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Author Topic: Spontaneous Human Combustion & Dr. Chris  (Read 9405 times)

Offline AllenG

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« on: 05/12/2008 21:02:36 »
It was the middle of the night, I could have been dreaming.
Chris, did I hear correctly on the "Up All Night" broadcast? Did you use will-o'-the-wisps, methane bacteria, flatulence, and candle wicks to explain spontaneous human combustion?
Nice, James Burke would be proud of that one.


« Last Edit: 05/12/2008 21:29:15 by AllenG »


 

Offline LeeE

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« Reply #1 on: 12/12/2008 00:22:56 »
SHC appear to be one of those phenomena that occur but for which there is not yet an adequate explanation.  The only thing that I've heard of that might point in the right direction was a case I read about twenty or thirty years ago about someone whose body naturally produced alcohol.  IIRC, it was an American male who was repeatedly arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol even though he hadn't actually drank any booze.  After this had happened many times, the local police figuring out that they had a dead-cert bust arrested him every time he was seen driving a car regardless of his driving behaviour, lab tests showed that his body was naturally producing alcohol, which was ending up in his bloodstream.

Sorry that I can't remember exactly where I read it, but the report sticks in my mind as seeming to be credible.
 

Offline RD

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« Reply #2 on: 12/12/2008 01:51:42 »
... it was an American male who was repeatedly arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol even though he hadn't actually drank any booze.  After this had happened many times, the local police figuring out that they had a dead-cert bust arrested him every time he was seen driving a car regardless of his driving behaviour, lab tests showed that his body was naturally producing alcohol, which was ending up in his bloodstream.


Quote
Endogenous ethanol (EE) production is a normal phenomenon, but except in rare cases the amounts are minute. Studies of healthy abstainers peg blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from EE at less - often much less - than .004 percent, which itself is only a 20th of the usual U.S. legal [driving] limit of .08 percent.

Where does EE come from? While there's some evidence that small amounts are formed inside cells as metabolic intermediaries or products, mostly it's manufactured in the mobile fermentation vat known as your gut. Some of the tiny things that live in there, especially yeasts, are constantly munching ingested carbs and churning out booze. The body absorbs this normally modest volume of EE and it goes straight to the liver, where it's metabolized. Barring unusual circumstances, very little EE makes it to the rest of the body.

To get a significant BAC from EE alone would require increased fermentation, diminished ability to metabolize alcohol, or (probably) both. In Japan since the 1950s there have been dozens of published case reports of people feeling drunk after eating carbs such as rice, a condition called meitei-sho or, in English, auto-brewery syndrome. You're thinking: great - free sake. Not quite. It comes with a price.

In almost every case in one review, intestinal overgrowth of candida or other yeasts was identified as the cause. Most patients had undergone some sort of gastrointestinal surgery - such procedures sometimes result in increased fermentation thanks to blind loops left in the intestine, where microbes can eat and multiply undisturbed. In most cases not involving prior surgery, some other abnormality was noted, such as low stomach acidity.

Auto-brewery syndrome has never been convincingly reported outside Japan. Why? It's all about enzymes. When the liver processes ethanol, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase first converts it to acetaldehyde. In most people a second enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), quickly converts the acetaldehyde to harmless acetate. But roughly 50 percent of Japanese and other east Asians and some American Indians (but practically no Europeans or Africans) have a mutated gene that impairs ALDH activity. In these people, even a modest dose of alcohol, imbibed or endogenous, leads to acetaldehyde buildup and unpleasant symptoms: facial flushing, palpitations, dizziness, nausea, headache, and confusion.
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2677/designated-drunk
« Last Edit: 12/12/2008 01:55:48 by RD »
 

Offline LeeE

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« Reply #3 on: 12/12/2008 02:14:41 »
Thanks for the background info RD.  Sounds very similar and may be related to what I read, although I got the clear impression that it concerned a white caucasian, that the BAC was very high indeed, and that the person apparently suffered no ill-effects from it.  I can't vouch for the veracity of the report though, and what you've said sounds like a very plausible basis for the story.
 

