job posting and offer three prompts for a response, ranging from "Sure…" to "Sorry…".

LinkedIn says the referral option may not be available for all posts or all users, as the feature is still being rolled out. If you do see the option, it will likely pay to take advantage of it: LinkedIn reports that recruiters who receive both a referral and a job application from a prospective hire are four times more likely to contact that individual.

[h/t Mashable]

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Essential Science
What Is a Scientific Theory?
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In casual conversation, people often use the word theory to mean "hunch" or "guess": If you see the same man riding the northbound bus every morning, you might theorize that he has a job in the north end of the city; if you forget to put the bread in the breadbox and discover chunks have been taken out of it the next morning, you might theorize that you have mice in your kitchen.

In science, a theory is a stronger assertion. Typically, it's a claim about the relationship between various facts; a way of providing a concise explanation for what's been observed. The American Museum of Natural History puts it this way: "A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts."

For example, Newton's theory of gravity—also known as his law of universal gravitation—says that every object, anywhere in the universe, responds to the force of gravity in the same way. Observational data from the Moon's motion around the Earth, the motion of Jupiter's moons around Jupiter, and the downward fall of a dropped hammer are all consistent with Newton's theory. So Newton's theory provides a concise way of summarizing what we know about the motion of these objects—indeed, of any object responding to the force of gravity.

A scientific theory "organizes experience," James Robert Brown, a philosopher of science at the University of Toronto, tells Mental Floss. "It puts it into some kind of systematic form."


A theory's ability to account for already known facts lays a solid foundation for its acceptance. Let's take a closer look at Newton's theory of gravity as an example.

In the late 17th century, the planets were known to move in elliptical orbits around the Sun, but no one had a clear idea of why the orbits had to be shaped like ellipses. Similarly, the movement of falling objects had been well understood since the work of Galileo a half-century earlier; the Italian scientist had worked out a mathematical formula that describes how the speed of a falling object increases over time. Newton's great breakthrough was to tie all of this together. According to legend, his moment of insight came as he gazed upon a falling apple in his native Lincolnshire.

In Newton's theory, every object is attracted to every other object with a force that’s proportional to the masses of the objects, but inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is known as an “inverse square” law. For example, if the distance between the Sun and the Earth were doubled, the gravitational attraction between the Earth and the Sun would be cut to one-quarter of its current strength. Newton, using his theories and a bit of calculus, was able to show that the gravitational force between the Sun and the planets as they move through space meant that orbits had to be elliptical.

Newton's theory is powerful because it explains so much: the falling apple, the motion of the Moon around the Earth, and the motion of all of the planets—and even comets—around the Sun. All of it now made sense.


A theory gains even more support if it predicts new, observable phenomena. The English astronomer Edmond Halley used Newton's theory of gravity to calculate the orbit of the comet that now bears his name. Taking into account the gravitational pull of the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn, in 1705, he predicted that the comet, which had last been seen in 1682, would return in 1758. Sure enough, it did, reappearing in December of that year. (Unfortunately, Halley didn't live to see it; he died in 1742.) The predicted return of Halley's Comet, Brown says, was "a spectacular triumph" of Newton's theory.

In the early 20th century, Newton's theory of gravity would itself be superseded—as physicists put it—by Einstein's, known as general relativity. (Where Newton envisioned gravity as a force acting between objects, Einstein described gravity as the result of a curving or warping of space itself.) General relativity was able to explain certain phenomena that Newton's theory couldn't account for, such as an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury, which slowly rotates—the technical term for this is "precession"—so that while each loop the planet takes around the Sun is an ellipse, over the years Mercury traces out a spiral path similar to one you may have made as a kid on a Spirograph.

Significantly, Einstein’s theory also made predictions that differed from Newton's. One was the idea that gravity can bend starlight, which was spectacularly confirmed during a solar eclipse in 1919 (and made Einstein an overnight celebrity). Nearly 100 years later, in 2016, the discovery of gravitational waves confirmed yet another prediction. In the century between, at least eight predictions of Einstein's theory have been confirmed.


And yet physicists believe that Einstein's theory will one day give way to a new, more complete theory. It already seems to conflict with quantum mechanics, the theory that provides our best description of the subatomic world. The way the two theories describe the world is very different. General relativity describes the universe as containing particles with definite positions and speeds, moving about in response to gravitational fields that permeate all of space. Quantum mechanics, in contrast, yields only the probability that each particle will be found in some particular location at some particular time.

What would a "unified theory of physics"—one that combines quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of gravity—look like? Presumably it would combine the explanatory power of both theories, allowing scientists to make sense of both the very large and the very small in the universe.


Let's shift from physics to biology for a moment. It is precisely because of its vast explanatory power that biologists hold Darwin's theory of evolution—which allows scientists to make sense of data from genetics, physiology, biochemistry, paleontology, biogeography, and many other fields—in such high esteem. As the biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky put it in an influential essay in 1973, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Interestingly, the word evolution can be used to refer to both a theory and a fact—something Darwin himself realized. "Darwin, when he was talking about evolution, distinguished between the fact of evolution and the theory of evolution," Brown says. "The fact of evolution was that species had, in fact, evolved [i.e. changed over time]—and he had all sorts of evidence for this. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain this evolutionary process." The explanation that Darwin eventually came up with was the idea of natural selection—roughly, the idea that an organism's offspring will vary, and that those offspring with more favorable traits will be more likely to survive, thus passing those traits on to the next generation.


Many theories are rock-solid: Scientists have just as much confidence in the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution, plate tectonics, and thermodynamics as they do in the statement that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Other theories, closer to the cutting-edge of current research, are more tentative, like string theory (the idea that everything in the universe is made up of tiny, vibrating strings or loops of pure energy) or the various multiverse theories (the idea that our entire universe is just one of many). String theory and multiverse theories remain controversial because of the lack of direct experimental evidence for them, and some critics claim that multiverse theories aren't even testable in principle. They argue that there's no conceivable experiment that one could perform that would reveal the existence of these other universes.

Sometimes more than one theory is put forward to explain observations of natural phenomena; these theories might be said to "compete," with scientists judging which one provides the best explanation for the observations.

"That's how it should ideally work," Brown says. "You put forward your theory, I put forward my theory; we accumulate a lot of evidence. Eventually, one of our theories might prove to obviously be better than the other, over some period of time. At that point, the losing theory sort of falls away. And the winning theory will probably fight battles in the future."


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