Is it possible for a human's metabolism to set them on fire?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by 0ddball, Dec 18, 2017.

  1. 0ddball Registered Member

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    I'm not sure where to post this, so I'm just going to post it here. I'm a complete noob to science so go easy on me.

    I was inspired to post by a news article from 2 days ago about an elderly man named John Nolan, who was seen to 'burst into flames' and later died. His last words referred to a cigarette but his death is listed as unexplained.


    http://thefreaky.net/london-police-investigate-strange-case-spontaneous-human-combustion/

    It also made the headlines in the news and they're saying it's another case of metabolism setting people on fire aka ''spontaneous human combustion''.https://www.reddit.com/r/Unresolved...rsts_into_flames_on_london/dre7j83/?context=3

    (The news article links are in that reddit thread)

    There's also a person's anecdote which involves seeing and smelling smoke coming from their friend's bare skin (they didn't feel any pain while this was happening and were un harmed afterwards); https://www.reddit.com/r/Unresolved...riously_bursts_into_flames_on_london/drcwzkw/

    Is it really possible for body metabolism to do this? (Either generally all over the body, or localized to just limbs or a leg?) Can metabolism/chemical reactions very suddenly get very hot - enough to cause fire or smoke to appear on the skin? I've read about other cases of people's skin smoking who are said to be ''almost'' victims of spontaneous combustion, but every time they don't feel any pain while their body/body part is giving off smoke from internal heat.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
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  3. Michael 345 Next mythical choc bunnies for mystic who died Valued Senior Member

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    No

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  5. 0ddball Registered Member

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    Hi Michael, thanks for the reply and quick too! Do you mind elaborating on why this isn't possible?
     
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  7. 0ddball Registered Member

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  8. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    The old chap may have been prone to drinking lighter fluid or similar spilt it in his beard over his clothes, I have such happen whilst drinking rocket fuel.. Lit his cigarette and he catches fire.. Anyways stories grow.
    Cloud happen drinking metho maybe?
    Myth busters should test the myth.
    But use human bodies none of this we will use a pig.
    Alex
     
  9. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    I've seen one show that presented a reasonable case for autocombustion. However, I'm not a chemist so I can't verify any of that information, so "possibly".
     
  10. 0ddball Registered Member

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    Possibly, but what's your verdict on the person who says they saw smoke coming from their friend's bare skin, yet they felt no pain during this? They said they could smell the smoke and even as he rolled his sleeves up smoke kept coming from his bare skin on both arms.
     
  11. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Who knows I would like to see it a couple of times before I thought too much about it.
    He could have been high on something making him not feel the pain.
    I remeber one night near chopping off my little toe on night with a skin full at a nice party on the beach. Didnt really notice until the next day. So.

    Should ask myth busters and they can blow something up.. All good.
    Alex
     
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Reported as a sock of Gaiagirl, Frank Baker, Leo Corvidae and many others.

    I knew he would come out of the woodwork after this latest cock and bull story. It surfaced last week, 3 months after the event. I think this is probably due to a police appeal for witnesses, that was issued on 15th Dec. http://news.met.police.uk/news/appe...ing-death-of-man-from-fire-in-haringey-285286

    According to this and news reports I have found, the guy was a 70yr old Irish ex-building worker and regular smoker, who had suffered a stroke and was disabled. Pound to a penny what happened was he fumbled his cigarette lighter, set his clothes on fire and was too disabled to react in time to stop the blaze from developing.

    But perhaps a good one for Magical Realist and River to mount a crusade over. Seems to be right up their street.

    Me, I'm waiting for a re-run of the exploding thymus gland story
    http://www.sciforums.com/threads/co...adly-than-many-may-think.142128/#post-3209069
    .........

