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Irish Man's Death Ruled Spontaneous Combustion

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the some-like-it-hot dept.

Medicine 224

chrb writes "BBC News is reporting that an Irish coroner has ruled that a dead man was killed by spontaneous human combustion. The controversial finding is a first in Irish history. From the article: 'West Galway coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin said it was the first time in 25 years of investigating deaths that he had recorded such a verdict. Michael Faherty, 76, died at his home in Galway on 22 December 2010. Deaths attributed by some to "spontaneous combustion" occur when a living human body is burned without an apparent external source of ignition.'"

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Pfft, no such thing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512722)

FIRST PO.. *poof!*

Re:Pfft, no such thing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512730)

Yes, there is. I saw it in a Korean horror documentary, the Housemaid. Good sex too.

He's Irish, it's easy to explain. (1, Funny)

lexsird (1208192) | about 3 years ago | (#37513484)

It's all the whiskey in him. Whiskey burns, so add a spark from something, anything, and poof a human Molotov cocktail. Don't tell the IRA, they might get some ideas.

Re:Pfft, no such thing (0)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 3 years ago | (#37513950)

Holy shit, the ending to that movie is fucking METAL!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0b3fDrnYsUg [youtube.com]

I can't stop laughing at the father's reaction to the fire...

Fire in the fireplace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512732)

Probably just a jumping ember. That's enough to set someone immobile on fire... Good luck in finding any trace of it once most or all the body has burnt.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (5, Interesting)

toQDuj (806112) | about 3 years ago | (#37512826)

Except that humans are not particularly inflammable. Sure, the hair burns, and maybe a bit of the skin or clothing, but the huge quantities of water in the body make for a reasonable extinguisher. Perhaps, though, if you're loaded up with lethal levels of alcohol...

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (5, Informative)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 3 years ago | (#37512910)

The best explanation I've heard is the wick effect [wikipedia.org] .

The "wick effect" hypothesis suggests that a small external flame source, such as a burning cigarette, chars the clothing of the victim at a location, splitting the skin and releasing subcutaneous fat, which is in turn absorbed into the burned clothing, acting as a wick. This combustion can continue for as long as the fuel is available. This hypothesis has been successfully tested with animal tissue (pig) and is consistent with evidence recovered from cases of human combustion.[5][6] The human body typically has enough stored energy in fat and other chemical stores to fully combust the body; even lean people have several pounds of fat in their tissues.

The presumption is that the person dies of other causes, and then a lit cigarette or some other ignition source starts the process. And you're right, from what I've heard, a high percentage of SHC victims were known to be heavy drinkers, which would only add more fuel to the fire.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (1)

phonewebcam (446772) | about 3 years ago | (#37512990)

That would mean no-one has ever seen it. I mean, this process must take hours, whereas to me "spontaneous" means they burst into flames. Is there any recorded incident of someone seeing this? Are all the victims alone when it happens?

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (3, Interesting)

squizzar (1031726) | about 3 years ago | (#37513030)

Spontaneous refers to the lack of any obvious ignition source (except the cigarettes they smoked, or the fire they 'fell asleep' next to - but I digress). If an empty desk in my office were to start smoldering and eventually flames appeared that would be spontaneous combustion as much as if the whole thing suddenly burst into flame.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (3, Interesting)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | about 3 years ago | (#37513074)

Spontaneous does not mean instantly or quickly, it means something happening with no apparent cause or external cause, or someone doing something involuntarily. The action doesn't have to be over quickly.

Re: (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 3 years ago | (#37513214)

Apparently another common factor in SHC deaths is that the victims tend to live alone. However, there is one freaky story in the Wikipedia article linked above.

In September 1985, Debbie Clark was walking home when she noticed an occasional flash of blue light.[13] As she claimed, "It was me. I was lighting up the driveway every couple of steps. As we got into the garden I thought it was funny at that point. I was walking around in circles saying, 'Look at this, mum, look!' She started screaming and my brother came to the door and started screaming and shouting 'Have you never heard of spontaneous human combustion?'" Her mother, Dianne Clark, responded, "I screamed at her to get her shoes off and it [the flashes] kept going so I hassled her through and got her into the bath. I thought that the bath is wired to earth. It was a blue light, you know, what they call electric blue. She thought it was fun, she was laughing."

