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9/11 Conspiracies

Debunking the Debunking of the Debunkers

(02/16/2010) Oh my, it has been almost ten years since 9/11. And it looks like it has been several years since I wrote anything about it. The whole issue of why the twin towers collapsed in the manner that they did has yet to be fully explained except in political terms. I know this. I feel it. I don't understand it. Believe me, this has been a stomach emptying trauma in my life.

Last weekend Jessie Ventura's Conspiracy Theories was on some obscure DirecTV channel and I decided to watch them since one of them was about 9/11. This prompted me to go back and review some of the websites relating to this particular conspiracy. They are still there.

The most obvious difference in tone and in focus came from the various 9/11 Truthers websites. The truthers have shed some of the crazier members and have managed to change the discussion toward one of scientific truth. The Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth have put together an impressive list of sponsors for a petition to reopen the 9/11 investigations and there are a growing number of high ranking Military and political figures that agree.

And you can verify with google foo that as of late, the media is beginning to take notice. In particular, a peer-reviewed paper published in the Open Chemical Physics Journal on April 3 of last year. The published paper reported that a little known high-tech explosive called nano-thermite was found throughout the World Trade Center dust.

Oh my. VP Biden was caught on video as he was asked about this.

Of course, the defenders of the political version of 9/11 are in hot pursuit! If I am not mistaken, they currently argue that nano-thermite is some sort of fictitious laboratory experiment and they post video demonstrating that thermite does not melt steel. They will even offer up straw men that NIST did not claim the steel melted. Trouble is, hot spots burned for weeks and were confirmed from scans from space and the results monitored by the EPA. Obviously, pools of molten steel were found.

OK, so why is this an issue? The scientific question is why did all three of the buildings that collapsed that day fall at the speed that they did. They fell at near free fall speeds. This fact alone caused NIST to admit that the two redundant steel frames built into WT1 & WT2 failed completely and at nearly the same time.

But how could that happen? What could destroy a redundant steel frame structure? This is a terrifying question. It is also an insult to engineering that such a failure is politically correct.

The debunkers of the Truthers would have you believe that the instantaneous destruction of both steel frames was not required for near free fall speeds and since I am also insulted I would like to review one of their explanations.

In one of the debunker websites I reviewed I found a purported mathematical treatise predicting the time it should take for each of the twin towers to fall. According to the website, this explanation means that we do not need to look at why a catastrophic failure of the two redundant steel frames occurred. This debate is framed as a rebuttal to the near free fall speeds of the twin towers.

The analysis starts by assuming that each floor of the twin towers was identical, meaning that each floor was of the same size and weight. The next assumption made is that all the collisions, that is each time a floor or group of floors fell into the next lower floor, were perfectly elastic collisions. Then using a version of the well-known equations for free fall, one I've never seen, plugs this into an Excel spreadsheet and predicts a time within a second or two of the actual event for each of the twin towers.

Engineers are supposed to ask, does that make sense? Lets look at the assumptions. Each floor is identical. How can that be? The first floor holds up the 109 floors above it. The top floor only holds up the roof. If all the floors are identical than the top floor could support another twin tower.

The next assumption is that the collisions were perfectly elastic collisions. That means that the entire velocity of the falling floors caused each of lower floors to reach the same velocity instantaneously. There is no resistance provided by any of the lower floors. This type of collision is only possible in gases and at the atomic or sub-atomic level, or a planetary level. Surely the twin towers were not made of gas and do not orbit NYC.

And did that chunk of some thirty stories actually fall into the floors below it? Seems to me that it broke off, twisted away and fell over the side of the building and imploded in mid air!

So why is it, that despite assumptions that are clearly false, that the calculations mirror reality so closely? In my experience there is no such thing as voodoo mathematics. And what about those multi-body calculations dealing with gravity? Afterall, gravity is your sole culprit.

