Spontaneous Human Combustion.

Essay by courlove7 October 2003

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Humans have a knack for getting burned. Sip coffee that's a little too hot and you burn your tongue. Reaching the pinnacle of nervousness can cause heartburn. Remaining in the sun for too long without protection leaves you with sunburn. Play with fire and you know what happens. And that's saying nothing of rug burns that can occur when you... How about that weather? Most of the time, we have an explanation whenever fire causes injuries. But there have been fires that have baffled the most experienced investigators. For centuries, a phenomenon has kept rumors flying high as to its very origin. Finally, light is being shed on spontaneous human combustion (SHC).

Before getting started, let's answer this question: What exactly is SHC? By all accounts, it is the process by which humans allegedly burst into flames suddenly without having been in contact with any igniting source.

It supposedly happens chemically, inside the body. Interestingly, almost every case attributed to this singularity has seen the victims being consumed almost entirely, including the bones, while leaving extremities such as feet unscathed. The rest of the room usually remains intact as well, the fire not having spread out. Centuries ago, it was believed that imbibing alcohol would amplify inflammability; in other words, getting drunk would be the cause of their demise. However, modern research has proven that it was a false belief. Still, a number of cases have broken out throughout the last decades that have left firefighters and arson investigators boggled and several theories have been elaborated to explain the phenomenon. Some believe that a large enough quantity of methane gas could build up within the intestines, ignited by enzyme activity (this theory has been deemed rather implausible). Another rationalization involves a subatomic particle called pyrotron, which could...