Two Questions: Spontaneous combustion? Does your hair have cells? : LUSENET : Middle School Science : One Thread

what is spontaneous combustion? excuse me if my spelling is wrong. and does your hair have cells? If only in the follicles- can it be seen using a microscope?

-- Jessica Rosenthal (, September 19, 2000


Response to science

As for spontaneous combustion, I assume you are referring to reports of humans spontaneously catching fire -- utter nonsense. More generally, spontaneous combustion is simply when something has enough energy to burn suddenly, seemingly without cause. I believe that paper heated to Fahrenheit 451 (Remember the movie? Or the book by Ray Bradbury?) will "spontaneously" combust. Anyone have a different opinion or definitive answer?

-- Michael Gatton (Science Facilitator) (, September 19, 2000.

Response to science

Click here for a nice article that addresses your hair question. I will let someone else give you a narrative explanation...

-- Michael Gatton (, September 19, 2000.

Response to science


The link provided about hair is excellent. I'll offer an explanation, but definitely check out the site. Hair is basically a shaft of flatened dead cells all mashed together. Hair grows from a hair follicle, which is essentially a piece of your scalp that has grown inwards (picture a balloon - poke your middle finger into the balloon. Your finger is now a piece of hair and the balloon around your finger is the follicle from which the hair grows). The cells that are growing and that will form the piece of hair grow from the hair bulb - it's just the bottom part of the hair follicle (the part of the balloon that surrounds the tip of your finger). So...the only place where you have actively growing hair cells is in the follicle and bulb. The piece of hair, as I mentioned above, is made of dead cells and has 3 parts - going from the center of the piece of hair to the outside of the piece of hair: medulla, cortex, cuticle (see the site for a great explanation of these parts if you want). To directly answer your question, you need a powerful microscope to see the individual cells of the hair follicle. And in order to see the follicle at all, you need to cut off part of the scalp (can you imagine your AP approving of that?!). Many people think that the follicle is just the base of a piece of hair. It is actually a complex structure that surrounds and gives "birth" to the growing piece of hair. If you're looking for a good cell lab: cheek cells are easy to get, easy to see and make for a great activity. Hope this was of some help and keep those human body questions coming!!

Jonathan Brenner Medical Student (and former middle school science teacher!) State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn

-- jonathan brenner (, September 19, 2000.


You can, of course, look at a hair under the microscope, and it is particularly interesting to compare light hair with dark hair, gelled hair with ungelled hair, etc. You might even find a few split ends to look at. Also, if you look at the root end of the hair, it's pretty gross, and students get a kick out of gross stuff. Just make sure the students are recording their observations, discussing, comparing & contrasting, etc. I use a piece of tape to hold the hair in place, otherwise it easily blows away or gets knocked off. A cover slip is pretty useless and you don't need water. Please report back to us on how it goes...

-- Michael Gatton (, September 20, 2000.

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