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Thread: Is it possibIe for a human to SpontaneousIy Combust?

  1. #1 Is it possibIe for a human to SpontaneousIy Combust? 
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    Recently, I came across a news article about a man by the name of Frank Baker, who says he survived SHC. His witness is his friend, Willey. He also claims that he went to a doctor, and that this doctor called him back, saying he had burnt from the inside out. I also recall the case in India, of a baby named Rahul, whose family claimed that he had spontaneously combusted four times, and required hospital intervention.

    Enzymes in the body break down chemicals to produce heat, so I'm wondering...


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    ha . what?!
    I think you need to provide links here with evidence.


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    I don't need to, just Google search ''Frank Baker huffington post'' and ''ABC news baby rahul spontaneously combusts 4 times''
    These cases made HEADLINES so I don't know how you could miss them.
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    In the right conditions anything Is possible.

    Why repeat the mistake right?
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    This is what I usually say to telemarketers for excuse to hang up, "Oh no! My grandma she's... ON FIRE!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Recently, I came across a news article about a man by the name of Frank Baker, who says he survived SHC. His witness is his friend, Willey. He also claims that he went to a doctor, and that this doctor called him back, saying he had burnt from the inside out. I also recall the case in India, of a baby named Rahul, whose family claimed that he had spontaneously combusted four times, and required hospital intervention.

    Enzymes in the body break down chemicals to produce heat, so I'm wondering...

    I have learnt not to rely on anecdotes, so I went to Google Scholar to see if there were papers about SHC.

    It seems that reports of SHC go back to at least the 17th century (Thierry, W. et al., 2011), although there is sufficient reason to assume that these cases were being exaggerated by the witnesses and the media. The latter is stated in this paper (Adelson, L., 1952):
    "The cases in the literature are readily explained as accidents or (rarely) as homicides. The severe generalized destruction of the body formerly considered to be at variance with the ordinary effect of fire is known now to be quite possible. It is not improbable that the degree of burning was exaggerated by writers and sensation seekers to help emphasize a point, a feature of news reporting not unknown today."

    Anyway, I find it highly unlikely that enzyme activity would produce so much heat that the body would start to burn.
    SHC seems to me as the ignition of body fat by an external source (e.g. matches).

    From (Gromb, S. et al., 2000):
    "It is now accepted that under certain circumstances, a body can burn by combustion of its own fat with little or no damage to the close surroundings, and that such combustion is never ‘spontaneous’, but is instead ignited by an external source of flame. (...) The external source which started the fire may disappear during the combustion process, which explains the absence of heat source when the corpse is discovered."
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    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Recently, I came across a news article about a man by the name of Frank Baker, who says he survived SHC. His witness is his friend, Willey. He also claims that he went to a doctor, and that this doctor called him back, saying he had burnt from the inside out. I also recall the case in India, of a baby named Rahul, whose family claimed that he had spontaneously combusted four times, and required hospital intervention.

    Enzymes in the body break down chemicals to produce heat, so I'm wondering...

    I have learnt not to rely on anecdotes, so I went to Google Scholar to see if there were papers about SHC.

    It seems that reports of SHC go back to at least the 17th century (Thierry, W. et al., 2011), although there is sufficient reason to assume that these cases were being exaggerated by the witnesses and the media. The latter is stated in this paper (Adelson, L., 1952):
    "The cases in the literature are readily explained as accidents or (rarely) as homicides. The severe generalized destruction of the body formerly considered to be at variance with the ordinary effect of fire is known now to be quite possible. It is not improbable that the degree of burning was exaggerated by writers and sensation seekers to help emphasize a point, a feature of news reporting not unknown today."

    Anyway, I find it highly unlikely that enzyme activity would produce so much heat that the body would start to burn.
    SHC seems to me as the ignition of body fat by an external source (e.g. matches).

    From (Gromb, S. et al., 2000):
    "It is now accepted that under certain circumstances, a body can burn by combustion of its own fat with little or no damage to the close surroundings, and that such combustion is never ‘spontaneous’, but is instead ignited by an external source of flame. (...) The external source which started the fire may disappear during the combustion process, which explains the absence of heat source when the corpse is discovered."
    That still doesn't explain Frank Baker's case, or people who were seen spontaneously combusting, or survived SHC.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    That still doesn't explain Frank Baker's case, or people who were seen spontaneously combusting, or survived SHC.

    What is your explanation for these reports?
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    That still doesn't explain Frank Baker's case, or people who were seen spontaneously combusting, or survived SHC.

    What is your explanation for these reports?
    Some metabolic runaway event causing such an increase in temperature that the skin and clothing ignites. Many enzymes are triggered by hormone release in the brain, so many things can go wrong there.
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    I once saw a grapefruit deep rich purple on the inside. My mother was not amused, but the guy who ran the printing press was giggling.

    Is it possible that of all the sick and horrible things people have done to each other and themselves, though history, causing such combustion might be one of them?
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    Talk about hand waving If you want this to be taken seriously you need to do some work, which enzyme? Look up the thermodynamic data, work out how much enzyme is present and from this how much heat could be produced and what temperature rise this would cause. Would this be high enough to initiate combustion? From my experience in chemical thermodynamics I'm guessing not even close. ETA this was a response to post #10
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    Spontaneous human combustion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    There seem to be many different causes, some unknown, so it isn't a single thing. In the case of Baker, maybe he had been using some sort of oil like linseed and had got some on his clothes. Who knows. Not enough information to draw any conclusions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Some metabolic runaway event causing such an increase in temperature that the skin and clothing ignites. Many enzymes are triggered by hormone release in the brain, so many things can go wrong there.

