General Question

kevbo's avatar

9/11 conspiracy skeptics and theorists, care to weigh in on this engineering/science-based presentation?

Asked by kevbo (25667points) July 8th, 2009 from iPhone

I’ve been trying not to post new 9/11 questions since there are plenty to append, but my only Internet access currently is via my iPhone, and this presentation is new (to me) both in its approach and grounding in evidence and hypotheses that were given in the official reports. Please forgive my indulgence.

Kevin Ryan, a former employee of an Underwriters Laboratories subsidiary and interviewee in “Improbable Collapse”, delivered a 60 minute presentation that dissects the NIST report and other reports to show the internal incoherence of these official reports.

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43 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

Although Kevin Ryan is reported in Loose Change as working for UL, he is actually employed in a water-testing subsidiary. This is the same guy who incorrectly claimed, “No way WTC Steel Could Melt At 2000 F.”

kevbo's avatar

@AstroChuck, I never really watched “Loose Change” and wasn’t aware he was in it, but “subsidiary” is mentioned above. No worries.

edit:: not sure about that claim, but he cites 1112 deg F as the “half strength” point and in a slide shows approx 2700 deg F as the melting point.

I don’t want to add spoilers, but MIT scientists calculated that the steel temperature could be 600 deg F max.

kevbo's avatar

2700 appears consistent with a cursory google search, but I don’t know for sure.

ubersiren's avatar

Conspiracy theorists will just say that the government somehow influenced his “research.”

kevbo's avatar

@AstroChuck, this Journal of Metallurgy article that @Marina posted some time ago cites 2732 deg Fahrenheit as the melting point of steel.

ubersiren's avatar

Maybe my reading comprehension has been off today… from your description, I thought this guy was going to be an anti-conspiracy theorist- to which I was responding that theorists themselves would argue that his proof would just have been a product of government influence or persuasion. But now that I’ve had a chance to watch part of the video, I see that he’s taking the opposite stance. Very interesting video. I’m neither a skeptic nor theorist. Sure makes you suspicious, though.

Qingu's avatar

The entire approach is a logical fallacy. We don’t need to understand the physical processes behind every single step of the building’s collapse to conclude that the giant, fuel-filled planes I saw flying into and blowing up the buildings caused their structures to weaken and collapse.

Similarly, we don’t need to know every single chemical reaction that resulted in the evolution of cellular life from organic compounds to conclude that cellular life emerged naturally from organic compounds.

It’s God-of-the-Gaps nonsense. And just like creationists who argue that life is “too complex” to emerge naturally and it’s “impossible,” 9/11 truthers have failed to provide a convincing alternative explanation that is more than a bunch of unevidenced assertions.

kevbo's avatar

@Qingu, given our history of discussion, I’m going to assume that you didn’t watch the presentation. The gist is that the government’s studies and reports are not internally consistent and that the government’s primary thesis is based on tests and simulations that were far from similar to the conditions of the event, which is even admitted in the reports.

“We do not need to understand the physical processes of every single step of the magic trick to conclude that magician wielding a razor sharp, steel saw that we all witnessed did, in fact, cut his assistant in half and then put her back together.”

I suppose exposers of magicians’ secrets are guilty of this “God-of-the-Gaps” fallacy as well.

Qingu's avatar

I didn’t watch the video, I am at work.

The Miller-Urey experiments were also criticized as not being similar to the conditions on early Earth in which organic molecules would have emerged.

The fact that the Miller-Urey experiments were flawed is not itself evidence that Goddidit. The fact that simulations of 9/11 do not match the actual conditions of the explosions is not evidence that Conspiracydidit.

I’m also curious as to what sort of proof would convince you that the giant planes flying into the buildings and blowing up actually caused the buildings to fall down. Is there a certain threshold that will actually change your mind? Because another feature of “God of the gaps” arguments is that they always shift the goalposts.

Qingu's avatar

Also, comparing buildings falling down after giant explosions to a woman being sawed and half and somehow living is ridiculous and you know it. More accurately, it’s a rhetorical trick. Everyone agrees it’s physically impossible for a woman to survive that. Whereas not everyone agrees that it’s physically impossible for the WTC towers to collapse due to an exploding jet; in fact that is the very thing you are trying to show in your argument. Making that comparison is assuming your conclusion.

kevbo's avatar

If simply witnessing the event was enough evidence, then why have an investigation?

If the Miller-Urey conditions were not similar, does the study prove that evolutiondidit?

How did you know the assistant was a woman?

kevbo's avatar

Duh. I said “her.”

Qingu's avatar

Your first question is irrelevant to the argument that it’s physically impossible.