Obviously that would have nothing to do the the wick effect, and there doesn't seem to be any corroboration of the event. Still... makes you wonder.

Re: (1)

khallow (566160) | about 3 years ago | (#37513496)

Build up enough static electricity and you can see it even in daylight. Doesn't mean that you're about to blow up.

Re: (1)

tinkerton (199273) | about 3 years ago | (#37513548)

Exactly. Who knows if these events have anything to do with sponaneous human combustion.

Re: (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 3 years ago | (#37513692)

Obviously that would have nothing to do the the wick effect, and there doesn't seem to be any corroboration of the event. Still... makes you wonder.

But she didn't combust. And if there was enough heat in the mysterious blue flashes to ignite her she probably would have noticed (why are my shoes smoking?). And if there was enough energy to ignite her, you would need something like the wick effect to sustain the combustion. And she'd need to be by herself or someone would just throw a bucket of water over her.

Re: (1)

Jeffrey_Walsh VA (1335967) | about 3 years ago | (#37513972)

Don't "just throw a bucket of water over her". Its a grease fire!

Re: (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 3 years ago | (#37513988)

There was one guy in Australia I think who had built up so much static charge he was leaving smouldering footprints in the carpet behind him, in a hotel, with plenty of witnesses. Here it is... http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4252692.stm?lsm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (2)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 3 years ago | (#37513898)

to me "spontaneous" means

People who can't use dictionaries should DIAF.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 3 years ago | (#37513056)

Maybe Tyler Durden went looking elsewhere for the fat to sell his soap and things went terribly awry.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 3 years ago | (#37513948)

This doesn't account for the accounts made by actual survivors of this phenomenon. There have been people who have survived the experience and could offer no explanation at all.

I have no insightful observations to offer except this:

We know that to "boil" does not require high temperatures -- just a substance which has a boiling point which is lower and/or an atmospheric pressure which is low enough to enable boiling to occur at lower temperatures. We also know that chemical reactions can and do happen at lower temperatures not necessarily requiring "heat" to perpetuate the reaction.

There have been cases of SHC where the clothes which the victims were wearing were largely unaffected by the reaction the body had undergone and the same for the other materials surrounding the body. So this insistence that there must be heat is probably the first obstacle to understanding what is going on. And "heat" is a relative measure in the first place. After all, a "rock" might be considered to be "frozen magma" and that regardless of its present temperature, it might be considered to be frozen if it is not in a liquid state. And relative to "absolute zero" I'm on frikken fire right now and so are you.

Sometimes to understand something, you have to forget what you think you know.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 3 years ago | (#37513122)

if you're loaded up with lethal levels of alcohol...

That would never happen in Ireland.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 3 years ago | (#37513394)

if you're loaded up with lethal levels of alcohol...

That would never happen in Ireland.

57 comments and only one joke about drunk Irishmen? Slashdot truly is dying. The fact that nobody has licked to a Family Guy clip from when Peter went there just nails the coffin shut.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (1)

adolf (21054) | about 3 years ago | (#37513518)

As a drunken Irish derivative, who is not precisely Irish but whose mother's family does (allegedly) have a castle over there somewhere:

I must hasten to admit that I have lit myself on fire many times. It has always been an accident, and I have so far always either been coherent enough to snuff the blaze, or able to wake up quickly enough to do the same.

I have no doubt that many another Irishman have had similar problems, and that a certain percentage of them were either too inebriated to adequately react or simply too dead at the time to respond at all.

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (0)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | about 3 years ago | (#37513920)

57 comments and only one joke about drunk Irishmen? Slashdot truly is dying.

OK, here goes: "Two Irishmen walked out of a bar..."

Re:Fire in the fireplace? (2, Interesting)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | about 3 years ago | (#37514130)

This reminds of that time I didn't make a Family Guy reference and people unconsciously thanked me.

First. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512734)

First Post.

1. Free Energy.
2. ???
3. Profit.
4. Go to 1

Nothing combusts for "no reason". (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512736)

If the reason isn't found, either the investigators are not good enough, or the science isn't. Otherwise such an "explanation" falls in the realm of witchcraft.

... really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513396)

Deaths attributed by some to "spontaneous combustion" occur when a living human body is burned without an apparent external source of ignition.'"

Jesus, are people even reading the damn summaries on this site anymore?
Explains why I don't login now.

Re:Nothing combusts for "no reason". (1)

djsmiley (752149) | about 3 years ago | (#37513864)

Coal,

Flour

I'm sure some other substances must too.... But these DO combust, without source of ignition.
Infact wikipedia has a nice list : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_combustion [wikipedia.org]

Re:Nothing combusts for "no reason". (1)

FranktehReaver (2441748) | about 3 years ago | (#37514112)

What about Whiskey? I think there was a lot of Whiskey on scene... :D

Re:Nothing combusts for "no reason". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513908)

Otherwise such an "explanation" falls in the realm of witchcraft.

No. We are not responsible for your preconceived notions of spontaneous human combustion.

NVIDIA COVERUP!!! (3, Funny)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 3 years ago | (#37512744)

Fermi claims another life and they pay off the coroner!

Re:NVIDIA COVERUP!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512812)

Sadly, this will once again never be revealed to the public. The stuff companies can get away with...

Re:NVIDIA COVERUP!!! (0)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 3 years ago | (#37513698)

Now, let's not get hot-headed about this and start a flame war.

Re:NVIDIA COVERUP!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512862)

rofl, TSMC strikes again

Re:NVIDIA COVERUP!!! (1)

Alex Belits (437) | about 3 years ago | (#37512928)

gb2/g/

Wicking (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512764)

If I remember correctly, most of these cases can be explained by a slow burn (smouldering, such as started by a cigarette), using the human body as a fuel source, and something acting as a wick, like clothing or fibrous tissue.

Re:Wicking (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 3 years ago | (#37513746)

I don't think anybody's saying it's an unexplained paranormal event, they're just saying this is what happened to him.

(At least that's the way I read it)

Re:Wicking (2)

hot soldering iron (800102) | about 3 years ago | (#37514034)

I remember some guys playing with a magnetron out of a microwave oven a couple of years ago managed to set some plywood on fire at a moderate distance (reports of almost 100 feet/30 meters). If it was true or not, I don't know, but it would explain a lack of any chemical residue or accelerants. It would be a perfect arsonist's tool, and would make forensic analysis a bitch. Directed energy really wouldn't leave a lot of trace behind, would it?

Think about all that burning water... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512766)

Humans body contains about 80% of water (out of body weight). It means, if person weights 100kg (about 200 pounds), he/she have about 80kg (about 176 pounds) of water... and it's equal amount of water in litres (80L). Now all math geeks, wake up: How much energy you need to _burn_/_vaporize_ 80L of water?

I'll rest my case.

Re:Think about all that burning water... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512902)

About as much energy as stored in the human body as hydrocarbons. Wet things can burn, just not very fast or hot.

Re:Think about all that burning water... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513060)

1kg of lard contains 37700kJ and can therefore vaporize almost 16,9kg of water. 5kg of lard can vaporize 84kg of water.

Those 5kg just about cover the essential body fat, i.e the fat we need in/around our brain, skin, joints, etc.

Re:Think about all that burning water... (1)

maxume (22995) | about 3 years ago | (#37513794)

Uh-huh. Where are you going to get the 20-odd MJ needed to heat the water 70 degrees or so?

Classic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512768)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAMfCG6nn1w

What garbage non-science! (4, Informative)

SendBot (29932) | about 3 years ago | (#37512770)

I looked into this when I first read about it. Apparently a disproportionate amount of "spontaneous combustion" cases are older people found next to fire places, this man included. I was not able to find details that would rule out an existing fire in the fireplace contributing to the cause, like an absence of ashes. It's speculated that these cases are people who had a stroke or heart attack while warming themselves by the fire, after which a small spark flies out and eventually smolders the entire body.

