Monday, April 02, 2007

WTC7 probers studying controlled demolition

The government is still having a heck of a problem solving the mystery of World Trade Center 7's collapse.

In March 2006, the NIST granted Applied Research Associates, a defense constractor, a contract to come up with a computer simulation of the collapse, based on NIST input data. The NIST specified that ARA was to use only the input data provided by the government.

But, the ARA scientists were, it seems, not happy and came back to NIST and obtained contract revisions. In Jan 2007, the NIST authorized ARA to study "impact damage and fire effects" on its own and also to determine whether a blast or series of blasts might have brought down the building. NIST says it finds "no evidence of controlled demolition" but, ARA apparently needs to know whether blasts of certain magnitudes could have done the job.

Now, why didn't NIST consider studying such blast scenarios for the other two buildings? Well, they were hoping to evade that chore for WTC7, but evidently ARA just wouldn't play along. On the other hand, it's hard to believe that ARA will be permitted to say, well yes, the building most likely was felled by explosives.

Yet I can bet that the ARA experts dread the idea of being accused of scientific flimflam and demanded the right to study the explosives scenario. Let's be aware that the FEMA probers pointedly said that their best scenario for WTC7's collapse had only a "low probability." Of course, they didn't mention controlled demolition, but they clearly suspected it.

And ARA surely knows how lame is the probe of the twin tower collapses in that NIST did no work to examine the possibility of controlled demolition -- even though its experts had quite a lot of difficulty coming up with a model that led to collapse and eventually settled on one with highly dubious hidden assumptions.

My own calculations (see my post on WTC energy sums on show a huge energy deficit between the energy needed to fell the building and the energy available from gravitational collapse.
I'd be glad if a professional engineer or physicist would check my calculations and let me know the result.

Bush bunch suspends laws of physics
I've noticed that many of the 9/11 debunkers are the same sorts of people who disingenuously debunked the oil industry's contribution to global warming. These folks exploited relatively minor differences of opinion among experts, along with the malformed opinions of some amateurs, in order to create the false impression that scientists were very iffy about the oil industry's part in the hot-house effect.

Also, some of these debunkers would engage in ad hominem attacks (against the person) when the scientific evidence was inconvenient. That's certainly a standard tactic of many of those who seem over-anxious to prove there was no inside conspiracy.

Now suppose I am correct about the energy deficits in the collapses of the twin towers.
It's not impossible of course for a small amount of energy to initiate the collapse of a high-energy system. It's known as the butterfly effect. Or think of a small boxcutter, properly placed and used, able to take a human life.

However, how would a small amount of energy carry high destructive power in the case of a 400-meter-tall Manhattan skyscraper? There are only two ways that I can think of:

1. A critical structural flaw (which I'll call the "keystone effect").

2. Resonance vibration, such as is believed to have brought down the Tacoma Narrows bridge in 1940.

However, the NIST did not identify any critical structural flaw for WTC1 or WTC2 of the type that would have resulted in an obvious collapse scenario (though comments were made about various design issues). Some modern buildings have a "keystone" but it's for show; no high-rise uses a keystone. In fact, high-rises tend to be built with plenty of damage-control redundancy.

As for resonance, the NIST examined the sway factor of the building and did not find that the impact of a jetliner would have provided sufficient oscillation to cause much problem.

Remember, no engineer in the world builds a steel structure that doesn't take into account the resonance frequency of the structure. I have a physics textbook which shows huge dampers inside Citicorp's Manhattan tower. These dampers tend to reduce the energy of each oscillation, so that even if the building vibrates momentarily at its resonance frequency, the amplitude and frequency will be quickly damped.

So then, though it is not utterly impossible that one tower collapsed because of a fluke combination of force interactions, it is quite unlikely. And for a SECOND tower to fall as a result of some other fluke combination of forces is far less likely.

So, in the case of the twin towers, it would appear that the Bush bunch has suspended the law of conservation of energy (which is sometimes called the first law of thermodynamics).

