Can something burn without burning anything else?

elchzard

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So, basically, we were talking about spontaneous combustion in Science, then for our homework, we were asked if something could burn without burning anything else, and if the answer is yes, something can burn without burning anything else, why is this..? I did some googleing, but I couldn't really find anything on this topic specifically...

Anybody got any help for me? Thankyou
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zeromac

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Well no fire has to burn to be started and continuously burns the things around it

ie: the match handle of a match
 

elchzard

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Yeah, that's what I was thinking, but, sorry, forgot to mention - spontaneous combustion, specifically of people - houses aren't usually burned down at the same time as the people set on fire...

Thankyou anyway
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gifi4

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I could light a piece of paper of fire, make sure the paper touches nothing but my hand, and nothing will catch on fire, btw you have to be careful to not burn yourself.
 

jan777

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Skin is moist. Water kills fire. Its super effective!

I guess as long as the objects you are trying to burn does not have water or any fire killing substance, it will continue to burn on and on and on?

*really dont know what im talking about.
 

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If the object (the burning one) is in an enclosed space and there's a reasonable distance between it and the next flammable substance, then it could hypothetically use up all the oxygen before the fire spreads.
 
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elmoreas

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Physically speaking the combustion of matter say wood at 451 degrees F, is sufficiently hot enough that it would burn surrounding materials unless they were fire retardant or fire proof. IE they have a higher combustion point. The concept of spontaneous combustion is more of a mathematical proof than it is physical science. It really comes down to the state of atoms. At any given time at least one atom in your body is at absolute zero while another is at absolute infinite temperature, and the rest are somewhere in between depending on body temp. These extremophile atoms go un-noticed because each one is in this state for a almost inf brief period of time, hence no damage is done. Anyways, the idea of spontaneous combustion is a postulate that at least 51% of the matter in your body must randomly and at the same time get above the combustion point. Given the number of people on earth and multiply that by how long people have been around, factoring in changes in population levels, the numbers bear out that at least 3 people per year should randomly combust. I wish I kept my notes from the physics course in grad school where we talked about this so I could scan them in but I didnt. The best thing I can tell you to do is to look into the random quantom states of atoms over time and use that to prove or if you want to try, disprove the concept.
 

p1ngpong

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The current most sane theory about spontaneous human combustion is the "candle wick effect." This theory suggests that people don't just spontaneously combust for no reason, but rather they burn over a period of many hours, even days, slowly after dropping a cigarette on themselves or catching light in another way. Clothing acts as a candle wick and body fat as the candle wax, and the flame is small, hot and localised. When the theory was tested on a pigs carcass wrapped in clothes they found that the flames did not spread or grow large, and because of the many hours the body burned for, and the way the fat fuelled the fire, even the bones were broken down and reduced to ashes. Generally when a body is burned relatively quickly, say in a crematorium, the bones remain pretty much intact.
 

JonthanD

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From what I have read on the subject of human combustion, usually people suffer from some sort of heart condition and have a lot of fatty tissue, then they usually are smokers and then after that usually they are in colder climates and wearing sweaters indoors. Specifically wool sweaters.... The reason they think this is that the person has a heart attack or passes out while smoking a cigarette and manages to drop it on there own chest or sleeve or arm and the sweater makes a sort of small grease fire and creates a candle effect.

Now I think this is all theory but I have seen some interesting video's on the subject.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxGfgnsDEVg...&playnext=1

This is a set of 5 video's that are really interesting.


My personal theory on human combustion is that while most fall into the category that I already talked about, there is a more rare version that involves a complex set of circumstances and chemical reactions inside the human body.... There was one case I watched on TV where the woman actually survived catching on fire by jumping into a shower, I am not convinced about it but the story is interesting. She aparently started spewing smoke from her arms and her family threw her in a shower and put her out and she suffered some bad burns on her arms (what caused the smoking and burns is what I question not that she was burned....)
 

Skye07

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Another interesting factor is the LOI or Limiting Oxygen Index, air has about ~20% O which means anything that has an LOI of >20 will stop burning if you set it on fire (try wool, it'll stop burning instantly).
 

FAST6191

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"cold"/indoor fireworks- have a look at them.

Others have hit upon it but to elaborate you probably did something called a reactivity series (knowing teachers probably last lesson) and this also flows into what Skye07 (concentration is a big part of reactivity with the other often overlooked part being temperature). Should you pick two things probably very close to each other and in an environment where they are not likely to otherwise react with the surroundings they can react with each other (although for most you might have to be creative with your definition of burn).

If the fire triangle argument comes up "you are burning oxygen from the surrounding environment" (you are not really- burning oxygen aka liquid oxygen is nasty stuff) then point them towards "redox reactions" the most common of which is the thermit reaction or thermite to the man on the street. Various reactions get called it but the most common is iron oxide (combinations of different types depending on the person doing the mixing) and aluminium. Aluminium is so reactive (once you get past the oxide film it builds up) that it will rip the oxygen from the iron oxide to produce aluminium oxide and iron. It will however burn just about everything around it- other than amusing people and occasionally cutting holes in things it is mainly used for welding.

Bonus round. Never seen a laser set a distant object on fire?
 

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