We Got One!

I had expected more tin foil hat comments on the “Muddying Questions, Squandering Answers” post on the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. I got a few, which I deleted as they weren’t terribly interesting. But today one Chris Michie has posted a lengthy comment on my “intemperate and unfocused rant,” challenging me to defend what I wrote. Which I won’t; it’s all in the post or the documents I linked to in the post, as far as I’m concerned. (The Mahablog Motto: I ain’t your monkey.) But Mr. Michie’s comment is a classic, an articulate and robust demonstration of junk science combined with a near-total failure of critical thought. So I’m calling your attention to it for your reading enjoyment. You can argue with him if you like; I haven’t twit-filtered him. Yet.

23 thoughts on “We Got One!

  1. I like the Eager-Musso analysis in particular; it is readable, takes the WTC structure into full account, and appreciates the size and weight and height of the buildings.

  2. Mr. Michie’s comment is even more fun when you imagine David Duchovny reading it. Occam’s Razor is just not shiny enough for some people.

  3. A little research into the basic engineering concepts of compression and tension would go a long way in this discussion, but let’s not let science clutter our minds.

  4. hey guys..what about me? Doesn’t anybody admire my confusion?., sheeesh, whatdaya gotta do to get some praise around here..be a zionist?

  5. erinyes…John Hagee is doing the third part of his bible prophecy series tonight on TBN, watch it and maybe that might help you with your digestion…

    “OOOH..And the beast had ten horns”

  6. OMG Swami, I have 3 fundy “associates”, I’m sure they’ll give me the low down tomorrow. Bless their hearts, they are trying desperately to save me from eternal damnation, but as the line goes, “some like it hot”, Central Florida is a primer for hell, Bush country you know…….
    You say Hagee is on TBN? Is that anything like LSD?

  7. oh chris chris chris… where to start???You wrote a long reply(I am not going to count the words, I have a life)to a post I am guessing you didn’t read?..See ,this always annoys me because I know how hard Maha works to write FACT based posts and when people don’t even bother to fully read them before the comment, well lets just say it leaves little room for them to use big words like confused or ingenous.

    I guess WATCHING the towers fall .. actually being there at the time and seeing it with your own eyes is not a concept chris is able to grasp….I am willing to bet none of the “inside job” crowd were anywhere near when the towers fell…but hey what the hell I am sure an eye witness needs a account from a non eye witness..I am sure glad chris came along to correct Maha about what she witnessed, because it fits in better with his story(snark)…..

    The reply lacked any substance, facts or proof for me to dispute.. it took be the tooth fairy took down the towers too but until you bring proof it DID happen that way, instead of speculation that it could have happened I don’t see what is to be gained from that…..

    As I said before lets learn the facts and not create them… the theory presumes facts not in evidence….

  8. A HUGE way to go to Maha for guest blogging on Greenwalds “Unclaimed Territory”….I am sure his readers(if they don’t already read your blog) are going to love your work!…You should have told us,, we would have baked a cake or at least bragged about ya!!!:)

  9. Oh c’mon, can’t you just pretend to be a monkey to make an old organ grinder happy? Yes, we have no bananas, nor an organ, but we have an ax we can grind if we can find a dupe… er, monkey.

  10. No Comment, at the risk of being “twit-filtered”.
    Although isn’t the “official” explanation a conspiracy theory as well?

  11. isn’t the “official” explanation a conspiracy theory as well?

    I’m not sure what the “official” explanation is.

  12. First, thanks for publishing my post. I realize that, at least until I am “twit-filtered,” I am enjoying the rare privilege of representing an alien viewpoint on this blog.

    I had been looking forward (with some trepidation, I admit) to a deluge of reasoned criticism from your loyal readers. I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed. Of the dozen or so comments that have appeared so far, few seem relevant and several are borderline incoherent.

    For example, Sam seems supportive but unwilling to expand the argument. Joanr16 suggests that “basic engineering concepts of compression and tension” might add to the discussion, but does not give a clue as to how. Swami and erinyes seem distracted. Justme makes the valid point that speculation is less convincing than proof, but then leaves this promising avenue unexplored.

