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I How hot will a human body burn?

  1. Jul 11, 2016 #1
    A curious question that's come to my mind, as i'm doing a little research for game development, aiming for realism here.

    Assume you have a human corpse, not doused in any special kind of fuel, but wearing cotton/polyester clothing. And you set it alight, to slowly burn over time. I've heard of cases of this happening to humans, and a body can burn away to nothing if there's some fat there to fuel the flames.

    But anyways, my question is, how hot would that fire be? And by extension, what temperature would it raise the surroundings to over the time that it burns?

    Exact values would be nice, but not necessary, some ballpark figures will do, maybe an analysis of how a human corpse burns
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2016 #2


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    I can't answer the question in the way that you're hoping for (I'll leave that for someone else), but I do know that incinerators are preheated to around 1,100 °F and the bodies come out at a temperature of 1,400-1,800 °F during the cremation process.

    I presume that your game is violent. Fun stuff :devil:.
  4. Jul 12, 2016 #3
    hah, yes it is/.
    I'm aware of the temperatures incinerators use, but those also use an external fuel, usually flammable gas of some sort. I'm interested in the temperatures reachable when the corpse is the only fuel used
  5. Jul 13, 2016 #4


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    In real life, bodies rarely burn. Those that do burn do not do so quickly enough to make for an enjoyable spectacle or to heat up their surroundings significantly. Instead of visualizing a bonfire, visualize a candle.
  6. Jul 13, 2016 #5
    Yeah, and candle wax is almost exclusively made of hydrocarbons...
    I don't know if you have noticed but humans contain a lot of water. ;P

    Stupid model time: Imagine a human tissue or something made up of 70 percent water and 30 percent hydrocarbons.
    How high would the temperature of the resultant water vapor+carbon dioxide gas be if you magically let all of it react without applying external heat ?
    Would that temperature actually be high enough to sustain the chemical reaction ?
    You could actually calculate that. The enthalpy of carbon dioxide, water and a general value for a few hydrocarbons as well as the enthalphy of vaporisation for water are not hard to find. If somebody does the calculations feel free to drop the answer.:End of stupid model time.

    Maybe imagining a green leaf "burning" is more accurate than both a bonfire and a candle.
    Whoever burns people in your game might have to to dry them first :-p.(bleeding them first may help)
    I guess there are reasons people collected a lot of extra fuel in order to burn human remains:wink:.

    At this point I advise to maybe not ruin everything in order to maintain realism.
    Works of "art" don't have to be scientifically accurate.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  7. Jul 13, 2016 #6


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    Very well said! It is a game, after all. Luckily, our universe isn't situated within a giant dehydrator.
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