|9/11 and Skeptic Magazine’s ‘Science’ of Controlled Demolitions|
|Wednesday, 07 December 2011 20:20|
by Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, 11/16/11
Editor’s note: Journalist Chris Mohr, an ardent defender of the official 9/11 conspiracy theory, recently wrote an article for Skeptic Magazine in which he attempted to rebut several key pieces of evidence that prove the WTC skyscrapers were brought down by controlled demolition. Researcher Jeremy R. Hammond exposes the fallacies in Mohr’s arguments in this response published in the Foreign Policy Journal.
Chris Mohr at Skeptic magazine writes that “conspiracists” are working hard to publicize their claims of scientific validity to the conjecture that the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed through controlled demolition.” He mentions a debate he had with Richard Gage, the founder of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, where more than 1,500 professional architects and engineers who question the official explanation for the collapse of the three World Trade Center buildings have signed a petition calling for a new—that is to say, a real—investigation. “I thought initially that Gage might be on to something,” Mohr writes, “until I examined his science carefully” and debated him. In his article, he lists his responses to the controlled-demolition hypothesis. Sticking to the question of World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7), let’s examine Mohr’s arguments against the science behind the controlled-demolition hypothesis and in favor of the fire-induced collapse hypothesis. If you’re unfamiliar with WTC 7, you can watch it collapsing on 9/11 in the video below.
Mohr begins his case with the argument that “You cannot secretly prepare a controlled demolition of the two World Trade Center buildings … without anyone noticing anything unusual.” He does not mention it, but we may presume he thinks it would be just as impossible in the case of WTC 7, the third WTC building to collapse completely on 9/11. The main point to be made about this assertion is that it is not a scientific argument, but speculation. It, for starters, assumes that nobody noticed anything unusual in the days, weeks, and months before 9/11. But is that true? Since this possibility was never actually investigated, and thus building workers were never interviewed and asked whether they noticed any suspicious activity going on, we don’t really know. Also, while it may seem unlikely that this could be done, if the actual scientific evidence disproves the fire-induced collapse hypothesis and proves the alternative, then one has a priori knowledge that, however unlikely, this must have occurred. So we must turn to the science, which Mohr does get to, eventually, as we shall see.
Now here’s what the 13-story reinforced-concrete Faculty of Architecture building at Delft University looked like before it caught fire.
And here is what it looked like after what Mohr describes as its “very fast, nearly straight-down collapse mostly into its own footprint.”
The first thing you just might possibly have noticed, if you were paying close attention, is that most of the building actually remained standing. The attentive viewer may have picked up on the fact that this doesn’t at all resemble the debris pile of WTC 7. So, to review Mohr’s record on this count, he falsely claims the Faculty of Architecture building was a steel-framed building before stating, oblivious to the distinction, that it was actually not. And then, by implication and by omission, he would have his readers believe the Faculty of Architecture building, like WTC 7, had collapsed completely and into its own footprint, when in fact, it was just a partial collapse and most of the building remained standing. While Mohr asserted that “other tall steel framed buildings”, plural, have since collapsed from fire, presuming this is his best example—or non-example, rather—we may dismiss his false claim and move on. It remains true that this had never happened before 9/11, and it has never happened since.
“What about the sulfidized steel that melted and that FEMA found but which NIST ignored in their report?” Mohr next asks. He answers, “NIST didn’t ignore it.” Rather, “NIST determined that neither piece came from a supporting column in the collapse zone so it couldn’t have contributed to the collapse.” Mohr offers his readers a link to World Trade Center Disaster Study page of the NIST website, leaving his readers to search for this supposed information among the many thousands of pages from the many dozens of individual reports it produced that collectively make up this study.
Mohr next comes to the unreacted thermitic material found in the dust, where he addresses the findings of a team of scientists led by Dr. Niels Harrit of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, which were published in the peer-reviewed Open Chemical Physics Journal. (Mohr forgot to provide a link for his readers to go and read the paper for themselves, so here you go). Mohr doesn’t actually address most of the findings of Harrit, et al. He never tried to reproduce their experiments to verify or falsify their findings. Instead, he simply suggests that they should have also done additional experiments that they didn’t do. We could get into these other tests Mohr thinks should have been done, but it isn’t necessary: it suffices to observe that Mohr also didn’t perform these additional experiments he thinks would be required to be absolutely certain that the substance found in the dust is nanothermite. Instead, he simply seems to presume that if these additional tests were conducted, they would falsify their findings. But that is not science. (It should also be pointed out that Harrit, et al, stated explicitly that further studies should be conducted to better understand the nature of these materials, but found that those tests they did perform were sufficient to conclude with reasonable certainty that the material was nano-thermite.)