To answer your second question, the Miller-Urey experiments did not prove that evolutiondidit (actually, to get technical, “evolution” generally refers to biological evolution, whereas the emergence of the first living cells would predate that, and is generally called “abiogenesis”) Miller-Urey was once thought to be strong support for the abiogenesis hypothesis, until scientists realized that the conditions did not match up well. Now it is considered weak support (though other, similar experiments have done a better job replicating what we think the conditions are like, but, tangent)

The important thing here is this: the fact that Miller-Urey moved from strong support to weak support is in no way evidence of the alternate idea—that Goddidit.

Similarly, the fact that the conditions of 9/11 simulations—if I understand your initial post—do not precisely replicate the actual conditions of the exploding buillding is not itself evidence for the alternate, conspiracy theory. It moves from strong to weak, I suppose—but then one wonders how on earth you are supposed to accurately simulate an exploding building that just got hit with a speeding airplane. Again: what level of simulation accuracy do you require to convince you that it’s possible? What is your threshold? Is it the same threshold that you use to decide whether God must have been responsible for crafting the first living cells?

Qingu's avatar

To elaborate on Miller-Urey, because it might be applicable here,

Miller-Urey demonstrated that you can get complex organic molecules used in all living cells from simple ones by shooting electric sparks (i.e. “lightning”) into a simulated atmosphere containing simple organic compounds. Wa-la, complex organic compounds showed up.

So the experiment showed, in a general sense, that it is indeed possible for complex organic compounds to arise naturally from simple ones.

However, the experiment did not show that it is possible in the specific case of Earth’s early atmosphere, which we now think was probably different than the one in the simulation. But this in no way means that it’s “impossible” for the compounds to arise in the specific early Earth atmosphere. It just means they would have had to emerge in a different way than the Miller-Urey experiment specifically showed.

kevbo's avatar

If witnessing 9/11 was enough evidence, then why have an investigation?

You are making assumptions about a presentation you haven’t seen, one that does not purport a conspiracy but that simply demonstrates the government didn’t prove anything in its official explanation. Consequently, the analysis is flawed and the conclusions are fabricated. So, yes, it’s moving the goalposts from what you seem to assume, but hopefully moving them closer is something you can tolerate.

Qingu's avatar

Why have an investigation? I was under the impression that the 9/11 commission was concerned with figuring out who was behind the hijackings and the security failures that led the planes to be hijacked in the first place. Much of the NIST seems to be in response to conspiracy theorists.

Are you suggesting the fact that there were investigations is evidence that the buildings could not have collapsed from the exploding planes? Walk me through your logic there, please.

And you are correct, I am making assumptions about a presentation I have not seen, a situation I am currently unable to remedy. As I told you in our previous discussion, I’m more interested in the broader logic of these debates than the nitty-gritty engineering.

Qingu's avatar

I mean, shit. If a meteorite fell onto a building and the building collapsed, and then there was an investigation into how the building collapsed, are you suggesting the existence of the investigation is evidence that the meteorite wasn’t actually the cause of the building’s collapse?

kevbo's avatar

Dude, I feel sorry for your wife. How about “God of the lily pads”?

If your interest is in the broader logic of these debates, then why are you responding to a question that a) you don’t understand fully and b) is clearly about science and engineering aspects of this event?

Qingu's avatar

I’m weighing in on the implications of the presentation, per your post. If you feel that my questions or off-topic, or that I lack information that is essential to my responses, feel free to say so. Also feel free to respond to my points.

kevbo's avatar

No, you’re weighing in on what you saw, what you think of conspiracy theorists and creationists, and unrelated studies that you’ve read about. Try again.

Qingu's avatar

Okay. I’m not going to be able to watch this 60-minute video for several days, and if I watch it and it makes the same fallacies I’m accusing it, and you, of making, I’m going to be pissed that you’re refusing to respond.

AstroChuck's avatar

@kevbo- You are mostly right. The iron in steel has a melting point of 2750F. The other alloys in steel would have a lower melting temperature. The actual melting point of steel varies depending on alloy content. Still, I’m knit-picking here as you wouldn’t likely have liquid steel less than 2500F, which is noticably hotter than the 2000F I mistakenly said would be enough to melt the stuff. However, metals lose half their strenghth at about 60% of their melting temperature and steel will become “plastic” at around 1650F. As to the molten metal seen coming from the towers, it was almost certainly the aluminum alloys from the aircraft which would have melted between 885F and 1185F. That’s well below the temperatures reached inside both towers. Ryan also claimed that the temperatures would not have been hot enough to melt aluminum, which has a melting point of only 1220F. He was definitely wrong on that.

