Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Does Grandma Smell Like Toast?

This is one of my favorite posts - originally posted in 2005 on my old blog, The Phoenix - Where Science is Stranger Than Fiction. I'm not being lazy, but just waxing nostalgic. Enjoy!


Warning: The following post is a little gross...so if you're faint of heart or you are eating, you might want to skip this. I know you sickos will keep reading, of course...

On July 2, 1951, Mary Reeser brought Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) to the forefront of scientific investigation. Her death is so bizarre, it really defies logical explanation. Ms. Reeser had said goodnight to her visiting son and was last seen sitting in her easy chair of her modest St. Petersburg, FL apartment. Her neighbor, Ms. Carpenter was awakened by smoke, and traced it to Mary Reeser's door - which was scolding hot.

What firefighters and police found was immensely gruesome and incomprehensible. Mary's 170 pound body was nothing more than 10 pounds of ashes, her skull that had shrunk to the size of an orange, and her left foot completely intact. The room showed signs of heat damage - plastic was melted on switches and outlet covers, melted wax from her candles, and her chair was severely damaged. But that was it no widespread fire damage at all. Dr. Korgman of the University of Pennsylvania that performed the pathology exam was baffled. He said it would take temperatures of more than 3000 degrees to do destroy a body so...especially the bones.

With that much heat generated, the entire apartment - the entire building - should've gone up in flames. It's a classic case of SHC. So what happened? Is SHC real?

There are several theories out there:

1)Alcoholism...probably perpetuated by Charles Dickens in one of his novels where a drunk spontaneously combusts. They did an experiment where they saturated human flesh and tried to light it. Sounds like a Beavis and Butthead episode to me. The flesh didn't burn much.

2)Divine intervention...this was popular in the 17th century, particularly in the less-education population. I guess the thinking was you look at your cousin in the wrong way and God will turn you into crispy toast for having such lewd thoughts.

3)Build up of static electricity...ok, I tried this in the 5th grade. The library had thick lush carpet. I dragged my feet on it for almost 20 minutes straight and shocked the hell out of Todd Weber. He screamed like a girl and told on me...but he didn't shoot up in flames.

4)The "Wick Effect"...this is the most widely accepted scientific explanation. In 1999, the BBC TV show QED showed how SHC was really not such a mystery. They believed that body fat could indeed burn for a long time. So they did what any British scientist would do - they burned a pig! They took a pig, wrapped it up in a blanket (ha), put some petrol on it, put the pig in a room, and lit 'er up! The result? Tasty bacon on English muffins with tea in the morning.

5)Build up of methane gas...this theory was made popular by the renowned investigative TV show South Park. Here's an excerpt from one of their episodes where Kenny apparently spontaneously combusts:

Mayor: All right, people. Scientist Marsh and I have been working very hard on the problem of spontaneous combustion, and we have finally come up with a solution. Mr. Marsh?


Randy: The little boy combusted because he had a new girlfriend. It wasn't the girl that caused him to combust, it was the fact that Kenny did not want to pass gas in front of her. The methane gathers here in the bowel area where it causes pressure. Normally a person would expel this byproduct in the form of a pleasant fart. Should the gas not be expelled, the methane can build up and then ignite, leading to... disaster. Kenny combusted because he held his farts in for too long.


Townsfolk: You mean, all we have to do is fart and we won't explode?


Randy: Exactly. [after a while, a fart is heard, then more farts follow as the townsfolk release their gases]


Mayor: So, from this day forward, everyone in South Park will be required to fart on a regular basis to insure that nobody else spontaneously explodes.


So please, take spontaneous combustion prevention measures at regular intervals and whenever you deem neccessary.

22 comments:

The Desert Rocks said...

Pleasant farts? LOL.

M Pax said...

lol South Park always has the best explanations. Great post.

Jay Noel said...

Eve, Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

M. Pax, They do, don't they? Always truth in the absurd.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Still a freaky occurrance! No idea why it happens.

Jay Noel said...

Alex, I'm thinking the BBC showed how with their flaming pig demonstration. I wonder if they all shared some bacon afterwards, though.

Laila Knight said...

I wonder if this actually happens. Maybe that's how the whole theory of the phoenix was born. I really hope that pig was dead when they set it on fire. :)

Dafeenah said...

