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Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) - Microbial Explanation

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Please note that this idea was inspired by the third season of Regenesis.

 

I was researching the idea of Spontaneous Human Combustion the other day; now, I know that not many people take the idea seriously. But Regenesis inspired an idea of how it could be possible. What if there was some kind of incredibly rare micro-organism that could rapidly break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. If in somehow infected a person and started breaking down the water in their body, since hydrogen gas is extremely flammable and pure oxygen would increase the hydrogen's combustibility greatly, the slightest spark or open flame would cause the hydrogen to burn; hence, the body combusts from the inside out.

 

I am not sure whether this explanation of Spontaneous Human Combustion is possible, but I wouldn't mind some opinions on the matter.

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If there was such a microorganism, then all of our alternative energy problems would be solved, as breaking water down into hydrogen and oxygen usually requires some type of energy.

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Indeed. The flame you're talking about, burning hydrogen, is nothing more than that hydrogen combining with oxygen to make water (or BACK into water, in this case), and giving off a lot of energy in the process. You can't break apart that water in the first place without putting in exactly as much energy as the fire puts out.

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Yes, but there are some types of microorganisms that do have the ability to break water apart, just slowly. But what if their is some type that could do it rapidly?

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The idea is somewhat unnecessary. Lots of humans are substantially combustible, because fat is flammable. All that is needed is a sufficiently hot source of ignition.

 

Incidentally, Craig Ventner and his company are busy trying to build up a hydrogen emitting bacterium by creating its genome from scratch. They claim to be making progress. If so, it would be a great cheap source of fuel.

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Yes, but there are some types of microorganisms that do have the ability to break water apart, just slowly.
There are many types of organisms that do this. Plants and trees, for example strip the hydrogen from water and combine it with carbon from CO2 (releasing O2). They do it quite quickly too. If you watch certain aquatic plants exposed to light, you can see them releasing streams of oxygen bubbles.

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Humans do spontaneously combust under certain conditions - after an initial external ignition. The body acts as an inside-out candle with the bodyfat acting as the wax and clothing as the wick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_wick_effect).

You need only to hypothetise that the spark ignites a scrap of cloth which burns slowly enough to melt the fat above it suffusing the cloth with a fuel that it will burn and replenish for hours.

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Please note that this idea was inspired by the third season of Regenesis.

 

I was researching the idea of Spontaneous Human Combustion the other day; now, I know that not many people take the idea seriously. But Regenesis inspired an idea of how it could be possible. What if there was some kind of incredibly rare micro-organism that could rapidly break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. If in somehow infected a person and started breaking down the water in their body, since hydrogen gas is extremely flammable and pure oxygen would increase the hydrogen's combustibility greatly, the slightest spark or open flame would cause the hydrogen to burn; hence, the body combusts from the inside out.

 

I am not sure whether this explanation of Spontaneous Human Combustion is possible, but I wouldn't mind some opinions on the matter.

 

even if the mechanism you proposed is actually correct, there is still no clue for hypothesizing so, and your hypothesis bases on nothing..., except you could find a species of barterium capable of doing so...

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I don't know how I remember this, but in fifth grade we used to read these little science newsletters printed on cheap paper with articles about current science events. Anyway, one of the articles was about spontaneous human combustion. Most of the cases were dismissed as having an ignition source but one.

In this case, a man had been using WD-40 to treat his arthritis which is somewhat common treatment for old, hillbilly types. He had been spraying it on most of his joints for years. One day the man spontaneously combusted and a team of scientists studied the case. They concluded that the WD-40 had reacted with chemicals in his body and created a highly reactive chemical that would combust with low ignition. His body was so full of this chemical that it caused him to spontaneously combust.

I remember that the article named chemicals and showed the reactions empirically, and it seemed to me to be valid, but I was only in fifth grade at the time.;)

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Are there any non-human animals which are said to spontaneously combust? If so, I'm taking them camping. I'm getting tired of wet matches. :rolleyes:

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