    The human body is a whole network of metabolic processes, let alone the immense complexity of human endocrinology and its relationship with neurology.
    You have to be more specific if you want to set up a new explanation for SHC (that does not seem to appear in the scientific literature, as far as I can tell).
    Last edited by Cogito Ergo Sum; January 28th, 2014 at 07:09 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Some metabolic runaway event causing such an increase in temperature that the skin and clothing ignites. Many enzymes are triggered by hormone release in the brain, so many things can go wrong there.

    The human body is a whole network of metabolic processes, let alone the immense of complexity of human endocrinology and its relationship with neurology.
    You have to be more specific if you want to set up a new explanation for SHC (that does not seem to appear in the scientific literature, as far as I can tell).
    I think SHC may be related to malignant hyperthermia. An ingested chemical triggers a incorrect hormone release which results in a metabolic runaway event. Malignant hyperthermia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia I think SHC may be a more extreme version of rapid malignant hyperthermia that is triggered by some food additive.
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    Do your country possess any forensic department?
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    I think SHC may be related to malignant hyperthermia.
    Then you should be able to provide some evidence to support that hypothesis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    I think SHC may be related to malignant hyperthermia.
    Then you should be able to provide some evidence to support that hypothesis.
    Well, it's hard to get a person enveloped in flames into a lab to be studied. We can only theorize.
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    What a lazy cop-out, read post #12 again to see the sort of evidence you could provide instead of making unsupported assertions. No lab needed...
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Well, it's hard to get a person enveloped in flames into a lab to be studied.
    There are other ways of producing evidence for a hypothesis.

    We can only theorize.
    Or, in your case, speculate. If you have no evidence to support this idea, then I think it can be safely ignored.
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    Well, there's evidence that people do spontaneously combust. There's a man named Frank Baker who was in the news speaking of his experience of surviving SHC.
    It would be impossible to study SHC scientifically, just as it is impossible to study meteorites while they're falling to the Earth scientifically. You can't scientifically study a falling meteorite physically in a lab. But it does happen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Well, there's evidence that people do spontaneously combust. There's a man named Frank Baker who was in the news speaking of his experience of surviving SHC.
    He said his clothes caught fire. I have given you one possible explanation (which at least is based on known phenomena). If it were due to malignant hyperthermia then he would be in hospital or dead.

    It would be impossible to study SHC scientifically
    Don't be ridiculous.

    , just as it is impossible to study meteorites while they're falling to the Earth scientifically
    Maybe you missed all the detailed analysis of the meteor that was filmed falling over Russia last year? Or the many observatories that record and study falling meteors?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Well, there's evidence that people do spontaneously combust. There's a man named Frank Baker who was in the news speaking of his experience of surviving SHC.
    He said his clothes caught fire. I have given you one possible explanation (which at least is based on known phenomena). If it were due to malignant hyperthermia then he would be in hospital or dead.

    It would be impossible to study SHC scientifically
    Don't be ridiculous.

    , just as it is impossible to study meteorites while they're falling to the Earth scientifically
    Maybe you missed all the detailed analysis of the meteor that was filmed falling over Russia last year? Or the many observatories that record and study falling meteors?
    Frank Baker's clothes caught fire due to the heat. Frank Baker says a doctor said that he had burnt from the inside-out.

    It is difficult to scientifically study a person enveloped in flames. The meteorite was captured on camera. But you can't teleport a falling meteorite into a lab, and you cannot study a person engulfed in flames.

    It is possible that only a clump of cells went into metabolic overdrive, so that the rest of his body was spared.

    Linseed oil on clothing would not produce burns that would lead a doctor to proclaim that he had burnt from the inside-out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    But you can't teleport a falling meteorite into a lab
    Are you saying that only things studied in a lab count? So astronomy, cosmology, climate science, ecology, geology and many other branches of science are not actually science?

    It is possible that only a clump of cells went into metabolic overdrive, so that the rest of his body was spared.
    And it is possible it was a joke by invisible pixies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    But you can't teleport a falling meteorite into a lab
    Are you saying that only things studied in a lab count? So astronomy, cosmology, climate science, ecology, geology and many other branches of science are not actually science?

    It is possible that only a clump of cells went into metabolic overdrive, so that the rest of his body was spared.
    And it is possible it was a joke by invisible pixies.
    Well, how do you scientifically study SHC? A person spontaneously combusts and they survive it, but they aren't going to run to the nearest scientist to be studied WHILE they're on fire.
    The doctor stated that Frank Baker did in fact burn from the inside-out.

    There are biologically plausible ways SHC can happen, and a metabolic runaway event, general or localized, may be the cause.

    There isn't anything stopping SHC from occurring. We cannot deny that the complex chemical reactions occurring in our bodies right now is the cause of our metabolic heat that keeps us alive.
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    Re-read post 12 and learn some thermodynamics. Calculate how much heat and compare this to how much would be needed for spontaneous combustion (this is a scientific way of studying the problem) rather than making hand-waving unsupported assertions (which is a pseudoscientfic approach to the problem).
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Well, how do you scientifically study SHC?
    As it has been scientifically studied, I would have thought that was fairly obvious. But you don't seem to know how science works.