lyner

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« Reply #4 on: 12/12/2008 20:57:35 »
When you think of the energy costs involved in Crematoria there must be more to it than a trace of self-generated fuel (alcohol).
There was a theory that you needed the burning to be helped by 'wicking' by the clothing. There is an awful lot of water in a body, though, and this has to be boiled / evaporated off for the combustion to be sustained.
I estimate that the energy available in the fat content is about four times the energy needed to deal with the water but the conditions would have to be just right. It would be like trying to start a fire using damp logs; once you get it going it roars away. Possibly the alcohol would get it started?
This would account for the rarity of the  event.
 

Offline LeeE

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« Reply #5 on: 13/12/2008 14:09:29 »
While I think that the alcohol thing might point in the right direction I can't see it as being the answer, but perhaps there might be other disorders that lead to a build up of other volatiles in the body.  Pure speculation, based essentially, on no evidence.  Could just as easily be due ball-lightning or a very high energy cosmic ray particle converting a little bit of the body to anti-matter.
 

lyner

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« Reply #6 on: 14/12/2008 21:39:58 »
How about methane? One really long fart, stored inside baggy clothes, could represent enough fuel to get the burning started. (Higher specific energy content, I believe, too)
If it were due to external factors then it would be happening to inanimate objects all the time.
 

Offline LeeE

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« Reply #7 on: 15/12/2008 00:00:49 »
Nah - I don't think a fart would do it - as with the external factors, it would happen too often and a link would've been established.

There's just not enough data to base a reasonable theory upon.
 

Offline RD

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« Reply #8 on: 15/12/2008 00:50:38 »
The most probable source of ignition is smoking paraphernalia, e.g.
the person is smoking, dies of a heart attack, (smokers often do), drops the ciggy on their clothing igniting it
were upon they burn like a candle using their fat as fuel and their clothing as a wick.

Phosphorus is  pyrophoric : it will burn on contact with air,
 it has been speculated that eating foods rich in phosphorous could produce self-igniting flatulence.
« Last Edit: 15/12/2008 00:59:59 by RD »
 

lyner

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« Reply #9 on: 15/12/2008 09:56:56 »
Nah - I don't think a fart would do it - as with the external factors, it would happen too often and a link would've been established.

There's just not enough data to base a reasonable theory upon.
Fair enough comment.
It would be necessary for it to happen somewhere where it could be investigated thoroughly by an 'expert' team very soon after the event.

It may be that the few quoted examples have all been 'foul play'. Even so, a body is so hard to burn that the perpetrators would have needed some very special circumstances.

"reasonable theory": that would be nice on this forum.
 

Offline dentstudent

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« Reply #10 on: 15/12/2008 10:26:07 »
A reasonable hypothesis would be even better!
 

lyner

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« Reply #11 on: 15/12/2008 11:41:53 »
Then we'd be cookin' on gas?
 

Offline English

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« Reply #12 on: 03/01/2009 12:57:05 »
This condition exists. I'm a caucasian auto fermeter. The discovery was made 15 years ago, I was unwell and went to see a specialist for a blood test. An hour after drinking a phial of glucose they took a blood test. A week later with the results back I was shocked when asked if I'd been drinking alcohol beforehand. Due to my illness I hadn't drank alcohol for over a year but was told I produced enough alcohol to fail a breathalyser. Consequently I've severely curbed my sugar and carb intake otherwise I get sick. For anyone planning to use this as an excuse if caught drink/driving, forget it. Without a medical history you don't stand a chance and with a history you stand to lose your licence because you're considered a risk.
 

Offline LeeE

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« Reply #13 on: 03/01/2009 16:37:30 »
Thanks for the info.
 

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« Reply #13 on: 03/01/2009 16:37:30 »

 

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