The entire treatise assumes that there were no dual steel frames in either twin tower! It is obvious that each floor would provide some measurable resistance that we could observe if only we had vids of the fall. What, we have vids? Wow! Someone actually measured the velocity of the falling objects? What? The velocity curves indicate nearly perfectly elastic collisions?

Right. Me thinks there were no collisions at all.

And so this website goes on, and on, and on...

So you have a politically damning situation from a scientific viewpoint. Oddly enough a new book has come to light; The Forty Years War: The Rise and Fall of the Neo cons, from Nixon to Obama. The review of the book I watched on CSPAN definitely caused some cogs to fall into place. In particular, the ideology and influence of the 'role of the mysterious Pentagon official Fritz Kraemer, a monocle-wearing German expatriate whose unshakable faith in military power, distrust of diplomacy, moralistic faith in American goodness, and warnings against "provocative weakness" made him the hidden geopolitical godfather of the neocon movement'.

This might get interesting. The founding fathers did warn about enemies from within?

Debunking the Debunkers

(12/16/2006): A secondary cottage industry has emerged, those eager to defend our government's 9/11 conspiracy theory against all takers, namely the 9/11 Truth Movement. I've been puzzled about why these groups are not making much progress, after all, you have experts from MIT, the NIST report, the 9/11 Commissions Report and various other publishing concerns like Skeptic Magazine and Popular Mechanics all against a bunch of misfit conspiracy nuts.

Seems like no contest. Perhaps they need to hire a PR firm? Perhaps they should advertise the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs web page designed to help us identify misinformation on Google? The advise found on the site rules, "Research the allegations".

Skeptic Magazine had their shot at it on CSPAN. What a waste, the opening argument and ultimate justification against the conspiracy crowd was that it would take a competent President of the U.S. to accomplish the evil deeds and since we all know that President Bush is incompetent, that all 9/11 conspiracy theories are false.

Research the allegations? Sounds like an Urban Legend to me. That President Bush is incompetent is clearly either too good to be true, or to terrible to be true.

The news media is fond of quoting a MIT professor who scratched his head in thought prior to remarking, of course, that is the only way a tall building weighing a million tons can come down, into its footprint.

Research the allegations? OK, did the twin towers fall into their footprints? Although not the stuff of an urban legend, it is myth just the same. There are a number of photographs available that clearly show pieces of the tower's steel frame blown into nearby buildings. I seemed to have missed the website identifying doctored photos, perhaps someone would be kind enough to help my quest?

The NIST report went into great detail with the events leading up to the actual collapse of the towers, concluding that once collapse initiated, that the force was so great, that the towers failed.

Research the allegations? That's a tough one, how do you define a force so great? As an engineer, perhaps this question is a bit more appreciated out of the intended political context in which its meaning is clear. Or perhaps we witnessed a miracle, the suspension of classical physics as we understand it, an act of God.

Of course, the urban legend I love best is the purported video tape of Bin Laden, gloating over his victory, claiming that his engineers had calculated that crashing a 767 fully loaded with fuel, would bring the towers down. Apparently Bin Laden marshaled more engineering expertise planning the attack than we have in analyzing the attack.

Does the story claim that vast, powerful, and evil forces are secretly manipulating events?

It is the clear distain for engineering that bothers me the most with regards to the political explanations. Few, if any of the observed remnants of the collapse fit the simplified proposed models of the collapse. Sure signs that something has been overlooked.

Other Favorite Urban Legends:

Secret Societies are benign, designed to keep the elites entertained. They would never act to harm or control others.

Conspiracy theories are needed to console the masses about issues to complex to be understood.

A Boeing 767 can be hijacked using box cutters and plastic knives.

Osama bin Laden had a mountain fortress at Tora Bora.

Will the REAL Conspiracy Nuts Please Stand Up!