    The doctor stated that Frank Baker did in fact burn from the inside-out.
    The doctor stated that Frank Baker did in fact burn from the inside-out.
    According to Baker.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    Re-read post 12 and learn some thermodynamics. Calculate how much heat and compare this to how much would be needed for spontaneous combustion (this is a scientific way of studying the problem) rather than making hand-waving unsupported assertions (which is a pseudoscientfic approach to the problem).
    Answer: human fat (say, on the skin) ignites at about 250 Celcius. So the body would need to heat itself up to that point. An over-abundance of enzymes could trigger this as they produce heat when breaking down chemicals in the body. Enzymes actually SPEED UP upon being heated, so the enzymatic reactions would just go faster and faster until the body ignites on the surface (where its exposed to oxygen).
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    Define over abundance and do the maths otherwise it is still an unsupported assertion. Also at the temperatures you are talking about enzymes are denatured and stop working, learn some basic chemistry/biology while you are at it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    Define over abundance and do the maths otherwise it is still an unsupported assertion. Also at the temperatures you are talking about enzymes are denatured and stop working, learn some basic chemistry/biology while you are at it.
    I don't need to do any math it's common sense...''over abundance'' an over-concentration of enzymes being produced. If enzymes denature at those temperatures then it'd still cause the skin to ignite since it ignites at the same temperature the enzymes denature (250 degrees Celcius)

    Another popular theory is a chemical reaction causes the heat.
    There are reactive molecules, such as hydrogen peroxide, and formaldehyde, etc, that react with organic molecules, and are produced by the body. Hydrogen peroxide in high concentration can cause organic materials to spontaneously combust from the heat produced when hydrogen peroxide reacts with them in high concentration.

    And, white blood cells produce hydrogen peroxide. An over-abundance of enzymes which produce this molecule would result in an over-abundance of hydrogen peroxide (higher concentration = more reactivity)
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    Utter rubbish. Still no evidence for your assertions apart from "it's common sense". Common sense is often wrong, that's why we use the scientific method over appeals to it. As for the other popular theory, what are the concentrations of those compounds? What are the enthalpy changes due to the reactions? You are still hand-waving when you should be calculating.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Well, how do you scientifically study SHC? A person spontaneously combusts and they survive it, but they aren't going to run to the nearest scientist to be studied WHILE they're on fire.
    The doctor stated that Frank Baker did in fact burn from the inside-out.

    There are biologically plausible ways SHC can happen, and a metabolic runaway event, general or localized, may be the cause.

    There isn't anything stopping SHC from occurring. We cannot deny that the complex chemical reactions occurring in our bodies right now is the cause of our metabolic heat that keeps us alive.
    As PHDemon has stated twice already, you can study what chemicals are in a human, then you can study what reactions can occur between those chemicals and discover if, and at what concentrations/quantities, they can give off enough energy to ignite human tissue. You don't need to cook a dude.

    EDIT: Oops, stated 3 times now...
    Last edited by Karsus; January 5th, 2014 at 09:55 AM. Reason: Conversation continuing while taking too long to respond. Herp.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karsus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Well, how do you scientifically study SHC? A person spontaneously combusts and they survive it, but they aren't going to run to the nearest scientist to be studied WHILE they're on fire.
    The doctor stated that Frank Baker did in fact burn from the inside-out.

    There are biologically plausible ways SHC can happen, and a metabolic runaway event, general or localized, may be the cause.

    There isn't anything stopping SHC from occurring. We cannot deny that the complex chemical reactions occurring in our bodies right now is the cause of our metabolic heat that keeps us alive.
    As PHDemon has stated twice already, you can study what chemicals are in a human, then you can study what reactions can occur between those chemicals and discover if, and at what concentrations/quantities, they can give off enough energy to ignite human tissue. You don't need to cook a dude.

