Question: How does 'internal human combustion' work? How does it happen?

  1. I presume you are talking about “spontaneous human combustion”, where for no good reason, a person appears to be burnt to death.

    I don’t know much about this – but I’m very skeptical that it occurs. My first stop when I don’t know something is often wikipedia

    which says there is no scientific evidence for such a phenomenon – and no mechanism to explain how it might happen. This fits in with my intuition.


  2. I also assume you mean spontaneous human combustion. I don’t see how it would or could work. The amount of energy required for a human body to spontaneously incinerate itself is far too high to be realistic. As far as I know there are only anecdotes about it occurring, and I’d be very cautious about them.


  3. . Would tend to agree with Matthew and Simon – without scientific proof of “spontaneous human combustion” occurring, we lack the ability or need to investigate the “how”.

    If on the other hand you are talking about human metabolism (burning of foods) – this involves chemical reactions which break larger molecules (e.g. proteins, fats and carbohydrates) into smaller components. These are then combined with oxygen, within the cells, to provide for our energy needs.


  4. I only know about digestion not combustion…


  5. What?!?!???



  1. Another classic… there is a plausible explanation for spontaneous human combustion (if I may from the sideline).

    One of the most plausible explanations is the wick effect.

    The problem with the title of spontaneous human combustion is that it infers that someone literally bursts into flames for seemingly no reason. This certainly hasn’t been observed outside of Hollywood. Instead, what has been observed is the burnt remains of people, often with minimal damage to the surrounding area, and so it was thought that they must have just burst into flames.

    But the wick effect produces the same results without the sudden bursting into flames. The way it works is very similar to a candle; hence the name of wick, but it is the human body that is like the wax with just a small flame. For example, a person is smoking and has a heart attack, the smoke sets fire to their clothes, but under the right circumstances, rather than the fire burning quickly it burns slowly. The slow burning ‘melts’ the flesh of the person but the flame does not extinguish, so by the time the person is found, a large portion of the body is burnt without fire burning much else.

    It is a very rare event but there are a number of cases on record, and in fact, I am pretty sure the BBC did an experiment with a pig showing how it worked.

    Maybe check youtube for that documentary, and check the wick effect.