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jkmccrann
2005-Oct-25, 04:53 PM
Spontaneous Human Combustion is one of those theories that we all readily dismiss as complete fantasy, and rightly so, where is the proof for SHC? One explanation given for SHC is that its the result of excessive consumption of alcohol, but surely if that were the case we would be hearing of SHC a lot more frequently than we do. I really don't know the origin of the theory, but is there anyone out there who would consider SHC a possibility?

http://www.crystalinks.com/shc.html

http://www.castleofspirits.com/shc.html

http://skepdic.com/shc.html



I guess relating SHC to Space, I understand we would burn up if we ever `set foot' on the surface of Venus, or the Inner side of Mercury for instance, and I know that's not really SHC, and nor is this, but at what distance from the Sun do temperatures reach a level threatening to humans? I presume its somewhere between the orbits of Mercury & Venus, can anyone provide a definitive answer to that?

Cheers.

Edited to provide hyperlinks.

jkmccrann
2005-Nov-03, 08:47 AM
Anyone?

Candy
2005-Nov-03, 08:54 AM
I'd have to see it to believe it.

Lianachan
2005-Nov-03, 09:22 AM
SHC has been comprehensively debunked. For the life of me, I can't remember where.

gwiz
2005-Nov-03, 09:32 AM
I think the basic process is :

1) person becomes unconsious or dies from natural causes

2) near-by fire source sets clothing alight

3) clothing burns like a candle wick, consuming body fat

4) leaving a largely burnt corpse, carbon deposited all over room, but little other fire damage

Candy
2005-Nov-03, 09:40 AM
http://skepdic.com/shc.html


To prove that a human being might burn like a candle, Dr. John de Haan of the California Criminalistic Institute wrapped a dead pig in a blanket, poured a small amount of gasoline on the blanket, and ignited it. Even the bones were destroyed after five hours of continuous burning. The fat content of a pig is very similar to the fat content of a human being. The damage to the pig, according to Dr. De Haan "is exactly the same as that from supposed spontaneous human combustion."

A National Geographic special on SHC showed a failed attempt to duplicate the burning pig experiment. However, it is obvious that the failure was due to leaving the door to the room open to the outside, which created a draft and led to the flames igniting everything in the room. Had the room been closed up, as are the rooms in which many of the elderly persons have died in fires attributed to SHC, it is likely that the pig would have smoldered for several hours without the rest of the room becoming engulfed in flames.
1 for SHC
1 against SHC

publiusr
2005-Nov-03, 07:39 PM
Its wick-effect all right. Who knows how many murders have been called supernatural mysteries.

A half-bright individual might bring in what would seem to be too little accelerant to a murder. A more thorough criminal work soak the place.

But here is the kicker. It only takes a small amount of accelerant to start wick effect, otherwise if you use a lot, the body only chars.

A criminal to be thorough would have to draw the blinds and wait for hours for the wick effect to work though. Then he would hose the place down with accelerant and open the gas vents after wick-effect has taken place. Then everything would be ashes with an explosion opening the house up to ambient air for further burning.

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-03, 11:53 PM
I'd be freaked out if SHC was real. REAL freaked out.

Big Brother Dunk
2005-Nov-04, 12:49 AM
I think the basic process is :

1) person becomes unconsious or dies from natural causes

2) near-by fire source sets clothing alight

3) clothing burns like a candle wick, consuming body fat

4) leaving a largely burnt corpse, carbon deposited all over room, but little other fire damage

I believe that about sums it up.

howard2
2005-Nov-04, 11:27 PM
This question was solved a few years ago. The combustion is not spontaneous as it neads an ignition source. The clothing worn by the victim acts as a wick for the fat and the body is consumed fairly slowly leaving the lower legs and feet in most cases because of the lack of fat and absorbant clothing to cause a wick effect.

LurchGS
2005-Nov-05, 10:21 PM
this whole thing just burns me up, but I'll refrain from a heated reply.