    EDIT: Oops, stated 3 times now...
    Hydrogen peroxide is produced by white blood cells. These white blood cells contain enzymes which break down chemicals to produce hydrogen peroxide. It would be possible to have an over-abundance of these enzymes and other enzymes, and this would cause a high conc. of hydrogen peroxide to be produced, due to a higher concentration of enzymes. When hydrogen peroxide in high concentrations reacts with organic molecules (cells are full of these, and made of them) the reactions produce heat quite rapidly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    I think SHC may be related to malignant hyperthermia.
    Then you should be able to provide some evidence to support that hypothesis.
    Well, it's hard to get a person enveloped in flames into a lab to be studied. We can only theorize.
    Now you're speculating, I want to see the evidence that one. Show me that you've tried getting someone enveloped in flames into a lab.
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    Reply to post 34. For the xth time you are still hand waving. What concentrations are present, what are the enthalpies of reaction, can this account for the temperature increase required? Your inability to answer these questions mean you are speculating from a position of ignorance. You refusal to acknowledge you are hand-waving and speculating without data is crank behaviour please stop it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karsus View Post
    You don't need to cook a dude.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    Reply to post 34. For the xth time you are still hand waving. What concentrations are present, what are the enthalpies of reaction, can this account for the temperature increase required? Your inability to answer these questions mean you are speculating from a position of ignorance. You refusal to acknowledge you are hand-waving and speculating without data is crank behaviour please stop it.
    No need. Try getting a really reactive chemical at high concentration and then pouring it onto organic material. A lot of heat is released. Sometimes this causes the materials to spontaneously combust depending on the concentration, There are cases where hydrogen peroxide in hair dye has vaporized off of a surface and concentrated, and this caused the surface to spontaneously ignite (paper, for example).
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    Do you know what the reaction mechanism for white blood cells generating hydrogen peroxide actually is? i.e. The reactants involved and the intermediate steps in the reaction? Also, hydrogen peroxide is very reactive, likely being consumed very shortly after being generated. What mechanism do you think would allow it to reach the concentration necessary for the reaction to ignite human flesh?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karsus View Post
    Do you know what the reaction mechanism for white blood cells generating hydrogen peroxide actually is? i.e. The reactants involved and the intermediate steps in the reaction? Also, hydrogen peroxide is very reactive, likely being consumed very shortly after being generated. What mechanism do you think would allow it to reach the concentration necessary for the reaction to ignite human flesh?
    Well an over abundance of enzymes involved in hp synthesis. Yes it would be consumed very quickly but at a high concentration the decomposition of hp from it reacting with other molecules would produce heat, and you'd have a continuous over abundance of hp being produced because of too many enzymes, so the heat would build up and up.
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    Your ability to dodge questions noted. What is the concentration of hydrogen peroxide? It doesn't matter how much heat is given off at high concentrations if the concentrations in the body are close to bugger-all. What is the enthalpy change for the reaction? Multiply the two to get the heat generated. Calculate what temperature increase this could sustain. If you side-step these questions again I'll leave you to your ignorance as the thread is now in an appropriate forum that isn't taken seriously.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    Your ability to dodge questions noted. What is the concentration of hydrogen peroxide? It doesn't matter how much heat is given off at high concentrations if the concentrations in the body are close to bugger-all. What is the enthalpy change for the reaction? Multiply the two to get the heat generated. Calculate what temperature increase this could sustain. If you side-step these questions again I'll leave you to your ignorance as the thread is now in an appropriate forum that isn't taken seriously.
    The concentration in NORMAL white blood cells is low. About 0.01 percent.. but an over abundance of enzymes would produce an over abundance of hydrogen peroxide. I don't know what enthalpy means and I don't see how it's relevant. Just take a 99% hydrogen peroxide solution, and pour it on paper. The paper will spontaneously combust.
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    And this post is just too stupid for words, by what mechanism does a 0.01% concentration in the body become "over abundant" enough to be comparable to a 99% solution? You don't know what enthalpy is but you are trying to argue thermodynamics and are confident it is irrelevant. Utterly clueless. I'll leave you to it. Enjoy the pseudo forum, with your approach you'll spend a lot of time here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    The concentration in NORMAL white blood cells is low. About 0.01 percent.. but an over abundance of enzymes would produce an over abundance of hydrogen peroxide. I don't know what enthalpy means and I don't see how it's relevant. Just take a 99% hydrogen peroxide solution, and pour it on paper. The paper will spontaneously combust.
    Key sentence in bold.
    You won't ever get high concentrations in a human through that reaction alone. 1. You'll run out of reactants, enzymes don't produce the stuff, they just make it from surrounding chemicals. 2. The higher than normal concentration hydrogen peroxide will denature the enzymes so they don't work any more. 3. The fact that the reaction needs an enzyme to happen means that the equilibrium is very heavily weighted towards the reactants, so a runaway reaction creating high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide just can't happen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karsus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    The concentration in NORMAL white blood cells is low. About 0.01 percent.. but an over abundance of enzymes would produce an over abundance of hydrogen peroxide. I don't know what enthalpy means and I don't see how it's relevant. Just take a 99% hydrogen peroxide solution, and pour it on paper. The paper will spontaneously combust.
    Key sentence in bold.
    You won't ever get high concentrations in a human through that reaction alone. 1. You'll run out of reactants, enzymes don't produce the stuff, they just make it from surrounding chemicals. 2. The higher than normal concentration hydrogen peroxide will denature the enzymes so they don't work any more. 3. The fact that the reaction needs an enzyme to happen means that the equilibrium is very heavily weighted towards the reactants, so a runaway reaction creating high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide just can't happen.
    Enzymes take minutes to denature. The enzymes that produce hydrogen peroxide are kept in special organelles. What if there was an abundance of enzymes there, and the organelle ruptured, so the enzyme was exposed to a (lucky) over abundance of the substrate which allows the enzyme to make hydrogen peroxide? This would result in hp being produced rather rapidly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Enzymes take minutes to denature. The enzymes that produce hydrogen peroxide are kept in special organelles. What if there was an abundance of enzymes there, and the organelle ruptured, so the enzyme was exposed to a (lucky) over abundance of the substrate which allows the enzyme to make hydrogen peroxide? This would result in hp being produced rather rapidly.
    Congratulations, you've killed a single white blood cell in an extremely implausible way. There are much easier ways to do that, you know. The quantities we're talking about here are minuscule. The heat generated probably wouldn't be enough to raise the temperature of the surrounding cells by a fraction of a degree. This simply isn't a plausible mechanism for SHC.
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    What you're doing is exploring ways to make a human "spontaneously" combust without applying an understanding of the biology or chemistry behind your "what if". What if our blood turned into gasoline and an enzyme sparked?
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    The HP would be quickly used up reacting to the abundant organic material of the rest of the cell, and as soon as a rupture occurred the surrounding cells would trigger apoposis or similar to remove the damaged cell.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    What you're doing is exploring ways to make a human "spontaneously" combust without applying an understanding of the biology or chemistry behind your "what if". What if our blood turned into gasoline and an enzyme sparked?
    This sounds like a fun game.
    What if some people are born with little deposits of white phosphorous in their skin, and if they scratch too hard, the phosphorous hits oxygen and lights them up?
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    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    The baby's mother said that, nine days after his birth, she found him on fire after she left him alone momentarily.

