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Spontaneous human combustion

  1. Dec 8, 2004 #1
    Hey this is a weird subject but have any of you ever thought about what causes it, if it is indeed real? I have a theory but it may be totally wrong as I don't have a background in physics or chemistry. Well I read about solar neutrinos and how they pass through our bodies all the time. They rarely interact with matter at all and underground detectors can pick up their presense when one hits the cholorine atoms in them. I also read when a neutrino strikes a proton it converts it to a neutron. So I was wondering is it possible for a solar neutrino to hit a molecule in our bodies and start some kind of chain reaction or release a sudden burst of energy to start one? I know they put cholorine in our tap water to clean it so maybe every once in a while a neutrino collides with a chlorine atom in our bodies and releases energy. It would explain the rarity of the phenomenon if it was true.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2004 #2
  4. Dec 8, 2004 #3
    I think its all bollocks, people smoking cigarettes etc burning their clothes. Statistics is the way forward, it all seems so unlikely when there is so many more rational explanations.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2004
  5. Dec 9, 2004 #4


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    If your neutrino arguement were correct, what would stop it from happening outside the body? I've heard of no instances of spontaneous combustion of anything other than a person.
  6. Dec 9, 2004 #5
    yea I thought of that before. But where else are there chlorine37 isotopes surrounded by fatty tissues. When the neutrino strikes the chlorine37 it changes to argon37 which is radioactive and has a half life of 35 days. I don't know maybe that could mean something hehe
  7. Jan 6, 2005 #6
    I watched a really interesting doco and wrote a report on this topic back in year 10 high school. In the documentary they were able to recreate this 'phenomenon' using a pig in a tightly wrapped blanket. Basically it is like an inside-out candle, there is a small amount of accelerant on the blanket which causes it to ignite when a flame or heat source is present, say a cigarette. When the blanket ignited it acted as a wick which slowly burnt the wax (which was the fat in the body) in a similar fashion to old style lamps. This process went on for about 12-15 hours. After it had finished the pig was reduced to ashes (even the bones were destroyed).

    I can post the report if any one is interested
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2005
  8. Jan 6, 2005 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Always. Thanks mtong, and welcome to PF.
  9. Jan 6, 2005 #8
    i saw that but they put gasoline on it, the ppl killed by shc were not believed to have been soaked in gasoline or a combustible
  10. Jan 6, 2005 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    There was no gasoline used in the demonstration that I saw. There was a clean piece of cloth wrapped around fat.
  11. Jan 6, 2005 #10
    Thanks Ivan

    I think there was only about 200ml of gasoline used...it was just to help the blanket ignite. The experiment works either way as it relies on the 'wick effect'.

    PS. I will post the report as soon as posible, i am having computer troubles :mad:

    Attached is the report....remember was written back when i was in year 10 :smile:

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2005
  12. Jan 6, 2005 #11
    I have a theory on spontaneous human combustion...

    It involves:

    1) a sunny day

    2) a magnifying glass


    3) drunken angels

  13. Jan 6, 2005 #12


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    As a kid, I experienced this first hand while playing with a yo-yo. Granted, I had two books of matches in my pocket, but what are the odds of your yo-yo hitting your pocket at just the right angle for the matches in one open book to rub against the striker on the other book of matches. SHC is a much more likely possibility. (I think my dad would have found SHC more believable, as well - when I explained what had happened, he was convinced my brother and I were really just playing with matches.)

    Fortunately, I was awake and sober at the time and was able to pat the fire out before any serious damage occurred, but I was pretty shocked to have my pocket suddenly explode in flames, and my brother was incredibly impressed, at least whenever he could stop laughing long enough to say anything about it.

    Here's a link about SHC: http://www.csicop.org/si/9611/shc.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  14. Jan 7, 2005 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    attachment approved.
  15. Jan 8, 2005 #14


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    A single atom, yes. One single atom. You get more of it breathing.
  16. Jan 22, 2005 #15
    Quite so!

    Why do we never hear of spontaneous bovine combustion..... with all that methane inside them why don't they burst into flame at the drop of a pat?

    With all the people owning cats and dogs and other animals as pets why don't we hear about mysterious fiery destruction of dogs in their kennels or parrots in their cages? Do these neutrinos strike only human beings - or is Spontaneous Human Combustion something that only happens to human beings because it is caused by something human beings do?