kevbo's avatar

@AstroChuck, thanks for the response. To be fair, I should ask if it is related to this presentation or Ryan’s statements in other venues. I think he references molten metal in this presentation, but that “fact” is tertiary to his argument.

bpeoples's avatar

I’m a little late to this discussion, however, I’d like to point out a couple of things:

(Carbon steel, around 2200F—that’s the point where you have a white-hot piece of steel that you’re hitting with a hammer to shape… like clay, with no resistance from the material and no cracking. I’ve forged steel at much lower (dull red, which is around 1000F)—the steel is still malleable, it’ll just form cracks if you try to form it too much. If all you’re trying to do is take down a building, it doesn’t matter if you get a clean forge)

That we saw molten aluminum dripping from the building means we had temperatures above 1220.58 °F, ergo enough to weaken the steel substantially.

I’m not saying there wasn’t a secondary cause (other explosives, or some fuel in the building that got hot enough to melt the aluminum/weaken the steel), but you don’t need to MELT the steel to get it to fail.

That’s all, from your friendly local blacksmith.

kevbo's avatar

Nice contribution. Thx.

kevbo's avatar

I’ll add that while that alone is convincing, it doesn’t take into account the fireproof material that was applied to the steel nor the building’s ability to sustain shifting loads. If you view the presentation, you’ll see that the government’s case falls well short on demonstrating that the building reached a failure point given those three factors.

bpeoples's avatar

@kevbo You do have to remember that the fireproof material sprayed onto steel has several properties that make it less useful in this sort of thing:

1. It’s a pretty brittle product, and a large impact to the building could knock considerable portions of it off.

2. It’s insulation, not fireproofing. That is, it prevents the transfer of heat, generally rated (IIRC, I don’t know high-rise codes, but normal commercial buildings) for a one-hour fire. That is, it would stop being effective after about an hour of exposure to high temperatures.

The rest of it I have no knowledge of, so I won’t speculate =)

kevbo's avatar

Not trying to be snarky, but I am marveling at the lack of responses to the presentation itself, given the question.

ubersiren's avatar

I’m guessing only a small percentage of us watched it. I’ll admit only watching about 10 min. We like to give opinions on things about which we’ve never experienced.

kevbo's avatar

Funny. I actually hadn’t seen the first ten minutes prior to posting (because it was on FSTV, and I had to dig around on my iPhone, which doesn’t play Google video). So I was a little surprised to see that the first 10 are kind of the least relevant. But, there you go.

bpeoples's avatar

@kevbo I didn’t watch the video b/c I believe this guy to be a waste of time—the best I can tell he’s not a metallurgist, he’s not a structural engineer, and his letter that got him fired (at least the copies I’ve seen) have made several significant scientific errors.

I could post a video with an hour’s worth of picking apart a report with lots of fantastical claims, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to believe me. On the other hand—this guy might be right! But I haven’t seen or heard of any credible people coming to his side.


kevbo's avatar

He introduces himself as a chemist. I wouldn’t characterize his claims as fantastical. In fact, they are reasonably skeptical by a wide margin.

I don’t know in what venue you’d expect to see supporters. Whistleblowers get shitcanned on trumped up allegations all the time. It’s easy to make errors when you are deciphering something from the outside in (to say nothing of the errors highlighted in the NIST report). And 718 architects and engineers are on record calling for a new investigation.

Is my zeal disproportionate? I don’t know. How does the hypothetical realization that your government will kill you to suit its purpose sit with you? Also, I can’t think of
many conspiracy theories that have been proved to be complete fiction. Can you? =)

filmfann's avatar

@kevbo First, sorry it took so long to respond, but the video is an hour plus long, and I just finished watching it. Yes, the whole thing.
And I want that hour of my life back.
In my substantially less complicated job, sometimes I have to produce images that match the existing plant structure, and we do have to tweek the written specs to make it match reality (“okay, maybe someone used a smaller cable in this section, and they mistakenly put half a load over here…match!”), and we often get the truth, rather than what the engineering details show.
Those who investigated 9/11 basically did this. I have no problem with everyone going in saying “a 757 flying into the building caused this”. There is video evidence, physical evidence, and human evidence.
I believe there may be other things here. Maybe someone tried to save money by using less fireproofing, or a lower grade steel on higher floors. I don’t know. But to say this was obviously a demolition job is just beyond bad judgement.

kevbo's avatar

Fair enough. Thanks for your feedback.

dalepetrie's avatar

I just came across this question again after having seen it quite a while back when it was first posted. I watched the first 5, maybe 10 minutes, then I set off to look up a few numbers, and I did indeed corroborate that the burning temp of jet fuel would not be sufficient to melt steel. However, I came across a link which described in very technical terms how the flame could have, because of the volume of fuel, the time of burn and the diffuse nature of the fire, weakened certain areas of the steel so that they lost approximately ½ of their strength, which led floors under those weakened areas to pop and crumble, and the weight of floors landing on the next floor below in succession cause this domino effect which would look very much like an implosion.