    Of all the time a mother spends with her newborn baby, and it spontaneously ignites only when left alone?

    Authorities have not ruled out child abuse.
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    If anyone wants a clear description of what really happens in cases that people claim are instances of "spontaneous human combustion" I'm going to recommend something unusual. No. It's not a scientific paper nor a review article in a medical journal.

    It's a novel. The second in a series.

    The main character is a doctor - a forensic anthropologist. And the case for this novel is apparently SHC. "Written in Bone" by Simon Beckett. He doesn't just describe what has happened, he does a brief overview of the well-known cases that many people talk about when they say that people can spontaneously combust. They can't. The explanation is a bit gruesome but entirely logical and understandable by non-medically trained people.

    It's not inexplicable. It's not at all mysterious. It's certainly not spontaneous human combustion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    He doesn't just describe what has happened, he does a brief overview of the well-known cases that many people talk about when they say that people can spontaneously combust. They can't. The explanation is a bit gruesome but entirely logical and understandable by non-medically trained people.

    It's not inexplicable. It's not at all mysterious. It's certainly not spontaneous human combustion.

    So what is the explanation? Accidents? Suicide? Homicide?
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

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    The X-Files
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beer w/Straw View Post
    The X-Files
    Specifically, falling asleep while watching X-Files and smoking a cigarette....
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    So what is the explanation? Accidents? Suicide? Homicide?
    Usually an accident. Could be the result of suicide or homicide gone a bit strange.

    I'll give you the gruesome stuff if you really want it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    So what is the explanation? Accidents? Suicide? Homicide?
    Usually an accident. Could be the result of suicide or homicide gone a bit strange.

    I'll give you the gruesome stuff if you really want it.
    Yes please!
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    Okaaaay.

    The most common scenario for an apparent spontaneous human combustion is the discovery of a more or less completely burnt human body in a room where virtually nothing else is burnt apart from the body itself and its immediate surroundings.

    What's common about these events is that the person is either known to have been a smoker and/or was in a room that needed heating with a fire or other heating device. These people were also fully clothed at the time.

    The events are usually that the person falls asleep - maybe because of alcohol or another drug - and their cigarette falls or part of their clothing is scorched by the heater or there's a spark or cinder from the fire. The reason why this is rare is that you need a whole lot of things to all happen or not happen in sequence. Firstly, the person doesn't wake for whatever reason so they stay in the position they were when the smouldering/ fire started. There also has to be an absence of drafts or air movement which would turn the fire into a conventional hot fire which would move to the ceiling, curtains or whatever and burn other parts of the room.

    The gruesome part? At some point (where the person is probably already dead, certainly completely unconscious, from smoke inhalation), the fairly slow fire moves along the garments or the chair the person is sitting or reclining in - and the fat in some part of their body begins to melt. So the whole assemblage of body, clothing, upholstery then begins to act like an inside out candle. Instead of a burning wick slowly melting a wax candle from the top in the centre, you have a slow, fairly cool fire burning fabrics and body parts as the fire is fed by a steady source of fats melting from inside that bundle of materials. The fire needs only to be hot enough to melt fat to be sustained. If there's no draft, it doesn't flare up or move away from its original site. If you think about a well placed candle that's shielded from drafts, it will burn steadily until all the oil or wax is gone, it doesn't suddenly burst into wild flames. It's the same principle.

    Depending on where the hands and feet were in relation to the body / chair at the time the fire starts, it's entirely possible to finish up with an unburnt pair of shoes - with feet inside - sitting in front of a heap of ashes and burnt bones where the chair used to be. Because the hands and feet have very little fat of their own, they don't burn much, if at all, if they're not fully in contact with the body itself. If the person was not in an upholstered chair, say they'd fallen for some reason, it's entirely possible that some parts of the body won't be entirely burned. And nothing else in the room is burnt.

    (It's also possible for a person trying to dispose of a body to get it wrong and for this to happen rather than for the body (and other evidence) to be completely incinerated.)

    I'll admit it would be extremely weird to walk in on something like that. But it's entirely explicable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Okaaaay.

    The most common scenario for an apparent spontaneous human combustion is the discovery of a more or less completely burnt human body in a room where virtually nothing else is burnt apart from the body itself and its immediate surroundings.

    -----------------------------------
    I'll admit it would be extremely weird to walk in on something like that. But it's entirely explicable.
    wonderful explanation. Thank you
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    So the whole assemblage of body, clothing, upholstery then begins to act like an inside out candle.
    And, contrary to the OP's assertions, this sort of thing can be (and I'm fairly sure, has been) tested in a lab. Obviously not using a human corpse but something close, such as a pig's carcass.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Depending on where the hands and feet were in relation to the body / chair at the time the fire starts, it's entirely possible to finish up with an unburnt pair of shoes - with feet inside - sitting in front of a heap of ashes and burnt bones where the chair used to be. Because the hands and feet have very little fat of their own, they don't burn much, if at all, if they're not fully in contact with the body itself. If the person was not in an upholstered chair, say they'd fallen for some reason, it's entirely possible that some parts of the body won't be entirely burned. And nothing else in the room is burnt.