Re:What garbage non-science! (2, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 years ago | (#37512884)

Indeed, the headline is misleading (shame on you BBC). TFA only mentions that the ruling was simply that he caught fire for some undetermined reason. No one is claiming that people randomly catch fire with no external stimulus.

Unfortunately this sort of thing is common at the BBC now. They have a nasty habit of picking one or two words that someone said and quoting them out of context in a headline.

Re:What garbage non-science! (5, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 3 years ago | (#37513158)

No one is claiming that people randomly catch fire with no external stimulus.

And neither is the BBC. - The coroner brought down the verdict of "spontaneous combustion" that appears in the headline and the BBC correctly defined what that means in the context of a coroner's inquest. They quote the coroner as saying - "This fire was thoroughly investigated and I'm left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation."

Indeed, the headline is misleading (shame on you BBC)

There's nothing misleading about it, unless of course you're looking for an imaginary excuse to bash the BBC.

Unfortunately this sort of thing is common at the BBC now. They have a nasty habit...

Oh, my mistake, you were looking for an imaginary excuse to bash the BBC, carry on.

Re:What garbage non-science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513978)

He's right, the BBC do manipulate their headlines to sensationalise things. If they were a red top tabloid that would be acceptable, but they are supposed to an impartial organisation, paid for by the taxpayer with some credibility. Sensationalising headlines like this is deceptive and they do it even more for political stories. It's well known that the BBC have a left wing bias.

Re:What garbage non-science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513688)

"No one is claiming that people randomly catch fire with no external stimulus."

Previously called an 'act of God', which doesn't exist either.

Re:What garbage non-science! (1)

tomachi (1328065) | about 3 years ago | (#37512888)

Nah I believe in it - but it should be renamed "Slow Post-Mortem Human Combustion". In all these cases the person probably died of other causes beforehand, so they didn't feel themselves slow cooking. Like the wick effect on a candle.

Re:What garbage non-science! (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 3 years ago | (#37513018)

Considering the damage reported (substantial damage to both the floor around and the ceiling above the body) I wouldn't call it smoldering.

Yet spontaneous combustion... no I don't believe that either. A more likely explanation would be that the person had a lot of clothing on (elderly people are very good at feeling cold and putting on lots and lots of clothing - the person in question was sitting close to a fireplace so good chance he was feeling cold) that happened to be highly combustible and for whatever reason caught fire. Synthetic clothing may burn fast and hot and seriously damage a body, leaving damage on the floor around it and to the ceiling.

Surprising anyway that there are no other, more likely scenarios given than "spontaneous human combustion" as cause of death. Living humans are not exactly flammable to begin with. Our hairs maybe, but that's about it.

And indeed possibly he passed out for whatever reason, fell forward, and a spark jumping from the open fire set him alight. An unlikely scenario sure, but I'd say much more likely than spontaneous combustion.

Re:What garbage non-science! (1)

mike2R (721965) | about 3 years ago | (#37514248)

I actually thought this had been resolved a while back - maybe I just heard of a theory and took it for fact.

As I understand it, what happens is that someone dies/falls into a deep coma with a source of ignition nearby (eg they are smoking at the time, or near an open fire). The human body then burns very slowly over many hours as kind of an inside-out candle - clothing acting as a wick and human fat as the wax.

This fits with the facts that it tends to be older people living alone, there is little damage to surroundings and some extremities are often completely undamaged.

Not really a cause of death though...

Re:What garbage non-science! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#37513968)

I remember seeing one on TV (so it must be true!@#!1!!!) where the victim was in a bathroom stall. But maybe someone came and flicked a cig on them :p

In completely unrelated news (5, Funny)

mmmmbeer (107215) | about 3 years ago | (#37512774)

The first test of my DeathRay is a complete success! MUAHAHAHAHA!