    In fact, the most pointed criticism of my post so far comes from Maha herself and reads as follows: “Dear Chris Michie: Learn to read. Every statement you challenged is explained and/or documented through links in the post.”

    OK, I’ll do my best. There, I can read. That wasn’t so hard. Now, which of your statements did I challenge?

    You wrote: “…I fear that there are people — well-meaning people for the most part — who are working very hard to destroy any chance of a full accounting in our lifetime. I’m talking about the “inside job” theorists.”

    To paraphrase, you state that “inside job” theorists are working to impede a full investigation. Your evidence for such an assertion? Not stated. Your references? Not listed.

    Later you refine the accusation somewhat. “I fear the “inside job” theorists are poisoning the well. By mixing nonsense with legitimate issues they may be making all questions about September 11 seem absurd and further inquiry less likely.”

    To paraphrase, you fear a metaphorical well-poisoning. You predict that simultaneous consideration of mutually exclusive hypotheses “may” lead to a complete loss of interest in the topic. Like what happened with those tiresome debates on phlogiston and alchemy and Intelligent Design, perhaps?

    Again, no support for this assertion and no references.

    You wrote: “…to me the clearest sign the detonation theories are wrong is that the scenarios inevitably ignore basic, irrefutable facts about the WTC towers and their collapse.”

    Your following paragraph makes reference to a website that you clearly believe is a nest of disinformation. As you say, the site makes scant mention of the effects of structural damage, an earthquake, and fires that “raged unchecked” for several hours in building 7. Despite this abundance of smoking guns, however, the 9-11 report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes only that “the specifics of the fires in WTC7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time.” I guess they didn’t have time to call in any experts who might know something about the fires and the structural damage and the earthquake.

    Of course, all this doesn’t have much to do with irrefutable facts about WTC 1 and 2, but maybe your next paragraph will clear this up. Or maybe not. In fact, you link to a New York Times article (published one day after the incident), in which the COO of an engineering firm concedes that WTC 7 was “basically designed to resist heat buildup for three hours.” Really? So there are office buildings in New York that can only survive a three-hour fire and are basically out of warranty after that? I’m sure that Lloyd’s of London will be interested in this informational nugget.

    Well, still no direct explanation of the “basic, irrefutable facts about the WTC towers and their collapse,” unless you include the wide-ranging and sometimes contradictory musings of the various CEOs, architects and corporate spokespersons who are quoted in the NYT article. So much for that link.

    Your next paragraph describes what you saw – “I had a clear, straight-on view” – and links to a “number of engineering reports that confirmed what I saw with my own eyes.” I found two linked reports, coincidentally the same two that Sam found in his “cursory search” (see comments above).

    One of these reports is by a Tim Wilkinson, Lecturer in Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia, and was originally written on Sept 11, 2001 (fast work, Mr. Wilkinson!) The article is interesting, but entirely speculative and unscientific. For example, such statements as these would not normally appear in scientific literature:

    “It appears likely that the impact of the plane crash destroyed a significant number of perimeter columns….”

    “However, as fire raged in the upper floors, the heat would have been gradually affecting the behaviour of the remaining material.”

    “It is possible that the blaze, started by jet fuel and then engulfing the contents of the offices, in a highly confined area, generated fire conditions significantly more severe than those anticipated in a typical office fire. These conditions may have overcome the building’s fire defences…”

    “Eventually, the loss of strength and stiffness of the materials resulting from the fire, combined with the initial impact damage, would have caused a failure of the truss system supporting a floor, or the remaining perimeter columns, or even the internal core, or some combination.”

    The author rather meekly concedes the thinness of his argument by including this caption to a graphic:

    “The only evidence so far are photographs and television footage. Whether failure was initiated at the perimeter columns or the core is unknown. The extent to which the internal parts were damaged during the collision may be evident in the rubble if any forensic investigation is conducted. Since the mass of the combined towers is close to 1000000 tons, finding evidence will be an enormous task.”

    Finally, in a section added later in which the author addresses some e-mailed questions, he adds this jaw-dropping assertion: “There has never been a claim that the steel melted in the fire before the buildings collapsed, however the fire would have been very hot.”