    Thank you for the explanation.
    I must say it is quite reasonable explanation that manages to explain the rareness of this phenomenon.

    I also want to note that Adelson, L. (the second paper I quoted in post #7) described a similar explanation from older, medical sources (J. Booth and C. Sédillot).
    I do not know if it is relevant, but it might be of interest:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Quote Originally Posted by Adelson, L. (1952), p. 802-803
    Dismissing as untenable all but one of the theories, he [Booth] stated that the only valid hypothesis was that increased combustibility was due to an excess of fat. Review of the reported cases, he asserted, demonstrated that incineration was most extreme in the skin, subcutaneous tissues, and other areas where fat was abundant and least in organs and regions with little fat. The fatty degeneration of various organs plus the fat deposited in other parts of the body represented a mass of oleaginous matter sufficient to account for the combustion. Once ignited, it would burn in situ rather than flow out, thus explaining the great destruction of the corpse as compared to the objects in its vicinity. The clothes and fat of the body were compared to the wick and tallow of candle. Sédillot combined the alcohol and obesity theories. He stated that abundant adipose tissue and the habitual use of alcohol were the two factors responsible.
    (Bold mine)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Depending on where the hands and feet were in relation to the body / chair at the time the fire starts, it's entirely possible to finish up with an unburnt pair of shoes - with feet inside - sitting in front of a heap of ashes and burnt bones where the chair used to be. Because the hands and feet have very little fat of their own, they don't burn much, if at all, if they're not fully in contact with the body itself. If the person was not in an upholstered chair, say they'd fallen for some reason, it's entirely possible that some parts of the body won't be entirely burned. And nothing else in the room is burnt.

    Thank you for the explanation.
    I must say it is quite reasonable explanation that manages to explain the rareness of this phenomenon.

    I also want to note that Adelson, L. (the second paper I quoted in post #7) described a similar explanation from older, medical sources (J. Booth and C. Sédillot).
    I do not know if it is relevant, but it might be of interest:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Quote Originally Posted by Adelson, L. (1952), p. 802-803
    Dismissing as untenable all but one of the theories, he [Booth] stated that the only valid hypothesis was that increased combustibility was due to an excess of fat. Review of the reported cases, he asserted, demonstrated that incineration was most extreme in the skin, subcutaneous tissues, and other areas where fat was abundant and least in organs and regions with little fat. The fatty degeneration of various organs plus the fat deposited in other parts of the body represented a mass of oleaginous matter sufficient to account for the combustion. Once ignited, it would burn in situ rather than flow out, thus explaining the great destruction of the corpse as compared to the objects in its vicinity. The clothes and fat of the body were compared to the wick and tallow of candle. Sédillot combined the alcohol and obesity theories. He stated that abundant adipose tissue and the habitual use of alcohol were the two factors responsible.
    (Bold mine)
    That's good but it doesn't explain the case of Frank Baker, a man who survived ''SHC'', and when this happened in non-smokers, such as the case of Henry Thomas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    That's good but it doesn't explain the case of Frank Baker, a man who survived ''SHC''
    Without some data (other than anecdote) it is impossible to draw any conclusions. It seems to have nothing in common with other cases. Other than being spontaneous, but many things will spontaneously combust. Can we rule out all such causes? No.

    and when this happened in non-smokers, such as the case of Henry Thomas.
    "Police forensic officers decided that the incineration of Thomas was due to the wick effect."
    Spontaneous human combustion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A council house in Ebbw Vale in the 1980s almost certainly had a coal fire in the living room. So I see no reason why embers/sparks from that could not have been the cause. Again, without more information it is hard to draw any conclusions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    That's good but it doesn't explain the case of Frank Baker, a man who survived ''SHC''
    Without some data (other than anecdote) it is impossible to draw any conclusions. It seems to have nothing in common with other cases. Other than being spontaneous, but many things will spontaneously combust. Can we rule out all such causes? No.

    and when this happened in non-smokers, such as the case of Henry Thomas.
    "Police forensic officers decided that the incineration of Thomas was due to the wick effect."
    Spontaneous human combustion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A council house in Ebbw Vale in the 1980s almost certainly had a coal fire in the living room. So I see no reason why embers/sparks from that could not have been the cause. Again, without more information it is hard to draw any conclusions.
    So you admit that some unknown cellular internal heat source cannot be ruled out as a cause of Frank Baker's spontaneous combustion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    So you admit that some unknown cellular internal heat source cannot be ruled out as a cause of Frank Baker's spontaneous combustion.
    Nether can ghosts or alien heat rays - but both are also unlikely.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    So you admit that some unknown cellular internal heat source cannot be ruled out as a cause of Frank Baker's spontaneous combustion.
    I can't rule it out. But I wouldn't consider it at this stage because of its apparent physical implausibility and the lack of evidence for any such effect ever occurring. I would stick with plausible, known possibilities. For example, we know that various oils and other chemicals can cause fabrics to catch fire.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    So you admit that some unknown cellular internal heat source cannot be ruled out as a cause of Frank Baker's spontaneous combustion.
    I can't rule it out. But I wouldn't consider it at this stage because of its apparent physical implausibility and the lack of evidence for any such effect ever occurring. I would stick with plausible, known possibilities. For example, we know that various oils and other chemicals can cause fabrics to catch fire.
    Things no matter how implausible, can still happen.
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    So what. Have you ever heard of Occams Razor? Just because it can happen does not mean it does or is what actually happens and as you have no viable mechanism (other than saying it is some unknown, unquantifiable process that has never been observed) to test it can be safely ignored and not considered at all.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Things no matter how implausible, can still happen.
    Balance of probabilities. Is it more likely that my lost sock is stuck behind the laundry basket or that the invisible pink unicorn in my garden ate it.

