General Question

Zyx's avatar

What kind of fuel are humans made up of?

Asked by Zyx (4160points) July 13th, 2010

I’m wondering if anyone has recently tried to explain spontanious combustion myths by looking for exothermic reactions human bodies are suitable for.

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15 Answers

wenn's avatar

Humans are carbon based life forms. We produce methane, thats all I can think of off the top of my head.

Fyrius's avatar

I believe the idea with spontaneous combustion is that it burns your body fat. Which is presumably full of energy, in some form or another.

(My word is only as reliable as the Wikipedia article I stumbled upon long ago.)

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mattbrowne's avatar

It depends on how you define fuel. Strictly speaking, more than 99.99% of all molecules or atoms of a human body can serve as chemical or nuclear fuel. The only exceptions are iron and other micronutrients such as zink.

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ragingloli's avatar

@bob_ Water does not combust.
We are made of carbon. Carbon based chemicals tend to burn very well.
Which is why I heat my home by burning diamonds.

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XOIIO's avatar

A quote from fringe

There are as many atoms in the human body as there are skies in the sky, that’s how many atom bombs I could be.

It’s an unimaginable amount of energy in the human body, even disregarding that quote.

MaryW's avatar

Fat burns. Carbon does not actually burn it changes to CO2 and releases heat.
I used to look at human combustion somewhat skeptically but since menopause I believe it could happen . :-) But seriously human combusion happens when the fat combusts. If I am remembering correctly, it can be duplicated with a pig carcass under lab conditions started with a slow fat burn. Nothing else burns around it after it then flash burns.

Jabe73's avatar

I actually didn’t think this really happens. Isn’t “spontaneous combustion” just a myth?

Fyrius's avatar

*stars in the sky”?

But nuclear energy can’t fuel a fire…

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Drop a nuclear bomb on a forest and you get a real wildfire.

Fyrius's avatar

All right, fair enough.
But we’re talking about spontaneous human combustion. If it used the energy from people’s constituent atoms, I reckon it would be more like spontaneous human nuclear explosion.

Let’s hope the suicide bombers don’t find a way to trigger that.

Zyx's avatar

Well I didn’t post this earlier because I don’t know the details on this but it seems to me like nuclear reactions could be of any size and all it takes to turn it into a chainreaction is releasing more radiation than it takes to destabilize the next atom.

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