Well, perhaps at least in the case of WTC7 there is a clear "keystone" structural flaw. As the NIST's chief investigator Sunder has said, that 47-story building could have collapsed if only one column had been compromised. Once that column gave, the whole structure would, supposedly, have crashed at near the free-fall rate.

However, FEMA experts were very doubtful that the building, which housed the CIA's New York station along with Pentagon offices, could have been brought down by fire alone.

My reading of the FEMA and NIST reports suggests that WTC7's big puzzle -- realizing that much information is either missing or being passed over in official silence -- is how the fuel oil managed to pool for several hours before a high-intensity fire ignited.

Here's why:

1. The pumping system would have had a routine spill failsafe, whereby a plunger in a moat lifts a shutoff switch when that moat fills with fluid. No explanation is available of why that shutoff system supposedly failed.

2. The Fire Department quickly shut off power throughout the WTC complex, so no outside-source electricity was available to power the pump bringing fuel-oil up from a ground-level tank. Hence, the building's emergency generator would have been needed to power the pump. Yet, for the emergency generator to work, fuel oil sent via that pump or some other pump seems to have been necessary, though, again, the schematics are missing,

So then, apparently we have the pump supplying fuel to the generator which in turn supplies electricity to the pump, in a closed cycle. The U.S. Patent Office won't accept patent applications for perpetual motion machines, but evidently such a device works in a top-secret building. Must be some advanced DARPA stuff, I guess.

Scientists have the means to measure how long it would take such a system to cease functioning (not long, in this case, I suspect). They use calculations based on the second law of thermodynamics, which states that a system that does work always dissipates some energy, which is why perpetual motion machines can't operate in our world.

[Insert, April 4, 2007] This all is somewhat confusing, and I don't have my copies of the relevant reports at hand right now.

But, what we have is this: the upper-floor day tank did not hold enough fuel oil for a fire with sufficient thermal energy to compromise the steel support. So, to escape the explosives scenario, the idea was that fuel was being pumped up from the ground-level tank and was spilling out for hours, thus forming a large enough pool to bring enough energy to bear. Isn't it convenient that the spill sensor didn't work and shut off the supply?

Now in order for the pump to keep drawing up fuel from below, a sensor in the day tank would have had to have taken a continuous low reading, meaning it would have to have been drained continually, so apparently the leak occurred at or after that point in the system.

My thinking is that the emergency generator was fed fuel from the day tank. So a day's supply of fuel would keep the generator busy all day with no problems of circularity. However, if the day tank was being emptied rapidly and being replenished by being pumped up from below, then we have circularity, in which the second law of thermodynamics appears to have been suspended.

So there we have it: The Bush bunch has suspended the first and second laws of thermodynamics in the interests, I suppose, of national security.

Seismic issues
I first drew attention to problems with the available fall time data on my page
"Trade center collapse times: omissions and disparities" at
The data are essentially based on readings of the Lamont-Doherty Near Earth Observatory seismograms. But the seismographic data is somewhat iffy, giving a reading of 8 seconds for WTC2, 10 seconds for WTC1 and 18 seconds for WTC7.
Now I am not a seismologist and I wish to cast no aspersions on Lamont-Doherty's experts.
However, given that ascertaining of correct fall times should have been high priority, one wonders why the FBI, NIST and others did not reach out to the seismographic systems run by the federal government. The feds run a worldwide system of seismographs that were emplaced to detect underground nuclear explosions. But, of course, that's not all they're good for. Also, the U.S. Geological Survey is a hub of seismographic analysis.
Now if there was any fuzziness in the Lamont-Doherty data, the normal thing, I would think, would be to check it against everybody else's data. Sophisticated computer programs are able to compare the input of a large number of stations to arrive at fairly accurate results.
Yes, perhaps such an attempt wouldn't have improved the data. But there is no record of such an attempt being made.
Here's something else of interest: Seismographs are now so sensitive that they can detect human footsteps meters away. So even though the surface waves were weak by seismic standards, one suspects that they weren't so weak as not to be detected for quite some distance by military seismographs.
Anyway, the real issue is that the fall time record has been given the brush-off by the Bush bunch and its flunkies.


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