Maybe we should blame the wikipedia effect?

jt-3d
2005-Nov-06, 12:45 PM
I used to be a SHC believer but it only took a couple of shows on the subject to get me to file it away with my other youthful beliefs like the Bermuda triangle and the Nazca lines.
Alas I fear that if I were to spontaniously smolder I would be nothing but ashes due to my high blubber content. Yes I can pinch an inch on my forehead. Hug me.

wstevenbrown
2005-Nov-07, 12:52 PM
SHC is, of course, unusual. If a real phenomenon, then its explanation should also be rare.

Has anyone considered the results of a human being struck by an Eev or Zev cosmic ray? Advantages:

1) Enough initial input to kindle.
2) Ionization path to allow follow-up electrical effects.
3) Pion, muon, and exotic short-lived meson shower inside the body, just to
stir things up.

The phenomenon is truly Fortean. It is rare, but occurs across all cultures. It is not limited to drunks/old folks shut up in stuffy rooms-- but is more likely there. Debunkers often paint with too broad a brush, using the equivalent of the argument: "It isn't likely, therefore it didn't happen."

Singular events do happen. You are one. S

mickal555
2005-Nov-07, 12:56 PM
Just thinking about it's giving me the willies...

farmerjumperdon
2005-Nov-07, 02:54 PM
I'd be freaked out if SHC was real. REAL freaked out.

No sweat. What makes it so silly is that none of the proponents of SHC ever mention that burning alive would be quite painful, certainly enough to wake up most people. Once awake it should be easy to put yourself out. Unless it is a fast fire and starts everywhere on your body all at once; which does not fit anything I've seen on the topic. I mean, unless you just instantly exploded in a ball of fire, it would be pretty simple to just get in the shower and extinguish the smoldering body parts. There should be quite a few victims of SHC with partial burns and really good stories to tell.

LurchGS
2005-Nov-07, 11:15 PM
No sweat. What makes it so silly is that none of the proponents of SHC ever mention that burning alive would be quite painful, certainly enough to wake up most people. Once awake it should be easy to put yourself out. Unless it is a fast fire and starts everywhere on your body all at once; which does not fit anything I've seen on the topic. I mean, unless you just instantly exploded in a ball of fire, it would be pretty simple to just get in the shower and extinguish the smoldering body parts. There should be quite a few victims of SHC with partial burns and really good stories to tell.

I wonder then, if such a phenomena isn't pretty much restricted to the overdosed. Sleeping pills and alcohol are pretty stubborn about letting one wake up.

And of course, I forgot about the dead... granny sits down in her rocking chair next to the heater and has a stroke or heart attack (or just plain dies).. heat source sets the lap-blanket on fire... and 8 hours later when the nursing home staff checks on her, she's two slippers and 1 tooth. No way to tell she died before she lit up.

------

"I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you...........FIRE!"

farmerjumperdon
2005-Nov-11, 03:43 PM
I thought about the alcohol part. I'm guessing that to increase your body's combustability would take more alcohol than you could consume without passing out first. But now I'm wondering what the concentration is when a person is drunk. Is .33 one-third of a percent, 3 percent, or 33 percent. Granted, most people would be horizontal at that level (some would die, right?); but what doe the number mean? The numbers don't seem to add up to catching fire because of it. Let's say a person drank 12 ounces of 80 proof (40% alcohol) whiskey in relatively short order (so I don't have to fool with metabolism calculations). That's the equivalent of 6 ounces of alcohol, and they would be pretty darn drunk. If the average person has 10 pints of blood, or 160 ounces; that would be about 4%. Is a 4% solution of alcohol enough to be flammable? And that doesn't even take into acvcount all the other fluids diluting the bodies alcohol concentration. So it doesn't seem to me that being drunk would make a person more susceptible to SHC. And if drunks are no more susceptible to SHC than sober people - then we should have plenty of sober people that have started on fire and woke up to put themselves out, right?

