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  #1  
Old 27 January 2007, 01:42 AM
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Flame Mystery of 'combustion' smoldered for centuries

In the three centuries since spontaneous human combustion was first discussed by researchers, many culprits have been blamed. These days, most experts have dismissed the phenomenon as myth.

http://www.latimes.com/features/prin...3823291.column
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  #2  
Old 27 January 2007, 03:27 AM
medtchva
 
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Still seems to me that it would be possible. Think about all the gas and fat our bodies hold... and we do have electric current to cause a spark... sometime, somewhere it must have happened.
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  #3  
Old 27 January 2007, 04:07 AM
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Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by medtchva View Post
Still seems to me that it would be possible. Think about all the gas and fat our bodies hold... and we do have electric current to cause a spark... sometime, somewhere it must have happened.
Well, the electric currents in the nerves and muscles (of humans, anyway, as opposed to some eels) are much too feeble to produce a visible spark. However, we can easily produce a spark by shuffling over a dry carpet and touching a piece of metal, so that is an objection that is easily overcome.

The biggest problem -- familiar to anyone who has ever had to cremate the carcass of a farm animal -- is that large animals (like humans) are very, very wet. We're big bags of water. We do not burn readily.

The prevailing theory on "spontaneous" combustion involves a person falling over dead in the presence of an open flame, which slowly liquifies the fat in their bodies and uses it like the wax in a candle.

Silas (fuel efficient)
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  #4  
Old 27 January 2007, 09:33 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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I recently saw a documentary on this (I think it was Supernatural Science, but I'm not sure).

To make a long story short, they explained it with something as mundane as a wich effect. Someone catches fire, perhaps due to a cigarette, but it's a fire that starts slowly. Body fat is melted and clothes, furniture or in one case, a carpet of pine needles, acts as a wick. This causes a slow, but hot and persistent flame that even burns bones, but has a very local effect. They produced some very convincing evidence, and duplicated the results almost perfectly with an animal carcass.

So, there is nothing spontaneous about the combustion, the body doesn't just disintegrate from within for no obvious reason. The combustion starts in a very ordinary way, and the wick effekt gives it the typical pattern of the phenomenon, with almost complete destruction of the body and little other damage.

On the other hand, I have quite a low opinion on the general standard of documentaries, so they might be wrong. Still, it's the by far most plausible explanation I've seen.
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  #5  
Old 27 January 2007, 10:15 AM
lazerus the duck
 
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These documentaries tend to gloss over the cases where people have been left for a short period of time and had the same effect.
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  #6  
Old 27 January 2007, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazerus the duck View Post
These documentaries tend to gloss over the cases where people have been left for a short period of time and had the same effect.
For example?
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  #7  
Old 27 January 2007, 01:18 PM
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I know the cause of spontaneous combustion! Belly-button lint!

fran "cleanest belly-button around" java
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  #8  
Old 27 January 2007, 04:24 PM
lazerus the duck
 
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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
For example?
There are examples all over the place, usually in the books telling us that SHC is done with the slow wick effect. But here is an artical where SHC was ruled out 'because it happened too fast'.
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  #9  
Old 27 January 2007, 04:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazerus the duck View Post
There are examples all over the place, usually in the books telling us that SHC is done with the slow wick effect. But here is an artical where SHC was ruled out 'because it happened too fast'.
But that example was someone in the article quoted as having said that, not a published book ar article claiming that. (It's not exactly a very convincing article or source, either. Just my opinion.)
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  #10  
Old 27 January 2007, 05:08 PM
lazerus the duck
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
But that example was someone in the article quoted as having said that, not a published book ar article claiming that. (It's not exactly a very convincing article or source, either. Just my opinion.)
which isn't the convincing source? Sydney Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail (Brisbane) or the NSW Fire Brigade Inspector Donald Walshe?
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  #11  
Old 27 January 2007, 09:25 PM
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Neener, Neener Neener neener neener!

Well, Mythbusters proved it can't happen, so nyah!