Mohr’s best effort to challenge their actual findings is to say that “They compared the sudden energy spike of their burning chips with the spikes of known nanothermites, and found that their chips ignited at around 150° C. [sic] lower than the known nanothermites, and the energy release was off between their chips and the nanothermites by a factor of at least two. Yet they called this a match for nanothermite!” Turning to their paper, Harrit, et al, found that “the red/gray chips from different WTC samples all ignited in the range of 415-435 °C,” when thermal analysis was conducted by heating the chips using a differential scanning calorimeter. They stated that “Ordinary thermite ignites at a much higher temperature (about 900 °C or above) … than super-thermite [a.k.a. nano-thermite].” Mohr doesn’t say where he gets his information for the temperature at which nanothermite ignites, but turning to the source provided by Harrit, et al, for the statement just quoted, we find that “The ignition point of the traditional thermite material is ~325 °C higher than that for the nanocomposite.” Thus, we may deduce that nano-thermite ignites at about 575 °C. This is presumably where Mohr gets his “around 150 °C” difference between the ignition point of the chips found in the dust and “known nanothermites.”
One problem here is that Harrit, et al, were dealing with an apparently theretofore unknown nano-thermite with a different composition from the “known” source. But the main point to take away from this, as the source cited states, is “that the nanostructured energetics … are much easier to ignite and burn much more rapidly than the conventional thermite composites.” Thus, ultimately, Mohr’s observation only serves to reinforce the finding of Harrit, et al, that the thermitic material found was not conventional thermite, but some kind of nano-thermite.
He concluded that there were two possibilities: that either the chips “are from nanothermite that were deactivated in all my samples” or that Harrit, et al, were deceived or disinformation agents whose work is intended “to protect the secrecy of the genuine destruction technology at the origins of red chips and up to thousand tons of molten iron in the dust [sic].” Whoa. What was that? He continues: “The numerous metallic microspheres at the surface of some of these chips point toward an obvious link with a high power density process hence certainly related to the destruction technology employed to bring down the towers.” Whoa.
Mohr next discusses the fact that BBC reporter Jane Standley announced that WTC 7 had collapsed before it had yet done so and while it was visible still standing right behind her. CNN and Reuters also reported the collapse before it had actually occurred. Mohr addresses this by chalking it up to reporter error and saying, “It is not hard to imagine how such mistakes could be made, especially when there is no time to sift through and analyze fast-moving information.” Fair enough. No doubt, particularly imaginative readers may well be able to come up with a plausible explanation for how a 47-story skyscraper could mistakenly be reported by numerous news agencies to have collapsed before it actually had collapsed.
Finally, Mohr comes to the free-fall collapse of WTC 7. He saved the best for last, and we can have some real fun with this one. He notes that NIST acknowledged that WTC 7 “collapsed ‘at gravitational acceleration’ for eight stories over 2.25 seconds.” So, how does Mohr deal with free-fall? He offers a convoluted explanation that in part relies on NIST, but which also departs from their findings. This requires a bit of background information and explanation, but briefly: Where he relies upon NIST is their finding that over the first 18 stories, the “global collapse”—that is, the collapse of the entire building “as a single unit,” which occurs after an initial collapse within the core as indicated by the east penthouse falling below the visible roofline—occurred in three stages. However, NIST’s “Stage 1”, the first 1.75 seconds of global collapse, never really happened. What NIST was measuring to create the illusion of a “Stage 1” of collapse was observed movement towards the center of the roofline on the north face of the building, from a video shot from street level and looking upward at the building. After the penthouse begins to descend, movement of the roofline is visible. However, this movement is not indicative of the onset of global collapse, but rather due to the fact that as the core collapsed under the east penthouse, the northern façade was pulled inward. The observed movement of the roofline was not indicative of downward, but of lateral displacement of the roofline. In truth, global collapse began with a sudden onset of free-fall, NIST’s “Stage 2” of collapse. During Stage 3, WTC 7 was at near free-fall as it encountered resistance from the structure below.
Translated into meaningful terms, Mohr effectively argues that as the core columns collapsed, it pulled the perimeter columns inward, so that they “snapped like a stick,” and as each perimeter column “snapped”, the load it was carrying shifted to other columns. This all occurred “over about two seconds,” he says, alluding to NIST’s false claim of a 1.75 second “Stage 1” of collapse. Mohr departs from NIST when he comes to the 2.25 seconds of free-fall.
