Spontaneous Human Combustion

Once in awhile I do something clever and people think I'm smart. Then instant karma comes along and slaps me to make sure “I” don't think I'm smart.

I have read about Spontaneous Human Combustion, albiet many years ago. It has been medically documented since the fifteenth century. It's rare and no satisfactory solution has ever been forthcoming.

Something extremely flammable must be in the to

rso of the victims, but (normally) in the legs. It can't be alcohol – alcohol metabolizes out of our systems very rapidly and isn't that flammable. Soaking meat in alcohol for a week won't make it burn. It has to be something else.

Finally, Brian J. Ford, writing in 'The Microscope' (vol 60, p63) made the observation that solves it for me – and I wonder why I didn't think of it.

“Triacylglycerol lipids cleave to form fatty acid chains and glycerol. The fatty acids can be used as an alternative source of energy through beta-oxidation, giving rise to the key metabolic molecule acetyl-CoA. This helps drive the energy producing Krebs cycle within the mitochondria of cells.

If the cells are starved (which can occur during chronic illness and even during a workout at a gym), acetyl-CoA in the liver is converted into acetoacetate which can decarboxylate into acetone.

A range of conditions can produce ketosis, in which acetone is formed, including alcoholism, fat-free dieting, diabetes, and even teething.”

So if you sitting or laying down (you usually have to be at rest) with a torso full of acetone and you happen to get near a spark, you can erupt in a fireball. Jets of blue flame will shoot from your body like flames from a blowtorch, and you will be reduced to a pile of ash within an hour. Your legs and the surrounding room won't burn.

He tried it by experiment and it produced exactly the results we see in SHC – except it isn't 'spontaneous'. There has to be a spark and the person has to be in a closed room and exhale enough acetone to carry the source of flame to their body, and specifically to their exhalations – which are now explosive. Historically this has been the persons themselves lighting a match.

Simple, eh? Why the hell didn't I think of it?

So what are the chances of YOU combusting? Almost nil – but still better than Rufus T, Firefly's chances of becoming President.

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