Although, for the life of me, I can't find an official Mythbusters source for it, not even on on Wikipedia, which I've just spent forever on. Trust me, it involved dead pigs, and no spontanious combustion...
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  #12  
Old 28 January 2007, 01:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazerus the duck View Post
which isn't the convincing source? Sydney Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail (Brisbane) or the NSW Fire Brigade Inspector Donald Walshe?
Fortean Times. Anyway, I sure would like to see one of the articles, documentaries, or other published articles about spontaneous combustion in which cases were "glossed over" because they were known to happen too quickly. I don't know of any serious investigator who has blamed every case on the wick effect and I've never heard one simply dimiss a case out of hand because it happened too quickly. (In the case of the woman in a car on a sunny day, I can think of a few ways a fire could start. I can also think of a few reasons the witness testimony might not be so reliable in a case where someone left an alzheimer patient alone in a car. So the case you offered isn't very solid.)
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  #13  
Old 28 January 2007, 02:15 PM
lazerus the duck
 
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Ah I don't see the point in going on then, anybody that questions the validity of the fortean times will be willing to dismiss any evidence out of hand.
The fortean times is the most reliable reporter of anomalous events you'll ever find, questioning that is like questioning the validity of snopes on urban legends.
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  #14  
Old 28 January 2007, 02:45 PM
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I'm with lazerus. 'The Fortean Times' is a very reliable magazine on unexplained phenomena. It never accepts evidence without a reliable source. If something cannot be readily explained, then it suggests the most logical (or least illogical) explanation as being the most likely. It has no truck with outlandish conspiracy theories unless they can produce evidence.

Anyway, 'The Fortean Times' has provided many cases over the years of apparent SHC. It has also tried to find common themes running through different cases. Many, but not all, of the victims of SHC had been drinking before their combustion and many of them were elderly. Another common theme is that things around the victim are often not burnt. One person died in his chair, but the chair itself was only charred.

Another case I remember is when the victim died with her body being burnt completely, apart from the lower part of one leg which appeared to be intact. (There is a photograph of this remaining leg.) The 'FT' will say that none of this definitely proves that there is SHC, far less how or why it happens, but there is a body of evidence to suggest it is a true phenomena. (See the 'FT' over many years for references.)

(Oh, and I have only seen a few 'Mythbusters', but just because they cannot get a pig - presumably dead - to spontaneously combust does not mean that SHC does not occur. However, I have not seen the programme in question.)
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  #15  
Old 28 January 2007, 03:22 PM
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I think that what's important to note about The Fortean Times is that it makes no pretence to objectivity, and each article is written from the subjective point of view of the author. Probably the most infamous example of this is when they printed an article declaring the moon landings to be fake. The whole thing, of course, was the usual urban legend/bad science that we have no doubt all heard of and debunked before now.

So to say that anything appearing in the Fortean Times must have stood up to scrutiny is false.
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  #16  
Old 28 January 2007, 04:00 PM
lazerus the duck
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trollface View Post
I think that what's important to note about The Fortean Times is that it makes no pretence to objectivity, and each article is written from the subjective point of view of the author. Probably the most infamous example of this is when they printed an article declaring the moon landings to be fake. The whole thing, of course, was the usual urban legend/bad science that we have no doubt all heard of and debunked before now.

So to say that anything appearing in the Fortean Times must have stood up to scrutiny is false.
But to say news reports are unreliable because they come from fortean times is immense in its ignorance of what fortean times actually does.
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  #17  
Old 28 January 2007, 07:58 PM
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Well, no it's not. By the very fact that they report things from a more subjective point of view than an objective one, their reports are not something that can be seen as reliable from an objective point of view. I love The Fortean Times, but I don't think it can be presented as a reliable, unquestionable news source.
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  #18  
Old 28 January 2007, 08:37 PM
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The Fortean Times operates like most newspapers: headlines on page one, retractions on page F-34 in very small type.

More seriously: stories like these have a kind of "cycle." There is the headline -- "Woman bursts into flame on Chicago sidewalk" -- followed, gradually, over a period of days and weeks, by the truth. No, she didn't.

Each diminution of the outre details of the case is mirrored by a diminution of the volume of media bandwidth covering it. There is a kind of mundanity to the mere truth that flaming error wildly transcends.

Let me know when you see a news headline, "Billions go to work, earn a living, go home, eat well and sleep soundly."

Silas
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  #19  
Old 28 January 2007, 09:19 PM
lazerus the duck
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trollface View Post
Well, no it's not. By the very fact that they report things from a more subjective point of view than an objective one, their reports are not something that can be seen as reliable from an objective point of view. I love The Fortean Times, but I don't think it can be presented as a reliable, unquestionable news source.
They actually report things from an objective point of view. That newspaper report is a newspaper report it is not someones interpritation of the news paperreport. It came 100% from the newspaper, so 100% objective.
You really need to learn about what you speak.
I asked if you had a problem with the papers cited you only seemed to have a fictional problem with the fortean times.
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  #20  
Old 28 January 2007, 09:44 PM
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Quote:
Minutes later, she saw smoke coming from the car, followed by an explosion of flames.

Snip...

The car was not running; there was no trace of liquid accelerants and no faulty wiring.
I'll tell you what is weird, no liquid accelerants in a car.
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