    Only very hot? Not even super-duper hot? How many bazillions of degrees is very hot? And please indicate whether the Celsius or Fahrenheit scale is relevant.

    No data, no investigation of the building materials, no references.

    Now, let’s move on to the estimable Eagar/Musso report, which appeared in the prestigious JOM, a “technical journal devoted to exploring the many aspects of materials science and engineering.” A trade publication, in other words. I used to edit a trade pub and they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, to be confused with peer-reviewed scientific papers.

    But no matter — the author’s credentials are impressive. Thomas W. Eagar is the Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Engineering and Engineering Systems, and Christopher Musso is a graduate research student. Both are at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    The article is long – over 3,000 words – and clearly written. However, the authors’ predisposition to gloss over inconvenient facts is revealed in the first paragraph: “In essence, the building is an egg-crate construction that is about 95 percent air, explaining why the rubble after the collapse was only a few stories high.” No, that explains why the total pile of rubble might occupy only 5 percent of the building volume, in the unlikely event that the rubble pile contained no air. It does not explain why the collapse of a steel-frame building left no upright members above a few stories.

    The article then proceeds to examine the various contributing causes of the collapse under these headings: The Airline Impact [sic]; The Fire; The Collapse; Was WTC Defectively Designed?; Where Do We Go From Here?.

    Some of the assertions are breathtaking in their simplicity. In the Airline Impact section, for instance, the authors blithely note that: “The ensuing fire was clearly the principal cause of the collapse.” Referenced is a graphic from USA Today. This is laughable.

    I could painstakingly lead the reader through the many discrepancies in the Eagar/Musson report but someone has already done it for me. See:

    So where does that leave us? I have attempted to disprove your accusation that I have completely missed the point of your arguments or simply cannot read English. I have read your preferred accounts, your irrefutable facts. What have I found? Pop science journalism of doubtful provenance and crammed full of logical inconsistencies. Junk science indeed.

    I appreciate the privilege of appearing here and am aware that you can cast me into outer darkness at will. In keeping with your edict, I have kept this post free of all but the most necessary references to that vile canard, the “inside job” theory.

    Now, do me the courtesy of responding to my initial request: that you explain your pissy mood on this subject, or admit that you have an irrational fear that someone will prove – unequivocally – that the WTC towers did not fall down because of a fire.

  13. There’s conspiracy theories and then there’s Conspiracy Theories. Obviously, conspiracies happen all the time; looked at one way, you could call all of human civilization one giant conspiracy, with lots of little ones holding up the details.

    I do not think that the “Moon Shot Was a Hoax” Conspiracy Theory is wrong BECAUSE it is a Conspiracy Theory; I think it’s wrong because it’s STUPID.

    So yah, the official version is a conspiracy theory, of course it is, but that doesn’t actually make any difference … I base my rejection of the various 9/11 Conspiracy Theories on the fact that they are STUPID, not that they are Conspiracy Theories.


  14. I believe the “official” explanation is that 19 men from the Middle East brought down the financial and defense centers of the United States, and that the “government” had no prior knowledge of, or involvement in the attacks. Maha call me a crazy tinfoil hat, if you must, but I can’t see how a country that spends more on its defense than all other countries combined can be brought to its knees by 19 men with box cutters. Most people that push one theory or another have something to gain, i.e. Alex Jones (a leading 9-11 conspiracy theorist) sells videos and subscriptions to his website. The bush administration has sold us a war that can never be won, etc. I like you have no idea what really happened that day. But to say that the neoconsuperfratboys are too incompetent to carry out such a plan is just naive.

  15. Chris — again, your criticisms are all covered either in the post I already wrote or in the documents I linked to. I’m not repeating them. I also explained very explicitly and plainly why the detonation theory is stupid and why it pisses me off.

    I’m only going to address this comment:

    “Admit that you have an irrational fear that someone will prove – unequivocally – that the WTC towers did not fall down because of a fire.”

    Had you actually read what I wrote, you might have noticed that I did not claim the WTC towers fell because of a fire. Several factors came together to make the towers fall, and fire was one of those factors, but fire by itself would not have done the job.