Re:In completely unrelated news (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512784)

You're sick.

Re:In completely unrelated news (2)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about 3 years ago | (#37513008)

You're sick.

Luckily it's possible to be both sick AND funny!

Re:In completely unrelated news (0)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | about 3 years ago | (#37513278)

You're sick.

And you're scared enough to post anonymously.

Re:In completely unrelated news (1, Offtopic)

gmhowell (26755) | about 3 years ago | (#37513390)

You're sick.

And you're scared enough to post anonymously.

Can you blame him? Who wants to be the target of a guy with a working death ray?

Re:In completely unrelated news (0)

St.Creed (853824) | about 3 years ago | (#37513522)

You're sick.

And you're scared enough to post anonymously.

Can you blame him? Who wants to be the target of a guy with a working death ray?

Uhhuh... not me!

And let me be the first to say that I, for one, welcome our new death-ray wielding overlords!

any proof of the cause of spontanious combustion ? (1)

DZign (200479) | about 3 years ago | (#37512778)

I remember watching a documentary about spontanious human combustion in school during english class (about 20 years ago)..
Half of the class was spooked because it was such a weird topic..

I remember they discussed some deaths (showing burn marks on floors, carpets, ..) but scientifically there wasn't any explenation yet..
Anyone know if there's one now ?

Re:any proof of the cause of spontanious combustio (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512832)

As mentioned above, it's often old people lying close to a fireplace.
the second half is drunk fat people, who don't wake up when their clothes are burning. Their fat melts, and the rest of the clothes functions as a wick, replenishing the fire with more melting fat. Why they don't wake up, maybe they're already dead, but that's pretty hard to establish when there's almost no body.

Re:any proof of the cause of spontanious combustio (1)

sp4rk (645452) | about 3 years ago | (#37513362)

It's caused by a phenomenon called the human wick effect. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wick_effect [wikipedia.org] for more info.

Obligatory Repo Man quote (3, Funny)

Orgasmatron (8103) | about 3 years ago | (#37512798)

It happens sometimes. People just explode.

link [youtube.com] .

Re:Obligatory Spinal Tap quote (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 3 years ago | (#37513778)

Dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported.

link [youtube.com] .

Hm... (5, Informative)

Zaldarr (2469168) | about 3 years ago | (#37512820)

"The court heard Mr Faherty had been found lying on his back with his head closest to an open fireplace." ... "He said Professor Bernard Knight, in his book on forensic pathology, had written about spontaneous combustion and noted that such reported cases were almost always near an open fireplace or chimney." ... ""There is a source of ignition somewhere, but because the body is so badly destroyed the source can't be found," he said." The obvious solution is that his hair caught on fire; perhaps with some sort of flammable substance in his hair like an aerosol or hair gel and the damage was too great for forensics to pick it up.

Re:Hm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513400)

There's another possible explanation too: the man died in some embarrassing way, and the coroner thought it best to spare his/his family's reputation.

Sometimes it's not smart to expect detailed answers to all your questions, or indeed, truthful ones.

Re:Hm... (1)

St.Creed (853824) | about 3 years ago | (#37513540)

Yes, I'm pretty sure it's the first time the coroner ever came across someone dying in an embarrassing way and then, together with all the witnesses, decided to hide all of the evidence...

Not really: why would the coroner and the police officers all risk their reputation for a stranger? Even if he did die in a really embarrassing way, he's hardly the first to die with a gerbil up his anus, tied to a chair or something.

Re:Hm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513626)

Your missing the full picture here, nothing was left of the body except his feet yet nothing else in the house was destroyed except floor under him and ceiling over him!
This is the true mystery of all these events.

Re:Hm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513822)

A long time ago BBC (Wales?) did a documentary series about Bernard Knight which covered this in one episode.
Effectively the body becomes a candle. The fat the wax and the clothing acts as a wick.

Fun series. The one about the shotgun was great.

Cause and Effect (4, Insightful)

Intropy (2009018) | about 3 years ago | (#37512828)

If your job is to figure out what caused something to happen, "I can't figure it out" is not success, but is at least a rational response. "It had no cause" is nonsense.