JohnD
2005-Nov-11, 10:20 PM
The pig-in-a-blanket experiment was repeated for a BBC TV science programme a few years ago, and I'm surprized to find it detailed on this site: http://www.alternativescience.com/spontaneous-human-combustion-burning-issue.htm

Even more surprised that the site seeks to de-bunk the debunking!
That their 'evidence' is merely anecdotal accounts does not benefit their case.

JOhn

genebujold
2005-Nov-12, 12:11 AM
this whole thing just burns me up, but I'll refrain from a heated reply.

Maybe we should blame the wikipedia effect?

You might as well blame severe chronic halitosis.

genebujold
2005-Nov-12, 12:15 AM
I thought about the alcohol part. I'm guessing that to increase your body's combustability would take more alcohol than you could consume without passing out first. But now I'm wondering what the concentration is when a person is drunk. Is .33 one-third of a percent, 3 percent, or 33 percent. Granted, most people would be horizontal at that level (some would die, right?); but what doe the number mean? The numbers don't seem to add up to catching fire because of it. Let's say a person drank 12 ounces of 80 proof (40% alcohol) whiskey in relatively short order (so I don't have to fool with metabolism calculations). That's the equivalent of 6 ounces of alcohol, and they would be pretty darn drunk. If the average person has 10 pints of blood, or 160 ounces; that would be about 4%. Is a 4% solution of alcohol enough to be flammable? And that doesn't even take into acvcount all the other fluids diluting the bodies alcohol concentration. So it doesn't seem to me that being drunk would make a person more susceptible to SHC. And if drunks are no more susceptible to SHC than sober people - then we should have plenty of sober people that have started on fire and woke up to put themselves out, right?

If one were to consume enough alcohol to measurably add to their combustibility, they'd be dead about one hundred times over.

Legally intoxicated: 0.05%
Dead: 0.4%
Flammable: 38%

LurchGS
2005-Nov-12, 05:48 AM
whatever the figures are, you can't realistically consume enough alcohol to make any difference to your own combustability. The part Alcohol plays is one of sedation (sedition?)...

I wonder if smoke inhalation would also lead to no-wakey-uppie. It's a well established fact that the smell of smoke does NOT wake people up - what else do we have smoke detectors for?

------

beeeeeeeeeeeeeeee---beeeeeeeeeeee

JohnD
2005-Nov-13, 12:34 AM
Not the smoke, but carbon monoxide, from a fire without adequate ventilation.
Many tragic cases of people found dead (not combusted) in gas fire heated flats.

LurchGS
2005-Nov-22, 04:44 AM
that, too - carbon dioxide, too. The point being, here, that the fire starts BEFORE the person dies. The combustion byproducts, instead of waking the victim, contribute to his demise by not letting him wake up.

JohnD
2005-Nov-22, 09:15 PM
Lurch,
We agree! Fire first, death as a consequence.

But CO2 is not toxic - it can asphyxiate you, if it replaces the O2 in the atmosphere, as may be in a fire. Normally about 5% of the gas dissolved in the blood is CO2, and it may be higher if a healthy person is sedated so that they breath less or if they breath a high concentrationof CO2. There are physiological consequences for having a much higher concentration in the blood, but they are rapidly reversible by promoting breathing or restoring a normal atmosphere.

CO on the other hand is highly toxic. It combines with haemoglobin in a way that prevents it transporting oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and is only slowly reversible, so that someone can die through asphyxiation ("Transport hypoxia") although they are breathing an atmosphere with plenty of oxygen in it. CO is formed when combustion cannot be completed due to excess fuel as often is the case in a house fire. Anyone who has been in a smoke filled atmosphere, fire victims, sometimes firefighters, may be at risk.
As the brain is the organ most sensitive to hypoxia, it is affected first by CO toxicity. A relatively low oxygen supply, despite a good blood supply, will quickly disable the brain, leading to loss of conciousness. The victim may quickly become unable to remove themselves from the source of combustion.

Of course, other toxic gases are present in smoke, especially in a hosue fire, where plastics and other organics abound. Some burn to produce HCN, hydrocyanic acid, cyanide, which poisons the ability of cells to use oxygen, even if the blood can transport it to them. Cyanide poisons the cellular enzymes irreversibly.