    Also, why are so few case observed as they happen? Whenever anything is 'mysterious' we should be suspicious. There are plenty of cases of non-mysterious human combustion - unfortunately. Mysterious cases of human combustion tend to be thought of as cases of SHC because they are mysterious. I have heard of only one or two cases that cannot be explained by natural means - however unlikely those means were - when witnesses were present. This implies that lack of witnesses is a major factor in the paranormal explanation it is simply a case of ignotum per ignotius to explain an accident where there are no witnesses present to be caused by a paranormal event. To believe otherwise is to postulate a mysterious entity which tends only to strike when no visitors are present - a clear case of multiplying explanations and a breach of Occam's Razor.

  17. Jan 22, 2005 #16
    hey stop mocking my crackpot theory!
  18. Jan 22, 2005 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    I'd call that a balanced perspective. :biggrin:
  19. Jan 23, 2005 #18


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    I believe it. The mother of one of my friends used to do a lot of babysitting while we were still in high school. One day she had "confiscated" small objects the children had found or that she was just picking up (I can't recall that detail)...it included a couple of batteries, a I think it was a toy car with them...and dropped them in her pocket. A little while later, she noticed her pocket smoking!

    I used to tease my friend "like mother like son," because my friend is the same one who blew up his light bulb in 5th grade science class when we were learning about circuits and he connected a few too many batteries in series. :rofl:

    Anyway, the chlorine postulate doesn't hold up well because all animals have chloride ions, and lots of them, in the body. We'd all be bursting into flames on a regular basis if all it took was hitting chloride in the body.
  20. Jan 23, 2005 #19
    hurry remove my heinous theory before im stoned by the science community :eek:
  21. Jan 23, 2005 #20
    Sod It!

    No! Not yet! It might come in handy to explain something else!

    I have come across another mysterious phenomenon that really does need investigating and fast.

    I call this "Spontaneous Object Disappearance" (SOD) for example just now I went looking for my copy of "Kay and Laby" (Physical and Chemical Constants) and not only was it not on the shelf with the dictionaries where I left it but a quick search of my flat revealed that it was nowhere to be found! This has happened far too often to be mere coincidence. I first noticed this phenomenon years ago when during a game of chess one of the pawns fell on to the floor. A quick search failed to recover the pawn and subsequently I Hoovered the carpet and there was no tell-tale clatter from the object rattling past the roller! I emptied the dust-bag on to a newspaper and carefully went through the contents with my fingers (Yuk!) - nothing! This is where I first became aware of the phenomenon and in a Archimedes style ephiphany leapt to my feet and shouted "SOD!"

    Subsequently, I discovered more missing objects - or rather failed to find missing objects that really should have reappeared following a good search. I also noticed that there were certain conditions which tended to favour a SOD event such as when there were a lot of people present. Indeed, after one overnight party I held when I was a student I found the next day that all of my ABBA records had gone! (God! That dates me!) Now I know what you are thinking. Someone at the party stole the records but I have already thought of that. Whenever I casually dropped the subject of ABBA into a conversation everyone expressed a dislike for said Swedish Songsters! Explain that you sceptics! How could they have been stolen when nobody wanted them in the first place?

    During my student years I experienced many SOD Events. The commonest being my disappearing homework, essays and library books. But single earrings were and remain the commonest! Now this cannot be someone stealing the earrings as if so they would have taken the pair! A single earring is use to neither man nor beast - especially as they were always the girly drop type and no man would steal those (well none of the men who found their way to my flat anyway! - Oh no.) Ashtrays and towels also disappeared on occasion and yet none of my student friends smoked and few of them washed so how does one explain that?

    As a partial explanation I frequently discover wire coathangers in my wardrobe when I never purchased said object and I have also found towels bearing such legends as "Istanbul Hilton" or "Charing Cross Hospital". All very mysterious but suggesting that when objects disappear the also appear somewhere else. This has led me to postulate the mini-black hole theory. My current version of this theory is that the physical universe is actually constructed out of extremely small black holes which exist in charged pairs each with a half spin and out of these are constructed quarks and subsequently all matter. When a nutrino strikes a pair of mini-black holes they split in two and a chain reaction causes a positive or negative midi-black hole to form that is large enough to swallow earrings, books, records, coathangers, towels - or even people (I never did explain the mysterious disappearance of the guy I got back to my flat on Christmas Eve). Depending on the polarity of the midi black hole it either absorbs or ejects objects.

    I have subsequently noticed an Information Technology version of the phenomenon. This is when documents and other files stored on my PC totally disappear or even more weirdly turn out to be something totally different with the same name - such as when my notes for a presentation that I had painstakingly compiled on the previous day were mysteriously replaced by a template for producing a "Congratulations on your new baby!" greeting card! This has happened so frequently that I always half expect it now and whenever it occurs I just announce it with the acronym; "SOD IT!" and move on to something else.

    Has anyone else noticed any SODS whilst going about their work?

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