He acknowledges that free-fall occurred, but says, “Free-fall collapse speed [sic] does not mean no resistance, it means no net resistance.” What he means is that in addition to the downward force of gravity and the upward force of resistance offered by the load-bearing steel columns, there was also the “variable leveraged downward forces due to connections to other parts of the building.” Got that? So what he is saying is the connections between the perimeter columns and the interior of the building provided a downward force additional to the force of gravity. Got that? So, gravity plus the downward force provided by the connections between the perimeter columns and the interior.
• If 4500 degree nanothermites were used to pulverize almost every inch of every concrete floor, then how could there have been millions of sheets of paper with an ignition temperature of only 451° raining down on the sidewalks?
This is a strawman argument. To my knowledge, nobody has suggested that nano-thermite was used “to pulverize almost every inch of every concrete floor.” To bring the building down, the steel load-bearing columns would have to be cut and gravity would do the rest. No nano-thermite or explosives would be used on the floors at all. Any use of nano-thermite would be targeted at the connections or the columns themselves.
• If 4500 degree nanothermites were used extensively even at the top to cause a supposed upward explosion, then why were first responders able to walk over the wreckage less than an hour after the Tower collapses?
This refers to the Twin Towers and not WTC 7, but it should be noted that the debris was so hot in some places that the soles of workers’ boots melted and steel toes would heat up to unbearable temperatures. Doh!
• If there were 2800 degree rivers of molten steel in the debris, then why do NASA thermal images show maximum temperatures in the rubble of only 1400°?
NASA’s thermal images only recorded surface temperatures, implying significantly higher temperatures under the debris. Mohr doesn’t mention it, but there are also numerous credible eyewitness reports as well as photographic evidence of molten steel in the debris piles. And, as Mohr already acknowledged, samples of steel that had been melted were, in fact, recovered from the debris.
• If the debris pile had 2800 degree temperatures, then why were firefighters able to pour millions of gallons of water all over it and not trigger the deadly thermal explosions that are caused when water comes in contact with molten steel or iron?
In fact, firefighters did have to take care in their efforts because there was indeed a danger “that applying water to cool the steel could cause a steam explosion that would propel nearby objects with deadly force,” as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration noted in a report on the dangers of the Ground Zero worksite. Doh! The real question is: How, if firefighters poured millions of gallons of water, as well as the chemical fire suppressant Pyrocool, in addition to several rainfalls, did fires continue to burn within the debris piles for months?
• If the lateral ejection of beams were caused by explosive nanothermites, then there would have been deafening 140 db sounds that can’t be muffled by more than a few db or you lose the explosive force of the shock wave itself.
This is again with reference to the Twin Towers, but still relevant, if nano-thermite was used in WTC 7. Mohr offers no source for his claim that nano-thermite would create “deafening 140 db sounds,” when ignited. But the clue here is his reference to “the explosive force of the shock wave itself.” With conventional explosives used in controlled demolitions, like RDX, it is the pressure of the explosion that cuts through steel columns. With thermitic materials, however, it isn’t a high-pressure “shock wave,” but the exothermic reaction that melts through the steel. One patented device designed to employ thermitic materials for applications including demolition notes that a “primary disadvantage” of conventional demolition charges “is that they generate excessive noise and debris upon detonation,” while “Thermite-based cutting devices, which employ a cutting flame, produce relatively little over pressure.” While regular thermite is an incendiary, as the Department of Defense points out, nano-thermite has the potential for uses in “high-power, high-energy composite explosives.” But nano-thermite is “explosive” because of the great amount of energy it releases, not via high pressure “shock waves,” but via the even more energetic and more rapid exothermic reaction compared to regular thermite.
• If there had been large explosions prior to the collapse, then they would have been a part of the seismic record, and they were not.
This is a non-sequitur. Mohr repeats the same fallacy, apparently assuming thermitic materials would “explode” in the sense that they would create a high-pressure “shock wave.” If conventional explosives were also used in conjunction with thermite, fewer would be required. And the fact is that there were explosions taking place that were documented on video. Many eyewitnesses reported explosions, explosions were captured on the audio of a number of videos, news reporters talked about explosions taking place well after the collapse of the Twin Towers, and there was speculation by some reporters live on air that these were cars exploding after having caught fire as a result of the collapses. It may be that there was some other such source of the explosions, but one can hardly deny that they took place. Two distinct explosions can be heard in the audio track of one video of WTC 7 immediately prior to the observable collapse of the east penthouse.