Wednesday, March 9, 2011
(Here and Here)
"The arms and legs are the first to go. Relatively thin and surrounded by oxygen, they're like kindling, easy to ignite and quick to burn. At temperatures of only a few hundred degrees, the skin quickly blackens, the fat beneath the skin starts to sizzle, and within a matter of minutes the skin splits open and the flesh begins to burn.
As it does, something remarkable and eerie happens. The limbs begin to move -- the hands and feet clench, the arms curl up toward the shoulders, and the legs spread slightly apart with the knees flexed. It's a function of biomechanics and muscle strength: The flexors, the muscles that cause our arms and legs to bend, are stronger than extensors, the ones that cause our limbs to straighten. As fire cooks and dries out the muscles and tendons of the body, they shrink, just like a steak on the grill, and the flexors overpower the extensors."
"An arson fire -- one fueled by gasoline or some other flammable accelerant -- can reach temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit; at such extreme temperatures the bone undergoes a chemical and structural metamorphosis. Bone, like the rest of the body, contains carbon, and at extremely high temperatures that carbon burns out of the bone. What's left behind, called "calcined" bone, might still retain its shape -- just as a coral reef retains its form even after the organisms that built it die -- but it will be very lightweight, grayish in color, riddled with head fractures, and so fragile that it can crumble in your hands, and will certainly crumble underfoot." ~ Dr. Bill Bass, Death's Acre (76-78)