    I would make an effort to elimate the possible before invoking magic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Things no matter how implausible, can still happen.
    Balance of probabilities. Is it more likely that my lost sock is stuck behind the laundry basket or that the invisible pink unicorn in my garden ate it.

    I would make an effort to elimate the possible before invoking magic.
    Metabolism isn't ''magic''.
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    No it isn't but your unknown, unquantifiable process that has never been observed might as well be.
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    Looks like we have another classic example of, "it makes sense to me because I thought of it so it must be right."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Looks like we have another classic example of, "it makes sense to me because I thought of it so it must be right."
    There's nothing stopping a rapid metabolic runaway event causing SHC. (And metabolic runaway events HAVE been documented in malignant hyperhtermia)
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    There's nothing stopping a rapid metabolic runaway event causing SHC.
    Evidence?

    (And metabolic runaway events HAVE been documented in malignant hyperhtermia)
    Creating what sort of temperatures?

    And how many people who have suffered from malignant hyperthermia have been observed to burst into flames?

    Please provide some evidence for this Highly Plausible idea of yours.
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    Yes there is, as pointed out in posts #38, 42, 43, 45 and 47. Ignoring stuff that disagrees with you just because it disagrees with you is the hallmark of a crackpot, don't be that guy (if it's not already too late).
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    There's nothing stopping a rapid metabolic runaway event causing SHC. (And metabolic runaway events HAVE been documented in malignant hyperhtermia)
    Nor is there anything stopping a spark from a nearby fire causing SHC, or a nearby electrical fault causing SHC. Which is more likely?
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    Just because you catch a fish in a river that's 3 feet long, doesn't mean there are not bigger fish out there. Enzymatic reactions SPEED UP with temperature increase. There is nothing stopping these enzymatic reactions because enzymes are reactive chemicals.

    It doesn't matter what's more likely. Unlikely things do occur.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Just because you catch a fish in a river that's 3 feet long, doesn't mean there are not bigger fish out there.
    Agreed! But just because you catch a fish in a river that's 3 feet long doesn't mean they will spontaneously explode, either.

    Enzymatic reactions SPEED UP with temperature increase. There is nothing stopping these enzymatic reactions . . .
    Well, denaturing due to high temperatures will stop them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Just because you catch a fish in a river that's 3 feet long, doesn't mean there are not bigger fish out there.
    Agreed! But just because you catch a fish in a river that's 3 feet long doesn't mean they will spontaneously explode, either.
    I meant to say, just because top temps of 40 degrees were recorded, doesn't mean that's the limit.
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    Just because you catch a fish in a river that's 3 feet long, doesn't mean there are not bigger fish out there.
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    Right, as you seem unwilling (or unable) to calculate just how implausible your idea is I'll do your work for you in a simple back of the envelope calculation:

    You claimed earlier overabundance of hydrogen peroxide is a plausaible explanation. Let's look at the numbers:

    Enthalpy of reaction of H2O2 + organic, let's assume it's ridiculously exothermic and give it the ludicrously high value of 10000 kJ/mol.

    The mass of an average human cell is ~ 1 ng (=1 x 10-12 kg), if this was 99% hydrogen peroxide by mass (from your ridiculous post above) this gives of 9.9 x 10-13 kg or 2.91 x 10-11 moles of hudrogen peroxide.

    The assumed enthalpy and this mass give an absolute enthalpy change for this cell of 2.91 x 10-7 kJ

    Assuming the specific heat capacity of the human body is the same as that of water (we are mostly water after all) of 4.2 J/g/K this cell will heat up 1 g of surrounding tissue by 6.93 x 10-5 K.

    Can you not see why we are laughing at you?
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    wow wow.... great PhDemon dear.......
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Enzymatic reactions SPEED UP with temperature increase. There is nothing stopping these enzymatic reactions because enzymes are reactive chemicals.
    You keep asserting this. You are unable to provide any evidence that this can cause temperatures to rise high enough to cause combustion.