Sorry to go on. An enclosed fire will produce lots of poisons that will disable a victim long before they die, though they will contribute to their death. It is not necessary to suppose that alcohol is needed to render the victim unconcious so that the fire can begin to consume them.

John

genebujold
2005-Nov-23, 12:18 AM
Spontaneous Human Combustion is one of those theories that we all readily dismiss as complete fantasy, and rightly so, where is the proof for SHC? One explanation given for SHC is that its the result of excessive consumption of alcohol, but surely if that were the case we would be hearing of SHC a lot more frequently than we do. I really don't know the origin of the theory, but is there anyone out there who would consider SHC a possibility?

http://www.crystalinks.com/shc.html

http://www.castleofspirits.com/shc.html

http://skepdic.com/shc.html



I guess relating SHC to Space, I understand we would burn up if we ever `set foot' on the surface of Venus, or the Inner side of Mercury for instance, and I know that's not really SHC, and nor is this, but at what distance from the Sun do temperatures reach a level threatening to humans? I presume its somewhere between the orbits of Mercury & Venus, can anyone provide a definitive answer to that?

Cheers.

Edited to provide hyperlinks.

I dunno about humans, but I once threw an entire chicken into the campfire one evening (it was spoiled), and instead of detracting to the fire, it contributed to it, just about doubling it's flames in about 5 minutes.

And this was a dying fire before I fed it the chicken. Little more than coals and a few flames.

We used to harvest whales for their oil, so we could light our lamps. Before then we rendered lard into an oil for much the same purpose.

Fat burns, people, and if you take a fat person and place them next to a source of ignition along with a wick (clothing), then you're going to have combustion. It might take a while to get it going, but it'll eventually happen.

As for the accounts of kids at school spontaneously bursting into flames, I've yet to read of an account where I could call up the school and ask, "Did this really happen?" without a decided "no" on the other end.

And no, I don't believe our government is behind their saying "no."

Nicolas
2005-Nov-23, 12:30 AM
My brother spontaneously bursted into flames at school, though I should add that a smell test and an open bottle of acetone did play a minor role...

:silenced: :doh: :(

LurchGS
2005-Nov-23, 12:37 AM
Lurch,
We agree! Fire first, death as a consequence.

But CO2 is not toxic - it can asphyxiate you, if it replaces the O2 in the atmosphere, as may be in a fire. Normally about 5% of the gas dissolved in the blood is CO2, and it may be higher if a healthy person is sedated so that they breath less or if they breath a high concentrationof CO2. There are physiological consequences for having a much higher concentration in the blood, but they are rapidly reversible by promoting breathing or restoring a normal atmosphere.

John

yup yup yup - though I get to take this moment to comment that my sats are normally at about 85% (that is, 85% of the gas in my blood is O2 - or, to reverse that, about 15% is CO2 (rough figures, of course)) I've had a number of medical people get a little uncomfotable around me when they see that on the pulse-ox

TheBlackCat
2005-Nov-23, 01:25 AM
CO on the other hand is highly toxic. It combines with haemoglobin in a way that prevents it transporting oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and is only slowly reversible, so that someone can die through asphyxiation ("Transport hypoxia") although they are breathing an atmosphere with plenty of oxygen in it. CO is formed when combustion cannot be completed due to excess fuel as often is the case in a house fire. Anyone who has been in a smoke filled atmosphere, fire victims, sometimes firefighters, may be at risk.
As the brain is the organ most sensitive to hypoxia, it is affected first by CO toxicity. A relatively low oxygen supply, despite a good blood supply, will quickly disable the brain, leading to loss of conciousness. The victim may quickly become unable to remove themselves from the source of combustion.

This actually depends on the contex. When breathed, CO is very toxic. However, it is syntheized by the body as a cellular second messenger, and in fact is essential in many cellular signalling pathways. These two effects are not related.