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    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
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  13. 0ddball Registered Member

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    His lighter fluid was found in his home. He did not have lighter fluid on him:
    https://www.thesun.ie/news/1563646/...ch-marks-on-his-internal-organs-before-dying/
     
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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  15. Michael 345 Next mythical choc bunnies for mystic who died Valued Senior Member

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    Quick I just happened to be on phone/net
    Apart from fat little else in the body burns easily, note easily, as its about 70% water

    Water and blood boil close enough the same at 212°F

    Fat "burns" in the body by metabolism with the help of carbohydrates, and is responsible for most of the normal temperature of the body

    115 degrees Fahrenheit is the highest recorded body temperature from which someone has survived

    On July 10, 1980, 52-year-old Willie Jones of Atlanta was admitted to the hospital with heatstroke and a temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. He spent 24 days in the hospital and survived. Jones holds the Guinness Book of World Records honor for highest recorded body temperature.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsa...t-be-surprised-when-you-take-your-temperature

    This temperature was NOT reached by body metabolism

    Fat burns, with a flame, in the range of 1472° to 1652 °F

    So at 115° we are a little bit short temperature wise

    Next for combustion we need oxygen. The oxygen in the air would be sufficient except the fat (fuel) is not hot enough. I am literally guessing being soaked in water would not help the fat burn either

    That's my amateur biology explanation and from my paranormal reading about spontaneous combustion I understand the chimney effect is responsible for the odd results noted about the deaths

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  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Quite. But this is Frank Baker/Gaiagirl's obsession. Every time he comes out with a new case, he "innocently" asks whether human metabolism is capable of producing the required temperatures - and never listens to the answer of course.

    If you get meat or fish hot on a barbecue it will often burst into flames, if you are not careful, as the fat melts out of the tissues. A doddery disabled guy dropping his match into the cuff of his jacket could get quickly enveloped in flames. In all these cases of so called spontaneous combustion there is a source of ignition around and a reason why the person involved cannot react quickly. In this case I would not be surprised to discover that Irish whiskey may have played a cameo role in getting the fire established. There will be a suitably prosaic explanation. I gather there is to be an inquest in March next year. I doubt the papers will be reporting a great mystery. The woo websites will love it now, as the evidence has yet to be provided. Once it has been, they will move on.
     
  17. Michael 345 Next mythical choc bunnies for mystic who died Valued Senior Member

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    I understand but I was bored so I did a little bit of looking up some facts and figures instead of ...............<<<<----- put whatever you like from your imagination in there as long as it comes close to
    "No, are you stupid or something?"

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  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    'We're not sure how he was immolated' does not translate into 'It was spontaneous Human Combustion'.

    While it might seem implausible that he had a pack of matches - or the report about his lighter was in error - those are still orders of magnitude more plausible than SHC.
    That's the thing about such incidents; there's no way to exclude innumerable mundane happenstance.


    As for smoking skin - because it looks like smoke, don't make it smoke.
    It could just as easily be moisture evaporating from warm skin into cool air. I've seen this myself on a cold winter day.
     
  19. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    No.
    No in both cases.
    No. You might see steam if they are wet and it's cold out. No smoke.

    Any other questions?
     
  20. 0ddball Registered Member

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    The person who said they saw smoke coming from their friend's skin said it smelled like smoke, so it was not steam.
     
  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, when I read that I was immediately reminded of rowing in wintertime on the Thames. When the boat stopped, you could see wisps of "steam" rising from the hot and sweaty rowers.

    As for "spontaneous combustion" the Wiki article points out that what all supposed cases have in common is (a) a source or likely source of ignition and ( b ) some incapacity on the part of the victim that makes it hard to respond rapidly to clothing, furniture etc catching alight.

    In this case we have a 70 yr old regular smoker who had had a stroke and had very poor mobility. QED.

    I'd be rather more impressed to find an example of a young and fit, sober non-smoker, who was not asleep and who nevertheless inexplicably burst into flames. But of course no such cases exist.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2017
  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Moderator note: Oddball is permanently banned. This user has a one-track mind and his pet topic has been extensively canvassed previously. The user has created a number of sock puppets over the years, and only ever posts on the same topic.

    I will leave the thread open for discussion of the topic for those who are interested and who haven't seen the previous discussions. (You might like to search old threads...)
     
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  23. Michael 345 Next mythical choc bunnies for mystic who died Valued Senior Member

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    You don't think he might be considering a firebug crime and try to make it look like spontaneous human combustion????

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