    Why do you think it is possible in the absence of any evidence?
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    And they are also ignoring the fact that there are things "stopping these enzymatic reactions" such as using up available starting materials, a slowing of the reaction when products build up (they are equlibria after all), cell death if the products become too concentrated and the fact enzymes are denatured long before temperatures high enough for combuston arise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    I don't need to, just Google search ''Frank Baker huffington post'' and ''ABC news baby rahul spontaneously combusts 4 times''
    These cases made HEADLINES so I don't know how you could miss them.
    I have not seen the article but I have read some time ago that a man was burnt in a chair to charcoal, but the chair was not burnt. Some times we hear certain things and do not pay it much attention until you hear someone else saying the same thing and then you remember you did hear something like that before.
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    @Ok ladygaia: Tell me one thing
    If somebody can be combusted from inside due to excess heat produced from metabolic (enzymatic) actions/reactions , can he also freeze from inside if temperature decreased to minimum due to actions of enzymes .
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    I don't need to, just Google search ''Frank Baker huffington post'' and ''ABC news baby rahul spontaneously combusts 4 times''
    These cases made HEADLINES so I don't know how you could miss them.
    I have not seen the article but I have read some time ago that a man was burnt in a chair to charcoal, but the chair was not burnt. Some times we hear certain things and do not pay it much attention until you hear someone else saying the same thing and then you remember you did hear something like that before.
    You are late this problem has been solved that,
    "such gross anti-thermostat/Homoeothermic event is not possible"
    ... see post #80 by PhDemon.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sir ir r aj View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    I don't need to, just Google search ''Frank Baker huffington post'' and ''ABC news baby rahul spontaneously combusts 4 times''
    These cases made HEADLINES so I don't know how you could miss them.
    I have not seen the article but I have read some time ago that a man was burnt in a chair to charcoal, but the chair was not burnt. Some times we hear certain things and do not pay it much attention until you hear someone else saying the same thing and then you remember you did hear something like that before.
    You are late this problem has been solved that,
    "such gross anti-thermostat/Homoeothermic event is not possible"
    ... see post #80 by PhDemon.
    That is fine I have no problems with scientific calculations, however these observation of such things as human combustion, are not things that happen on the normal scale of logic. We can calculate repetitive phenomenon and use projections, and all the mathematical tools, but we cannot entirely predict what makes thing illogical.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    That is fine I have no problems with scientific calculations, however these observation of such things as human combustion, are not things that happen on the normal scale of logic. We can calculate repetitive phenomenon and use projections, and all the mathematical tools, but we cannot entirely predict what makes thing illogical.

    I have no idea what message you are trying to convey here. Feel free to rephrase your post.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Do you think re-phrasing will make it less non-sensical?
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    Do you think re-phrasing will make it less non-sensical?

    Perhaps. I can only answer that question with certainty after he has been kind enough to rephrase it.

    Quote Originally Posted by LadyGaia View Post
    Metabolism isn't ''magic''.

    Correct, but it is not pure speculation either.
    At least, that is how I interpret some of your input in this thread.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    I'm surprised this thread got so much attention myself.

    Was about to say spontaneous human combustion was a botched alien abduction.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    That is fine I have no problems with scientific calculations, however these observation of such things as human combustion, are not things that happen on the normal scale of logic. We can calculate repetitive phenomenon and use projections, and all the mathematical tools, but we cannot entirely predict what makes thing illogical.

    I have no idea what message you are trying to convey here. Feel free to rephrase your post.
    ou are late this problem has been solved that,
    "such gross anti-thermostat/Homoeothermic event is not possible"
    ... see post #80 by PhDemon.
    Sorry, I was responding to post #86 I was trying to say any and everything is possible.
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    Which is obviously not true.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Sorry, I was responding to post #86 I was trying to say any and everything is possible.

    It is quite evident that that statement is not true.
    I am not sure what this has to do with the topic of SHC.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Sorry, I was responding to post #86 I was trying to say any and everything is possible.

    It is quite evident that that statement is not true.
    I am not sure what this has to do with the topic of SHC.
    Every thing is possible or impossible depending on the angle one takes. If you can conceive that this is true, then SHC is possible even if it cannot be explained. Just from the logic that everything that is possible at a specific angle, will happen in a particular time.
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  97. #96  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Every thing is possible or impossible depending on the angle one takes.
    Nonsense.
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Every thing is possible or impossible depending on the angle one takes.
    Nonsense.
    Indeed, for example it is impossible for Stargate to make any bloody sense and I can't think of any angle one could take to make it otherwise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Every thing is possible or impossible depending on the angle one takes. If you can conceive that this is true, then SHC is possible even if it cannot be explained. Just from the logic that everything that is possible at a specific angle, will happen in a particular time.

    SHC can be explained, as illustrated by posts #7, #57 and #62.

    Furthermore, I challenge you to come up with an angle one must take to make this statement possible:
    "A living human can breathe without difficulty when exposed to the vacuum of space".
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    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Every thing is possible or impossible depending on the angle one takes. If you can conceive that this is true, then SHC is possible even if it cannot be explained. Just from the logic that everything that is possible at a specific angle, will happen in a particular time.

    SHC can be explained, as illustrated by posts #7, #57 and #62.



    Furthermore, I challenge you to come up with an angle one must take to make this statement possible:
    "A living human can breathe without difficulty when exposed to the vacuum of space".
    I have read a few explanations and there seems to be many, but I did not find anything specific to clarify what is the reason for SHC, unless you have something definitive?

    Have you ever been exposed to the vacuum of space?

    Your challenge is a bit unrealistic, everything that has happened in the world and universe as happened in a specific time and space, and anything that can happen in the future will happen in a specific time and space. I challenge you to make my statement invalid.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    I have read a few explanations and there seems to be many, but I did not find anything specific to clarify what is the reason for SHC, unless you have something definitive?

    I refer again to posts #7, #57 and #62.

    Have you ever been exposed to the vacuum of space?

    I do not see how that is relevant.

    Your challenge is a bit unrealistic, everything that has happened in the world and universe as happened in a specific time and space, and anything that can happen in the future will happen in a specific time and space. I challenge you to make my statement invalid.

    How can my challenge be "a bit unrealistic"?
    You have stated that
    Every thing is possible or impossible depending on the angle one takes
    , thus breathing in the vacuum of space is possible depending on the angle one takes, according to you.
    Ergo, what angle must one take to make this statement possible?


    PS: The onus lies on you. I cannot disprove your deterministic view of the universe.
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