Rebutting (Again!) the 9/11 Truthers
Like unsinkable rubber duckies, everytime you push down the fatuous arguments of the 9/11 “truthers,” who believe that the U.S. government was complicit in the attacks on that fateful day in September, they just pop back up. In response to my blog here, 9/11 Truthers Foiled by 12/25 Attack, the “truthers” have fired back with a series of questions for me, not about Al Qaeda and bin Laden taking credit for the Xmas day underwear bomber, or for 7/7, or Lisbon, or the attack on the World Trade Center buildings in the early 1990s, but on specific “anomalies” in the collapse of the WTC buildings, in the mistaken belief that if I cannot address each and every anomaly they believe they have found, then this is proof positive that Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld, and company are guilty. Here is their challenge to me: http://911debunkers.blogspot.com/2010/01/response-to-michael-shermer.html
The belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking (that includes, in addition to Holocaust denial, creationism and crank theories of physics), and is easily refuted by noting that beliefs and theories are not built on single facts alone, but on a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry. All of the “evidence” for a 9/11 conspiracy falls under the rubric of this fallacy.
For example, on the issue of the melting temperature of steel, according to 911research.wtc7.net, steel melts at a temperature of 2,777 degrees Fahrenheit, but jet fuel burns at only 1,517 degrees Fahrenheit. No melted steel, no collapsed towers. (This claim is made by Jim Hoffman,in his book Waking Up From Our Nightmare and on his web page http://911research.wtc7.net/talks/towers/text/index.html.) Wrong. In an article in the Journal of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society, M.I.T. engineering professor Dr. Thomas Eager explains why: steel loses 50 percent of its strength at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit; 90,000 liters of jet fuel ignited other combustible materials such as rugs, curtains, furniture, and paper, which continued burning after the jet fuel was exhausted, raising temperatures above 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit and spreading the fire throughout the building; temperature differentials of hundreds of degrees across single steel horizontal trusses caused them to sag, straining and then breaking the angle clips that held them to the vertical columns; once one truss failed, others failed, and when one floor collapsed (along with the ten stories above it) onto the next floor below, that floor then gave way, creating a pancaking effect that triggered the 500,000-ton building to collapse.
Conspiricists also argue that if the buildings had collapsed due to the impact of the planes, they should have fallen over on their sides. This is also wrong. With 95 percent of each building consisting of empty space (these were office buildings after all), they could only have collapsed straight down—there simply isn’t enough structural support integrity to take an entire building down in one piece.
Conspiracy theory buffs—in direct contradiction of the above claim—also believe that the buildings fell straight down into their own footprint, which, they say, could only have happened if they had been deliberately brought down by explosive charges carefully and deliberately set ahead of time. Not true. The buildings did not fall down perfectly straight. Their collapse began on the side where the planes impacted, and so were tilted slightly toward that weakened collapse point.
Another conspiracy claim is that the buildings fell from the top down, precisely in the manner that controlled demolition buildings collapse. False. Controlled demolitions are done from the bottom up, not the top down. If you search “building demolition” on YouTube you will find hundreds of video clips of buildings collapsing by controlled demolition from the bottom up.
For our special 9/11 issue of Skeptic (https://www.skeptic.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Session_ID=c87b04f1741b6411293eee53ccfedc39&Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SS&Product_Code=magv12n4&Category_Code=BI) we consulted a demolition expert named Brent Blanchard, who is Director of Field Operations for Protec Documentation Services, a company that documents the work of building demolition contractors. Since the rise in popularity of 9/11 conspiracy theories, he too has been inundated with requests to explain why the buildings appeared to have “collapsed as if by a controlled demolition.” (Blanchard’s entire analysis may be found on the Website he edits: www.implosionworld.com) Blanchard and his team of experts at Protec have worked with all major American demolition companies and many foreign ones to study the controlled demolition of over 1,000 of some of the largest and tallest buildings around the world. Their duties include engineering studies, structural analysis, vibration/air overpressure monitoring and photographic services. On September 11, 2001, Protec had portable field seismic monitoring systems operating at other sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Demolition specialists were hired to clean up Ground Zero and remove the remaining damaged structures, and these experts called on Blanchard’s company to document both the deconstruction and the debris removal. Here are nine of the best arguments made by 9/11 conspiracy theorists and their rebuttal by Protec:
Claim #1: The collapse of the towers looked exactly like controlled demolitions.
Protec: No they did not. The key to any demolition investigation is in finding out the “where”—the actual point at which the building failed. All photographic evidence shows World Trade Center buildings 1 and 2 failed at the point of impact. Actual implosion demolitions always start with the bottom floors. Photo evidence shows the lower floors of WTC 1 and 2 were intact until destroyed from above.
Claim #2: But they fell right down into their own footprint.
Protec: They did not. They followed the path of least resistance and there was a lot of resistance. Buildings of 20 stories or more do not topple over like trees or reinforced towers or smokestacks. Imploding demolitions fall into a footprint because lower stories are removed first. WTC debris was forced out away from the building as the falling mass encountered intact floors.
Claim #3: Explosive charges are seen shooting from several floors just prior to collapse.
Protec: No, air and debris can be seen being violently ejected from the building—a natural and predictable effect of rapid structure collapse.
Claim #4: Witnesses heard explosions.
Protec: All Seismic evidence from many independent sources on 9/11 showed none of the sudden vibration spikes that result from explosive detonations.
Claim #5: A heat generating explosive (thermite?) melted steel at ground Zero.
Protec: To a man, demolition workers do not report encountering molten steel, cut beams or any evidence of explosions. Claims of detected traces of thermite are at this time inconclusive.
Claim #6: Ground Zero debris—particularly the large steel columns from towers 1 and 2—were quickly shipped overseas to prevent scrutiny.
Protec: Not according to those who handled the steel. The chain of procession is clearly documented, first at ground Zero by Protec and later at the Fresh Kills site by Yannuzzi Demolition. The time frame (months) before it was shipped to China was normal.
Claim #7: WTC7 was intentionally “pulled down” with explosives. The building owner himself was quoted as saying he decided to “pull it.”
Protec: Building owners do not have authority over emergency personal at a disaster scene. We have never heard “pull it” used to refer to an explosive demolition. Demolition explosive experts anticipated the collapse of WTC7, and also witnessed it from a few hundred feet away and no one heard detonations.
Claim #8: Steel-frame buildings do not collapse due to fire.
Protec: Many steel-framed buildings have collapsed due to fire.
Claim #9: Anyone who denies that explosives were used is ignoring evidence.
Protec: Most of our comments apply to the differences between what people actually saw on 9/11 and what they should have seen had explosives been present. The hundreds of men and women who worked to remove debris from ground zero were some of the countries most experienced and respected demolition veterans. They of all people processed the experience and expertise to recognize evidence of controlled demolition if it existed. None of these people has come forward with suspicions that explosives were used.