Further, it seems impractical to fly a plane into each building and then detonate a charge, when simply detonating the charge and blaming the bombing on terrorists would have done the trick in the first place. I’m all for not trusting the government, particularly the Bush administration, but I tend to think that if Bush was at all complicit in 9/11, it was in that he intentionally ignored warning signs that allowed us to be attacked…I can buy that he was looking for a justification to put the PNAC plans into place and get on with the invasions in the middle east, and nothing would bring that forth quicker than a terrorist attack on US soil, but I don’t think they actually PLANNED the attack, and what I’ve seen of the video so far does not convince me as much as the evidence pointing out essentially the same flaws in logic this guy points out, but which provide a much more believable explanation.

kevbo's avatar

@dalepetrie, I think your answer is reasonable; however, I also think charges would have been used to prevent the buildings from toppling any direction but straight down.

Also, the bombing angle was tried in 1993 and didn’t work. Presumeably, this security hole was patched. There’s a quote out there somewhere of the head of WTC security saying the next attack would come via airplane. Just MHO.

dalepetrie's avatar

@kevbo – from what I read, the reason they toppled straight down was the very reason they collapsed….let’s say the 93rd floor gave out, floors 93 and above basically fall mostly straight down on floor 92…the first set might have been a “little” off kilter in how it fell, because the fire would have weakened the steel supports under the floor unevenly, but the stress of the left half coming down would snap the right half and bam, you’ve got a floor falling almost straight down….the 92nd floor then has an enormous amount of weight coming directly down from all angles,and it pretty much snaps everywhere, and so on and so forth, which accounts for the multiple “booms” as the building basically pancakes.

Here’s the link discussing the actual science behind it…it explained away the doubts I had after seeing the first 5–10 minutes of that video. At some point I’ll watch the rest though to see if there’s anything not exactly covered by this explanation. But there’s a saying, might even be someone’s law, that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one…I say this one’s far simpler than our government hiring suicide bombers to kill innocent civilians and blow up one of the most important buildings in the financial heart of our country.

And if you really want to be cynical about it, everything Bush did was about making money for his cronies…an action like this would have cost the very people who helped him get illegally installed in the White House billions of dollars collectively. And basically, if he WERE going to do that, wouldn’t one tower have been enough, or for that matter some building of interest but not necessarily one that was that financial crippling to us? Seems like if one wanted to stage something like that, you don’t need 4 planes aimed at 4 targets, 2 of which have explosive charges in them to make them fall evenly (which if anything would look suspicious…if he really had that reckelss of a disregard for the lives of Americans, why not let the buildings fall where they may? Couldn’t one plane have been aimed at the Sears Tower and basically still had the effect of Americans being outraged enough at a terrorist attack on US soil to allow him to go through with his military objectives?

The pancake theory just sits far more right with me, what still doesn’t sit right with me is the August 6 “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within US” memo that Bush & Co “ignored” and “forgot about”. I think they let it happen, that explains the seeming lack of shock or action on Bush’s part while he sat in a Florida classroom. That explains how our air defenses allowed these planes to get through without the order to shoot them down coming through. That explains how 19 different middle eastern people armed with box cutters boarded 4 different planes without raising a flag. It explains why no one seemed to know the planes were severely off course, much less hijacked until they started hitting buildings. It may not have been exactly the way they hoped it would go down, but I tend to think that it’s very plausible that Bush made the decision to just kind of turn a blind eye until something happened, and then when it started to go off, and he found out there were 4 planes, he decided to let it play out because he knew there was no way to shoot down 3 of the planes and let one through, it had to look like it was just so sudden and caught everyone so off guard that no one had a clue until that second plane hit. Sure, that’s when it became clear to everyone else, but our government should have known before the first plane hit that something was up, not after the second one hit. I’m guessing that if any thought WAS put into the WTC’s fate, it was probably assumed that the buildings could survive a hit, they probably didn’t realize how badly they’d fucked up until the first tower came down.

Just my opinion.

kevbo's avatar

Your response is interesting, because I haven’t heard it sliced quite that way before. Is it fair to say that your argument is LIHOP (Let it happen on purpose)?

I read the article you reference some time ago, and it was discussed on Fluther. Here’s the discussion, and I still think the “black smoke” photo is a really bad Photoshop job.

