Reverse-Engineering 9/11

It amazes me that 9/11 conspiracy theorists can get an audience.

If you think the towers fell as a result of a planned demolition, think about the number of people who would have to be involved to carry out such a scheme. Demolition experts to set up the bombs. Security personnel at the WTC to give them access. Ditto at the Pentagon. Nineteen suicidal Muslims who could fly planes, and who could each be given fake backgrounds implicating Al-Queda. People to teach them to fly. A group of people to coordinate all this activity. This conspiracy would be immediately exposed if either of the WTC planes were delayed by bad weather or maintenance problems — like that never happens. So there had to be people inside the airlines and air traffic control.

To pull off a stunt like this would require the work of dozens, if not hundreds, of trained and educated people. All of them would have to agree to take the secret to their graves. Not one of them could experience a change of heart later, or be tempted by the chance to become a celebrity by blowing the whistle, writing a book, going on Oprah. They would also all have to keep the secret from their families and friends — including their cover stories to explain what they were doing during the years of preparation a plot like this would require. All of them would have to be well-compensated to ensure this silence; a lot of money to obtain and distribute without the notice of any banking regulators or the IRS. You’d have to vigilantly ensure their continued silence. That means you’re paying a crack team of spies and assassins to monitor and control everything these people say and do — forever.

Forever — because who are the suspects in this alleged conspiracy? President Bush? He has an ambitious family that could not survive exposure of this plot. This dynasty does not intend for W to be the last Bush who serves as president. The oil companies? I assume these publicly-traded companies think they’ll be around for a long time in some form, and thus would remain liable for damages into the trillions if they were conclusively fingered. Any powerful person in business or politics would be extremely paranoid about one person leaking the plot — so paranoid that even if they had some yearning for 9/11 to happen to facilitate war or a U.S. takeover of the Middle East’s oil supply, they would probably shy away from the risks.

Anyway…these thoughts came to mind when I came across this study on Science Blog — a Purdue University-sponsored mathematical simulation of what happened when the jet hit the north tower. This quote is from Mete Sozen, the Kettelhut Distinguished Professor of Structural Engineering in Purdue’s School of Civil Engineering:

“Current findings from the simulation have identified the destruction of 11 columns on the 94th floor, 10 columns on the 95th floor and nine columns on the 96th floor,” he said. “This is a major insight. When you lose close to 25 percent of your columns at a given level, the building is significantly weakened and vulnerable to collapse.”

To depict the first half-second after the plane hit the building required 80 hours of a high-performance computer’s time. Many of the same researchers in 2002 conducted a study of the 9/11 Pentagon crash. If I’m reading the following correctly, the presence of 10,000 gallons of jet fuel and other liquids were responsible for much of the damage — even before the fuel caught fire:

“As a result of the Pentagon research, we have a better understanding of what happens when a tremendous mass of fluid such as fuel hits a solid object at high velocity,” Sozen said. “We believe most of the structural damage from such aircraft collisions is caused by the mass of the fluid on the craft, which includes the fuel.

“Damage resulting solely from the metal fuselage, engines and other aircraft parts is not as great as that resulting from the mass of fluids on board. You could think of the aircraft as a sausage skin. Its mass is tiny compared to the plane’s fluid contents.”

The simulation represents the plane and its mass as a mesh of hundreds of thousands of “finite elements,” or small squares containing specific physical characteristics. Like the previous Pentagon simulation, the software tool uses principles of physics to simulate how a plane’s huge mass of fuel and cargo impacts a building.

Do you believe the conspirators had the knowledge or ability to stage explosions that would precisely mimic these effects? That means there’s some fluid-mechanics genius with a high-performance computer out there going, “Mwah-hah-hah, they’ll never be able to tell the difference!”

I think most of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are actually hucksters. Generally, you have to pay for something — a book, a lecture, a downloadable video — in order to get them to tell you the real story.

2 thoughts on “Reverse-Engineering 9/11

  1. The Pasadena Weekly devoted a couple pages a few weeks ago to some yahoo who was selling a conspiracy book. It enfuriated me that a supposedly intelligent news staff would run the ravings of an idiot. Oh well…

  2. “Conspiracy” may not be the right word for it, but there’s obviously a heckuva lot more to the story than a bunch of crazy Islamic nihilists quarterbacked by a wealthy scion of one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent families commandeered airplanes and flew without transponders on for…see it’s impossible to tell this story without a lot of “really?” “is that so?” and “Hmmm…”

    The thermite (or was it termite?) argument is beyond my technical understanding, much less comprehension of yes, how such a plot could be enacted without a lot of leakers. But then again, the collapse of WTC7 was a little suspicious. My thought was that well, the building was dangerous and so badly damaged that yes, they did take it down with explosives. But I’ve never read that that was the case.

    Perhaps the right way of looking at it is, take any “event” in history and you’ll discover that the many paths to that moment (and coming out of that moment) are complex to understand. Was there a plot to start World War I? Probably not, but so many engines of destruction were idling at that moment that it might as well have been a checkered flag. Perhaps the same with 9/11.

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