Mystery solved. (3, Funny)

gstrickler (920733) | about 3 years ago | (#37512858)

He's Irish, therefore, he must have been drinking, and he's 76, so was probably taking nitro glycerine for his heart. Mystery solved.

Now, does that make me a forensic investigator?

Re:Mystery solved. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512946)

He's Irish, therefore, he must have been drinking, and he's 76, so was probably taking nitro glycerine for his heart. Mystery solved.

Now, does that make me a forensic investigator?

No, that makes you half-scientist. You've made a "suposition" and now you have to prove it...
Any subject for demostrating the premise?

Re:Mystery solved. (2)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | about 3 years ago | (#37513620)

No, proving a hypothesis makes you a pretty good lawyer. Scientists attempt to falsify their hypothesis.

Re:Mystery solved. (1)

Mike Mentalist (544984) | about 3 years ago | (#37513058)

Yup, the next episode of CSI: Slashdot is going to be based on your heroic exploits.

Maybe a lemming? (3, Funny)

Claudix (2464776) | about 3 years ago | (#37512892)

Lemmings explode after shaking their bodies.

Re:Maybe a lemming? (3, Funny)

NoobixCube (1133473) | about 3 years ago | (#37513028)

OH NO!

cider (1)

Dark Lord of Ohio (2459854) | about 3 years ago | (#37512894)

too much cider.

Re:cider (1)

GrimmParoD (2468306) | about 3 years ago | (#37512948)

Potato Water, more likely. The codgers are more subtle than younguns like to credit.

Spontaneus Combustion Or... MURDER?! (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about 3 years ago | (#37512942)

I noticed a lot of people spontaneously combust after being doused in gasoline. Did they check that?

It'd take an awful lot of energy for a human body to get up to ignition temperatures on its own. Most of the cases in our more superstitious days turned out to have cigarettes as an ignition source. I wouldn't rule out a defective electric blanket. Or pretty much anything that can make a spark around, say a wool blanket. I'm sure there are a lot of avenues of investigation we could follow before we go STAMPEEDING for "Spontaneous Human Combustion", Mr McLoughlin!

Re:Spontaneus Combustion Or... MURDER?! (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 3 years ago | (#37513186)

I'm treating your sig as a confession.
The Gard are on their way.

Re:Spontaneus Combustion Or... MURDER?! (1)

Legion303 (97901) | about 3 years ago | (#37513314)

Not that I buy the concept of "spontaneous human combustion" in any way, but I imagine the investigators probably checked for electric blankets etc.

Re:Spontaneus Combustion Or... MURDER?! (1)

DThorne (21879) | about 3 years ago | (#37513990)

I thought all this was solved over a decade ago? The odd circumstances(incredibly high localized heat, feet and lower legs frequently unburned, the oily smoke on the ceiling but the room not properly catching fire, etc) was easily duplicated with dead animals and essentially showed that despite the water content in a mammal, it's the *fat* that acts as a fuel source. Essentially, the body behaves as a slow burning candle, with bones or other materials as the wick. All that's odd here is the ignition source, all the 'spooky and unexplained trappings' are good science. In the past, stoves, fireplaces, cancer sticks and other natural oddities such as sparks from a distant fire landing on someone who had recently or was in the process of dying was all you needed to take away the Geraldo angle and just make it a tragic story.

So the examiner failed to find a combustion source - stranger things happen on Castle every week errr...

Re:Spontaneus Combustion Or... MURDER?! (1)

jimicus (737525) | about 3 years ago | (#37514228)

ISTR a documentary a few years ago which explored a "human candle" theory - essentially, something on the victim catches fire (maybe their clothing) and the victim - for whatever reason - doesn't put it out. The heat from the fire melts their body fat, which goes on to further fuel the fire. Fat burns quite hot, and in so doing it consumes most of their body; but the absence of other flammable material near the victim means the entire house doesn't go up in smoke.

