Coroner's verdict: Spontaneous combustion

Discuss

27 Responses to “Coroner's verdict: Spontaneous combustion”

  1. ordinal says:

    “Spontaneous human combustion” is such a lazy verdict. “Why did this man die?” “Oh he just _caught fire_. Yeah. Happens.”

  2. Mace Moneta says:

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

    No logic, no reason.  The body was found near the (burning) fireplace.  Perhaps a more plausible explanation is that he had a heart attack, or slipped and cracked his skull.  Then a burning ember ignited his body.  No, that might make sense.  Let’s just go with magic.

  3. ZikZak says:

    We would like to assure the public that the recent introduction of blipverts has no connection to this tragic incident.

  4. Tyler Roy-Hart says:

    The coroner, in the living room, with the flamethrower.

  5. Dunno, the way some habenaro salsa rips through my guts after a shot of tequila, I’ve lit up farts that could have exploded entire buildings

  6. ChurchTucker says:

    The Mythbusters never did a segment on SHC. They did do one on spontaneous pants explosion (SPE?)

  7. I loved reading about spontaneous human combustion as a kid.  The most likely explanation I’ve seen is almost as interesting as the fictional one.  It’s called the “Wick Effect” and essentially a small spark turns the clothes into a wick and body fat provides the fuel.  Science is neat!

  8. Michael Leddy says:

    Somewhere  Charles Dickens is smiling. He believed in spontaneous human combustion and has a horrific scene of its aftermath in Bleak House.

  9. What a weird story.  It’s not like the guy was found burnt to crisp in a cold-room or something.  According to the article,he was found his head close to an open fire. What I’d like to know is: what exactly does it mean when the article states that forensics determined that the fire in the fireplace was not what burnt the deceased?  How exactly would they do that, or is it even possible?  “Well, the fire in the fireplace was warm and inviting.  The fire that killed the man, on the other hand, was pitiless and all-consuming.  The guy knew the fire he’d lit, but we suspect the attacker was a stranger.”

  10. IamInnocent says:

    I don’t really care about SHC or NDE. People have the beliefs that they want and can. it is no business of mine. They rarely force those beliefs on others, so be it.

    What bothers me seriously though are ‘scientists’ grasping at piecemeal evidence to ‘demonstrate’ that something that they don’t want to exist doesn’t. To explain SHC they burn a pig in a nighty and they explain NDE by the ubiquitous person who is affected with Alzheimer and Parkinson and have their left temporal lobe magnetically stimulated while having all sorts of blood shortcomings. For Galileo’s sake, let go of it and actually study something useful, fun or enlightening but, moreover, something that one actually can study, observe, experiment upon.

    • RadioSilence says:

      “What bothers me seriously though are ‘scientists’ grasping at piecemeal evidence to ‘demonstrate’ that something that they don’t want to exist doesn’t.”

      That’s pretty bad science if that’s what they’re doing. It’s easy to find evidence for or against something if you have a result you’re looking for. 
      What a scientist asks is ‘does SHC happen?’, and then conducts experiments to find out. So far they haven’t found good evidence that it does happen, although lack of evidence doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, just that no one’s found any evidence of it happening. So far I’m skeptical that it happens but if good evidence emerges then I’ll change my opinion.

  11. sef says:

    It was those FTL neutrinos wot did it.

  12. Nadreck says:

    Other jurisdictions like this verdict too.  It makes things so simple.  Back when Mike Harris was premier of Ontario, he found a new Gal Pal when they were both in Rehab together.  There was one obstacle to this Great Romance though: her husband the race track gambler.  Fortunately he died in a fire while sitting in a car in the driveway of his home.  The Ontario Provincial Police investigated and determined, after their usual through investigation, that he had died of Spontaneous Combustion.

  13. Scepticism overload in here. I have to think they could tell the difference between a fireplace that had been operation at time of death and one that hadn’t. If you can rule out something as easily as “there were no ashes in the fireplace,” then yeah, this becomes pretty hard to explain.

    One thing I find curiously absent from all this coverage is that spontaneous human combustion usually afflicts people over 70.  Almost exclusively, in fact, which might have a lot to do with whatever causes it.

    Finally, there’s a difference between a UFO and an alien spaceship.  The first is just a way of saying an phenomenon is unexplained.  What a coroner calls “spontaneous human combustion” is not defying the laws of causality – it just means it’s impossible to determine, and may not have been induced by an outside force.

    The reason you shouldn’t keep oily rags in your basement is because they “spontaneously” combust.  This doesn’t defy logic – in fact, it’s so logical it’s standard household safety. It follows that what can ignite an oily rag can ignite the more flammable materials in the human body too, cf, methane.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      The reason you shouldn’t keep oily rags in your basement is because they “spontaneously” combust. This doesn’t defy logic – in fact, it’s so logical it’s standard household safety. It follows that what can ignite an oily rag can ignite the more flammable materials in the human body too, cf, methane.

      Oily rags spontaneously combust because they have an enormous surface area at the microscopic level and the evaporative effect can be concentrated in a small area. That can’t happen with human flesh. If the deceased were wearing oil-soaked clothing, that could combust.

  14. Ronald Pottol says:

    Looks like a typical case, though hardly “spontaneous”. You have a person who was plausibly unconscious (i.e. being on fire would not rouse them), an ignition source, and evidence of a long burning small fire (room never flashed over, but quite a bit of smoke damage, and the body is almost completely destroyed). This is the wick effect, it is odd, in that bones will be completely consumed (which does not happen in a crematorium), and yet often a foot will be left, or perhaps a hand, and everything else is hardly damaged by flame.  It has been reproduced in lab settings with pig carcases.

    It’s unusual, but reasonably well understood, and it sure does leave an unconventional looking fire scene!

  15. ryuthrowsstuff says:

    Oily rags don’t necessarily combust “spontaneously” in the sense of instantly, completely and without outside influence (as in SHC). They just require very little to get started, and its rather easy for those vapors to hit their autoignition temperature (~280C for gas ~315C or higher for various oils) . The oily rag comparison is way off be cause both these mechanisms have been thoroughly debunked. The human body does not create any vapors or substances in quantity sufficient to ignite from tiny sparks or static electricity, and if it did they’d be pretty well shielded by being inside the body. The autoignition temp for a human being is sited as being ~400-500C, and the flesh itself would be unable to combust until all or most of the water in the tissue had boiled off.

    So one way oily rags burst into flame is likely impossible in the human body in isolation, and the other takes a fair amount of time and an outside heat source. Neither would be particularly “spontaneous” in the usual sense associated with SHC.

  16. ryuthrowsstuff says:

    Yeah given how vague the circumstances are there wouldn’t be many ways they could try to replicate and test the myth itself. Throw 15 grandmas in separate rooms and wait till one explodes? They could conceivably test a number of the proposed explanations. Methane build up in the digestive tract, electrical discharge in the muscles, static electricity etc. They deal more with engineering problems than general debunking.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Yeah given how vague the circumstances are there wouldn’t be many ways they could try to replicate and test the myth itself. Throw 15 grandmas in separate rooms and wait till one explodes?

      Add CCTVs and you’ve got a new cable channel.

  17. IamInnocent says:

    Here’s my hypothesis: those people fermented for too long. If farting is involved, why look any further ?

  18. atteSmythe says:

    Man, I was just making fun of “Fan Death” the other day, and I completely forgot that we have “Spontaneous Human Combustion.” I guess there’s one in every culture!

Leave a Reply