(09/05/2006): Several days ago I ran into an article by Deck Deckert titled, "Conspiracy Nuts And 9/11", in which he declares, "I have some friends who are conspiracy nuts." The current issue of TIME magazine is also running a cover story titled, "Why The 9/11 Conspiracies Won't Go Away" in which they declare that 9/11 Conspiracy Theories are "a mainstream political reality". Even Karl Rove jokes about the topic in public speeches with his closest friends. And every aspiring academic knows that - to be branded a "Conspiracy Nut", is the kiss of death.

That a 9/11 conspiracy existed, is undisputed. As to the details of the conspiracy theory, it would seem the jury is still out, five years after the tragic event. Throughout history, conspiracy theories have been closely linked with "Secret Societies", those formidable groups that the truly elite form and join to advance their own ideologies and passions. Conspiracy theories have sprung up throughout history as the non-elite try to make sense of the policy agendas that the elite skillfully, sometimes brutally, bring to what is now referred to as "The New World Order", e.g. Bush 41's Inaugural Address.

Perhaps the most revealing insight into "Conspiracy Theories" was enumerated by Daniel Pipes during an interview for the History Channel, which documented secret societies, whereby Mr. Pipes states, (that while) the vast majority of Conspiracy Theories are false, that Conspiracy Theories are - how the elite society prefers to operate.

So how did the elites bungle 9/11?

For a growing number of Americans, removed from the horror and shock that was 9/11, a disturbing video of the collapse of WTC7 is the smoking gun.

If I were teaching high school physics today, I would definitely show this clip to my students and ask them, "What is wrong with this clip?". I am betting, that all of them would be able to clearly explain the situation. That building collapsed at free fall speeds. In fact, if you look, you will find that both of the twin towers did the same thing, e.g. fell at near free-fall speeds. (Answer: the top floor could only reach the ground at near free-fall speeds if all, or most of all the floors below it were removed first.)

With the nativity of a child, the questions spill freely from within. Ron Suskind, while on his recent book tour, reminded us that he keeps a video clip from "A Few Good Men" on his laptop. The scene is "You can't handle the truth!", wherein Ron reminds us, that throughout our history, all Americans can and do handle the truth. It is the truth, that is the undeniable necessity of our security and of our freedom.

So it is, dueling conspiracy theories (the proof of the correct version  is left up to the reader, if one exists). I do feel compelled to offer a few hints:

  1. Government Incompetence: A favorite of the un-initiated. How does one become the world's only super power through incompetence?
  2. Government Inability to Keep Secrets: Lets see, 10,000-20,000 involved in the Manhattan Project, no leak there. Area 51, no leak there either. Black Projects are so secret that not even their funding can be traced!  Pleeeaaassse... see #1
  3. Government Faith: Opposites attract and enhance (Bush/Osama), there are at least 3 sources of faith (religion, philosophical, scientific), and is there a "war of civilizations as neo-con fundamentalism claims of Islamic fundamentalism? Or does the rest of the world have legitimate grievances with how the world's only super power flexes its capitalistic muscle?
  4. Government False Flag Operations: Notorious throughout history. Our own Operation Northwoods is perhaps the best motive for the JFK assassination and the resulting single bullet theory.
  5. Steel Framed Buildings: In the one hundred years prior to 9/11, the number of steel framed buildings that collapsed due to fire: 0. On 9/11: 3. Since 9/11: 0.
  6. Piloting Skills: What does it take to fly a Boeing 757 or 767?
  7. Straw Man Reasoning: Consider all eye witness accounts. Does the proponent account for all eye witness accounts, or pick the ripest cherries (rebuttal)?

While all of this makes for fascinating and at times, entertaining reading, and indeed after spending long hours doing so, it is clear that, like the truth behind the assassination of JFK over fifty years ago, no common man really knows, nor are we likely to know the truth fifty years hence, the truth about 9/11.

The real question is, "Where do we go from here?"

The Great Conspiracy - The 9/11 News Special You Never Saw - Part 1

While the individual parts of this news special are no longer available, you may view the entire program on Google Video. The transcript is also available in pdf format.

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Last modified: January 29, 2007
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