It was the Guinness... (1)

macraig (621737) | about 3 years ago | (#37512958)

... and it's a record!

Oh, my! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512978)

http://www.explosm.net/comics/2554/

Ban Blipverts NOW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37512980)

Damn advertising!

A How To (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513084)

Step 1: set pant leg on fire outside.
Step 2: run into house now absent cause of ignition.
Step 3: Hope to god you pass out.
Step 4: Burn slowly enough that the fat boils and ignites the marrow apparently burning you from the inside out.
Step 5: Declared Spontaneous Combustion.

Two stories confirming worst stereotypes :-\ (0)

Alex Belits (437) | about 3 years ago | (#37513088)

Italy has incompetent government officials who couldn't possibly get into their positions without corruption.
Ireland has flammable people.

All we need to complete a full set for this week is some outrageous murder in US, more outrageous murder in Mexico, crooks taking over something large and valuable in Russia, some kind of violence in the Middle East, and chavs or soccer hooligans breaking stuff in UK!

Ireland is the new Romania (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513116)

It used to be that all these weird and wonderful filler material came from Romania. Now that Romania's economy is up and Ireland is down, the situation is reversed and miracles happen in Ireland again.

It's all linked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513134)

As sad as this case is one can't miss that the fourth season of Fringe started a few days ago. Suddenly neutrinos go faster than light and people spontaneously combust. It looks like it will be a hell of a season.

Unexplained Combustion (1)

LS (57954) | about 3 years ago | (#37513296)

So in Ireland, "spontaneous combustion" is just a euphemism for "unexplained combustion?"

His pacemaker had a web server (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513300)

and somebody posted the url on Slashdot.

from Russia with love (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513722)

was he drinking a lot?

in our kolkhoz we had several occasions with hard drinker burndown

Its an internal booze issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37513744)

They need to check his alcohol stream for whiskey levels! If he was smoking and sweating, its quite possible the vapors caught fire!

No source of ignition except a fireplace? WTF (1)

rumpledoll (716472) | about 3 years ago | (#37513790)

From the article "Forensic experts found that a fire in the fireplace of the sitting room where the badly burnt body was found, had not been the cause of the blaze that killed Mr Faherty.". Yet we the investigator has no clue how the body could have caught fire. Geez.

Re:No source of ignition except a fireplace? WTF (1)

ledow (319597) | about 3 years ago | (#37513884)

Which part of "had NOT been the cause" do you not understand?

They basically came to the conclusion that the fireplace wasn't the source of the fire. Myriad other things could be. He could have been smoking, the ash dropped on his shirt, a fire started (thereby eliminating the cigarette evidence in some cases), but he just happened to fall near the fireplace.

The cause of death, then, is NOT the fireplace at all, in any way. And these people deal in legalities and medical practice - if they don't think the fireplace caused it, they can't just make stuff up or say "Well, it was probably..." Thus the verdict was "spontaneous combustion" (which doesn't mean that his stomach just caught fire, but that they could not determine the cause).

The forensic investigator that says "Oh, it must have been the fire" is the one that lets a murderer get away with it, or mistakes a suicide for murder and puts innocent people behind bars. The investigator that says "I have no clue" does neither and doesn't hinder other investigations that could hinge on his evidence.

And how about these 503 errors? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 3 years ago | (#37513924)

Is slashdot facing spontaneous combustion as well? I had to use https to load this page - attempts with http failed with the 503 / guru meditation / varnish error.

Human spontaneous combustion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37514060)

200 cases reported.
Zero witness.
Draw your own conclusion...

Wikipedia has an interesting fact though : "The "wick effect" hypothesis suggests that a small external flame source, such as a burning cigarette, chars the clothing of the victim at a location, splitting the skin and releasing subcutaneous fat, which is in turn absorbed into the burned clothing, acting as a wick. [...] The human body typically has enough stored energy in fat and other chemical stores to fully combust the body"
This would explain how a body properly lit on fire by a "small" heat source could burn completely.

QED Document (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37514194)

This might explain it.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/158853.stm

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