    BTW, you are twit-filtered now.

  16. I can’t see how a country that spends more on its defense than all other countries combined can be brought to its knees by 19 men with box cutters.

    Yet it happened. The question is, how did they get away with it? And to find the answer we need to look at what was up with NORAD and what was up with intelligence and how much the Bushies knew before 9/11 and why they took no action to stop the attacks. Those are essential questions. However, the physical causes of the WTC collapse is the one part of 9/11 that is not a big mystery. That’s why it’s stupid to spin our wheels over it and ignore the real questions.

  17. “That’s why it’s stupid to spin our wheels over it and ignore the real questions”

    I have noticed that the word “stupid” has come up several times in this discussion. I expect that sort of thing from lesser blogs than yours. I am a little puzzled why you posted “Muddying Questions, Squandering Answers”, “We got one”, to begin with. Apparently you’re frustrated with the lack of a real explanation about that horrific day. Put aside all the “black helicopter” bullshit. It seems your not happy with the “official” explanation either. So you and the “Tin foil hats” have something in common. This story can be compared to a current news story. Haditha. If Murtha hadn’t been talking about Haditha neither would we. Admittedly many of the story’s about 9-11 are way out there but if not for some of the “stories” we would all accept the Kool-Aid as prepared. At the risk of being “twit-filtered”.

  18. Admittedly many of the story’s about 9-11 are way out there but if not for some of the “stories” we would all accept the Kool-Aid as prepared.

    But that’s where we disagree. A LOT of us have been asking the real questions all along. They haven’t been answered because the Bushies have been powerful enough to thwart investigation. In order to change that the Bushies must not only be weakened, but the public needs to get behind asking the questions. But if the public only hears the absurd questions, that’s not going to happen.

    So you and the “Tin foil hats” have something in common.

    I don’t insist that the towers came down in a way that defies verifiable fact and the laws of physics. I don’t insist that some scenario that grew entirely out of my imagination must be true. So I don’t see that we have much in common at all.

  19. Hey Maha,

    I’m not your monkey! How many “physics” classes have you attended? Of all the bullshit websites I (we’ve) read and questionable “research” poured over. I still have one question?

  20. Look, uncledad, the only 9/11 conspiracy theory that I say is absolute nonsense is the notion that the WTC towers collapsed as a result of controlled detonation instead of from a combination of other factors resulting from being struck by hijacked planes. All other questions are still open, as far as I’m concerned.

    If you need it repeated, here it is: The planes took out part of the towers’s support, and heat from the fires eventually weakened the remaining support just enough that the support at the impact site gave way.

    Please note that nobody says the heat melted the steel supports, just weakened them, possibly as much as 50 percent, plus the uneven heat caused uneven thermal expansion of the steel supports which stressed the supports further. (The steel supports of towers 1 and 2 were not encased in concrete the way most steel supports in most high-rise buildings are, and the spray-on asbestos coat applied when the towers were under construction had mostly worn off by 9/11, according to several reports I’ve read.) Eventually the stress on the supports was sufficient for the supports to fail.

    When the building above the impact site was no longer supported, gravity caused it to fall. When the weight of the upper levels hit the floor below the impact site, that floor collapsed. And the next floor collapsed, and the next floor collapsed, etc.

    The enormous force of the floors slamming into each other caused building material to be pulverized into dust. The dust billowed out from the impact site in clouds that look like smoke in photographs, but they are not smoke. Reports of explosions on the ground before the towers collapsed are explained by the simple fact that when big chunks of building, airplane, furniture, etc., fall a quarter of a mile and hit pavement, these things explode. So there were explosions, just not explosions detonated by explosives.

    Keep in mind that these were the biggest bleeping buildings to ever fall down in the history of the planet. Nothing quite like this has ever happened before, which is why comparisons to other building collapses don’t necessarily prove anything.

    This is how the two towers fell. There is nothing mysterious about this.

    I clearly explained why the controlled detonation theory is insane and why arguments in support of the controlled detonation theory don’t hold water. And I clearly explained at least twice why I think all the hoohah about the controlled detonation theory distracts from the real questions.

    This topic is now closed.

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