Up in Flames


| 5 Comments

12406785907MG4i3.jpgImagine you are sitting on your couch, just chilling out, maybe watching some TV. It starts to get late but all of a sudden you begin to feel a little feverish. Your chest begins to burn! You think of the possible health issues as you force yourself to reach the telephone. Suddenly, you burn up in flames, and all that is left is the soot of your ashes.

If a victim of Spontaneus Human Combustion (SHC) was alive to tell the tale, this is probably the account you would hear.

Spontaneus Human Combustion is a mysterious phenomena in which the body burns up from the inside out with no external source. Some chemical imbalance triggers within the body causing the system to burst into flames, leaving only a spot of dust.

There is no known cause for why this happens, but many plausible theories, and it sparked quite a lot of debate for a 76 year-old Irishman's death, when he was suspected of dying of SHC.

Now, in order for anything to combust or go up in flames, it requires a large amount of heat and a flammable substance. Normally, the human body contains neither, but there have been many speculations on the peculiarity of the incidents.

One speculation is the build-up of methane (which can come from the decomposition of plants) within our intestines and enzymes (proteins that speed up chemical processes in our body) ignite this methane and burn our bodies; however, most victims suffer more damage on the outside of their bodies, rather than inside, which goes against this theory.

More ridiculous observations include divine intervention, the existence of a new particle, the pyroton, which causes mini-explosions, and smoking and drinking at the same time.

The most scientific explanation is the wick-effect. This proposes that humans begin to act like candles do. How candles work is that there is a wick that is burnt and melts a wax around that produces flammable gases. In the case of SHC, clothes or hair become the wick of the candle and our body fat slowly melts and causes the fire to grow.

Now the first blaze would have to come from a cigarette or some other outside source and the person would have to be severely unconscious for this to happen. Not to mention that this would take an enormous amount of time. In order to cremate a human normally, it would have to burn at 1600 degrees Farenheit for two hours. So the wick-effect would take several hours.

However, in an experiment done with a dead pig, within 5 hours, the whole pig had burnt to a crisp, even the bones. This could possibly show that the wick-effect is what causes this phenomenon.

At the end of the day, this is a weird and tragic phenomenon where people have no idea what happens. This is usually an eyewitness event and happens to mostly senior citizens who are alone for long periods of time.

When their deaths are reported, only a mysterious dark ash is left. It is anomaly for the medical, scientific, and police community who really can't observe this phenomenon happening.

I suppose the real question is if this actually happens. The wick-effect seems to be the most likely explanation with cigarettes being the ignition.

The moral of the story is to not smoke when you're older because you do not want to burn up like a candle. I won't post any pictures of this phenomena because they are very gruesome, so feel free to look it up yourself on Google.

5 Comments

I actually recently watched a TV special on the Discovery Channel about this, and I found it to be very interesting. The wick effect seems to have been the dominant explanation for SHC, and the most likely. I find it much more likely and logical that these deaths were simply caused by older people who might have been smoking and dropped their cigarette and thus caused their clothes to catch fire. In that case, Would it not be spontaneous combustion, but simply a case of someone catching fire?
The only flaw I see with this explanation is that some reported cases of SHC had a pile of ash on a bed where the person used to be, without any further harm to the room they were in or their surroundings. You would think that if you were on fire, things around you would catch too. I guess this is just one of those mysteries in life, huh?

I actually recently watched a TV special on the Discovery Channel about this, and I found it to be very interesting. The wick effect seems to have been the dominant explanation for SHC, and the most likely. I find it much more likely and logical that these deaths were simply caused by older people who might have been smoking and dropped their cigarette and thus caused their clothes to catch fire. In that case, Would it not be spontaneous combustion, but simply a case of someone catching fire?
The only flaw I see with this explanation is that some reported cases of SHC had a pile of ash on a bed where the person used to be, without any further harm to the room they were in or their surroundings. You would think that if you were on fire, things around you would catch too. I guess this is just one of those mysteries in life, huh?

This is such an interesting topic to think about. I begin to wonder if there is any way that this could be true or not. I am struggling to belive that the real cause of this mans death is spontaneous combustion. I have done some research on the internet looking for more compelling cases of this "spontaneous human combustion." It seems to me that there is always something else, most often cigarettes or cigars, that could be responsible for the ignition of the person. It seems quite likely to me that if there was a fire intense enough to burn up an entire human body that it would have no problem destroying a cigarette or cigar. I can believe that the "wick" effect is real and would contribute to someone burning up. It seems realistic, and scientifically reasonable, that a person's body fat could fuel the fire in a slow and methodical way. I cannot, however, believe that these people just suddenly ignited because of methane in thier body. It just seems like something is missing. If this can happen to anyone why has it not been studied or properly analyzed by scientists? How come no body has ever been able to discribe in detail what they saw and how it happened? Some things just seem to be a bit too fishy to be real. Great post though, it really makes you think about the possibilities.

I thought about googling SHC, but I am eating my dinner at the moment, so maybe I will just wait. I too, saw a special concerning Spontaneous Human Combustion on tv not long ago and of course, being the worrywart that I am, I sadly thought to myself about what I could do to prevent myself from spontaneous combustion. Although, after today's class discussing risk and our prevalence of a certain risks occurring to us, my worries on this subject have changed. There are very, very few individuals that have actually been suspected of dying from spontaneous combustion so the relative risk of myself suffering from spontaneous combustion would be extremely low. Overall, there are many more issues I should be worrying about other than spontaneously combusting due to the risk being so low.

I thought about googling SHC, but I am eating my dinner at the moment, so maybe I will just wait. I too, saw a special concerning Spontaneous Human Combustion on tv not long ago and of course, being the worrywart that I am, I sadly thought to myself about what I could do to prevent myself from spontaneous combustion. Although, after today's class discussing risk and our prevalence of a certain risks occurring to us, my worries on this subject have changed. There are very, very few individuals that have actually been suspected of dying from spontaneous combustion so the relative risk of myself suffering from spontaneous combustion would be extremely low. Overall, there are many more issues I should be worrying about other than spontaneously combusting due to the risk being so low.

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