Also, the article states “90,000 L Gallons of jet fuel ignited.” Well, is it liters or gallons? It subsequently says liters, and the answer is liters (or 24,000 gallons). Except it isn’t 24,000 galloons because the planes were in the air for an hour (AA11) and 105 minutes (UA 175) which meant they burned 1,800 and 2,880 gallons, respectively, just getting there. (1 gal = 8.34 lbs.) One might argue that the number is actually less, because the planeloads were lighter that day, and that’s fine, but why does a scientific article that gives the straight story on heat vs. temperature fail to make those details clear?

The rest of the presentation, by the way, speaks to the engineering aspects and naturally disagrees with the data, analysis, and conclusion of the article you’ve referenced.

dalepetrie's avatar

Yep, LIHOP, no matter how evil they may have been, I don’t see where it would have served their self interest to MIHOP (Make it happen on purpose), and everything they DID was about self interest.

Darbio16's avatar

First it allowed them to go to war, then wtc towers had all sorts of financial records in them. the day before 9/11, Rumsfield told congress that 2 trillion was missing from the defense budget. No more towers, no more financial paper trails. Also, WTC building #7 was not hit by a plane. It only had a few sporadic fires. it went straight down and ended up in a pile of dust in like 6 seconds. I don’t want to rob anyone of their ignorance when It comes to a jet-fuel fire making steel beams melt. but how the hell did an non- jet fuel fire make a building fall and be pulverized to dust?

I don’t wanna hear the whole “earthquake like shock made the beams weak as a result of the first two towers falling” crap. The whole reason New York is chopped full of skyscrapers is because they have an immense foundation of solid bedrock underground. Damn near natural earthquake proof, let alone a building falling.

WTC 7 was the building that the SEC housed investigative documents. Again, no building no paper trail. Next, what capitalistic oil guzzling nation doesn’t want a piece of setting up a “friendly” democracy in the middle east. Wake up and smell the fascism people.

Then the Pentagon. Of the over 500 cameras in the area of the Pentagon, only one small clip of video has been released. All of the film was seized by the FBI that day. So the government is sitting on 500+ video tapes that would shut me the fuck up right now, but they aren’t releasing them. What they did release is a few second clip of just the explosion. No plane… no nothing. Just an explosion. Did anybody see the huge fucking whole in the world trade center towers from the planes hitting them? The hole in the pentagon was 20 feet wide. Thats a little weird if you ask me. Aren’t the wingspans of a plane over 100 feet? So how could there possibly be only a 20 foot wide whole without any evidence of wing damage? Where the hell did the 5 ton Jet engines disappear to? You may be able to argue, tho not very convincingly, that jet fuel can make steal beams melt. However, don’t be so stupid as to think that 5 ton jet engines just melt into non existence. They heavily fortified that section of the Pentagon so that it could withstand an attack. Officials agree that had the plane hit anywhere else, it would have been much more devastating.

Then a plane crash in Pa.. Again, no damn engines. We find parts scattered over a few mile stretch indicating that it was intercepted and blown from the sky rather than a localized crash. A farmer was interviewed as saying that he had seen a jet, not an airplane, fly over his farm near the ‘crash’ site. Amazing, that we can have a hazmat crew there instantly but the U.S. Air force ,with bases all over that area because it is so close to D.C., can’t seem to make an appearance to save anyone’s life. At least that was the official statement, that Flight 93 had crashed and was not shot down. Except in an interview with Donald Rumsfield where he goofed up and said that it had been shot down.

We all know now that Iraq was invaded using lies, as was Afghanistan. I do not doubt that American troops are killing terrorists out there. But why the hell would we let the CIA build a Muslim terrorist regime in the 80’s to fight the Soviets and turn around 20 years later to call them the enemy? Take a deep breath, your are breathing air that flows over your fascist nation.

A conversation between Bush and Bin laden prior to 9/11 would have went something like this.

Bin laden: “I hate America, why don’t you let me attack it?.” Bush: “Really, oh thanks a lot man, cuz that’s exactly the type of thing we needed to happen in order for me and my PNAC buddies to get this shit rolling. Thank you bin laden, you have proved to be very helpful to our cause of imperialism”. Bin laden ” No problem it is my pleasure. By the way, will your father be visiting again soon, Mrs. Bin laden has made his favorite cake again?” Bush: “No sorry com padre, once this shit goes down i think it best we don’t visit each other so much, bad PR you know.” bin laden: “right right, i forgot. OK talk to ya later buddy”.

The powers granted to Bush as a result of this will remain in effect for all Presidents to use. The good and the bad ones. Fear made us do foolish things to our freedom, we may never get them back if we don’t wake up.

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