I love watching shows about these things and often wonder how real they are. I guess they're one of those things we'll never "really" know the answer to but it's fun to guess.

Pk Hrezo said...

LOL.... well then. I suppose some things are simply inexplicable. I was worried about that poor pig too.... hope he was dead.

Jay Noel said...

Laila, Yes. The pig was VERY dead. And it was very fried at the end of that experiment. Love live the Phoenix!

Defeenah, I first learned about SHC from an Unsolved Mysteries episode in the 80s. Some lady's hand just started smoking!

PK, Poor pig. But that whole room probably smelled incredible!

Stephen Tremp said...

Guys have to learn that eventually, you are going to fart in front of your special girl. So go ahead. Break the ice. Get it over with. But be sure you're walking. Don;t want to do it in an enclosed room hahaha.

Phats said...

HA! When in doubt go with South park to explain things. I love the title of this post

Jay Noel said...

Stephen, Break the ice by breaking wind.

Phats, Like I said, there's always a little nugget of truth in their comedy.

Ryan Phelps said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
One J said...

christian louboutin sale
oakley sunglasses wholesale
hollister clothing
coach factory
michael kors outlet
ray ban sunglasses
louis vuitton
louis vuitton
gucci outlet
michael kors bag
louis vuitton outlet
christian louboutin shoes
gucci handbags
michael kors
michael kors outlet
fitflops
true religion
pandora charms
coach factory outlet
kids lebron james shoes
christian louboutin outlet
michael kors watches
louis vuitton handbags
coach factory outlet
20150609yuanyuan

Junda Xu said...

20150724 junda
ray ban sunglasses
kate spade bags
oakley sunglasses sale
ray bans
tory burch shoes
cheap ray ban sunglasses
michael kors handbags
true religion outlet
gucci uk
kate spade bags
kate spade
jordan shoes uk
coach outlet
fitflops shoes
ralph lauren pas cher
gucci sito ufficiale
burberry sale
hollister kids
chanel bags
louis vuitton borse
true religion sale
coach outlet
ed hardy clothing outlet
tory burch outlet online
ray bans
kate spade new york
cheap jordans free shipping
oakley sunglasses wholesale
michael kors
michael kors outlet online
replica watches for sale
michael kors bags
pandora jewelry sale
cheap oakley sunglasses
ray bans
ed hardy outlet
mont blanc
kate spade handbags
pandora charms
christian louboutin shoes

Qing Cai said...

oakley sunglasses, http://www.oakleysunglassesonline.us.com/
ugg boots uk, http://www.cheapuggboots.me.uk/
michael kors factory outlet, http://www.michaelkorsfactoryoutlets.in.net/
oakley sunglasses, http://www.oakleysunglasses-outlet.us.com/
oakley, http://www.occhialioakleyoutlets.it/
nike running shoes, http://www.nikefreerunning.org/
kobe bryant shoes, http://www.kobebryantshoes.in.net/
nba jerseys, http://www.nbajerseys.net/
nike free uk, http://www.nikefreerunning.org.uk/
michael kors wallet, http://www.michaelkorswallet.net/
coach outlet canada, http://www.coachoutletcanada.com.co/
jordan shoes, http://www.jordanshoes.us.com/
oakley outlet, http://www.oakleyoutlet.in.net/
michael kors outlet, http://www.michaelkorsoutletcanada.in.net/
christian louboutin outlet, http://www.christianlouboutinonline.us.com/
hollister shirts, http://www.hollistershirts.co.uk/
beats by dre, http://www.beatsbydrdre-headphones.us.com/
the north face uk, http://www.thenorthfaces.org.uk/
nhl jerseys, http://www.nhljerseys.us.com/
cheap nfl jerseys, http://www.cheap-nfljersey.us.com/
coach outlet online, http://www.coachoutletonline.in.net/
replica handbags,replica handbags outlet,cheap handbags,purses and handbags,wholesale replica handbags,replica bags,bags outlet,replica handbags wholesale,cheap purses,discount handbags,handbags sale,wholesale purses,handbags and purses,replica purses
prada outlet store, http://www.pradaoutlet.us/
converse sneakers, http://www.converseshoes.us.com/
ghd hair straighteners, http://www.ghdhairstraightenerssale.co.uk/
cai2015914

Xianjun Ranqin said...

qihang0925,air max
kate spade uk
longchamp handbags
supra shoes
canada goose jackets
louis vuitton borse
coach outlet store online
barbour uk
coach outlet
nike roshe run women
jordan shoes
adidas original trainers
ed hardy clothing
nike running shoes
retro jordans
instyler curling iron
cheap oakley sunglasses
cheap jerseys
football shoes
ralph lauren
ugg boots clearance
fitflops sale clearance
mont blanc
mizuno running shoes
ray bans
nike elite socks
polo outlet
tory burch outlet
ed hardy outlet
ed hardy uk
christian louboutin shoes
nike trainers
hollister co
ugg boots
mcm outlet
timberland uk
ray-ban sunglasses
pandora charms
q

ninest123 said...

ninest123 16.01
prada handbags, longchamp outlet, longchamp, ray ban sunglasses, prada outlet, louis vuitton outlet, ray ban sunglasses, ugg boots, replica watches, tiffany jewelry, louboutin outlet, burberry, oakley sunglasses, longchamp outlet, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, nike air max, louis vuitton, michael kors outlet, louboutin, replica watches, louis vuitton, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, ugg boots, nike free, burberry outlet online, gucci outlet, nike outlet, chanel handbags, ugg boots, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, uggs on sale, louis vuitton, michael kors, michael kors outlet, ray ban sunglasses, jordan shoes, polo ralph lauren outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, louis vuitton outlet, tory burch outlet, christian louboutin outlet, louboutin shoes, tiffany and co, oakley sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet

ninest123 said...

burberry, hollister pas cher, hollister, nike blazer, lacoste pas cher, air force, michael kors, nike free run uk, north face, true religion outlet, hermes, nike huarache, true religion jeans, new balance pas cher, north face, air max, true religion jeans, nike air max, longchamp, louboutin pas cher, vans pas cher, nike trainers, mulberry, nike air max, true religion jeans, nike air max, replica handbags, michael kors, nike free, sac guess, michael kors, ray ban uk, vanessa bruno, ray ban pas cher, ralph lauren uk, abercrombie and fitch, oakley pas cher, tn pas cher, michael kors, timberland, ralph lauren pas cher, sac longchamp, lululemon, nike roshe, coach purses, nike roshe run, air jordan pas cher, converse pas cher, hogan, longchamp pas cher, coach outlet

ninest123 said...

iphone 5s cases, oakley, nike air max, p90x workout, mont blanc, iphone 6s cases, nfl jerseys, converse, giuseppe zanotti, mac cosmetics, jimmy choo shoes, herve leger, instyler, timberland boots, hollister, s5 cases, iphone 6s plus cases, insanity workout, north face outlet, babyliss, mcm handbags, chi flat iron, ralph lauren, vans shoes, reebok shoes, vans, celine handbags, iphone cases, ray ban, north face outlet, iphone 6 plus cases, birkin bag, nike air max, soccer jerseys, asics running shoes, beats by dre, abercrombie and fitch, iphone 6 cases, ghd, new balance, valentino shoes, bottega veneta, hollister, soccer shoes, wedding dresses, lululemon, baseball bats, louboutin, ipad cases, ferragamo shoes, gucci, nike roshe

ninest123 said...

juicy couture outlet, canada goose, hollister, moncler, ugg boots uk, lancel, marc jacobs, moncler, juicy couture outlet, links of london, swarovski, pandora jewelry, barbour, moncler, montre pas cher, louis vuitton, canada goose, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, moncler outlet, canada goose uk, wedding dresses, canada goose outlet, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, pandora charms, swarovski crystal, coach outlet, canada goose, pandora jewelry, moncler, ugg pas cher, replica watches, louis vuitton, toms shoes, louis vuitton, pandora charms, converse outlet, karen millen, moncler, supra shoes, louis vuitton, sac louis vuitton pas cher, doudoune canada goose, barbour jackets, moncler, thomas sabo, doke gabbana outlet, canada goose outlet, bottes ugg, canada goose, moncler
ninest123 16.01

sarah saad said...

شركة نقل اثاث بحائل
شركة نقل اثاث ببريدة
شركة نقل اثاث بالقصيم

Post a Comment