L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 889, September 11, 2016
The Strangest Fires Ever Told
by L. Reichard White
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
The extraordinary claim that fire was the ultimate cause of the complete progressive collapse of three skyscrapers on September 11, 2001 is the flimsy foundation upon which the Police State is being constructed. How realistic is that claim?
Ever since a B-25 hit the Empire State Building on the morning of July 28, 1945, high-rises have been designed to withstand the impact of airliners similar to the ones that hit the Twin Towers on 9/11.
The Empire State Building, hit on Sat. morning, was back in service in two days.
In the case of the Twin Towers, based on a study definitively described in City in the Sky as "the most complete and detailed of any ever made for any building structure," this plane-strike resistant design is verified by Towers head structural engineer John Skilling like this ——
Concerned because of a case where an airplane hit the Empire State Building, Skilling's people did an analysis that showed the towers would withstand the impact of a Boeing 707. …According to Skilling, "There would be a horrendous fire. A lot of people would be killed," he said. "The building structure would still be there." —Seattle Times, Feb. 27, 1993
This is further verified by Chief NIST 9/11 Investigator Dr. Shyam Sunder in The New York Times like this:
"The newly disclosed documents, from the 1960's, show that the Port Authority considered aircraft moving at 600 m.p.h., slightly faster and therefore more destructive than the ones that did hit the towers."
In the video clip below, Twin Towers project manager Frank D. Martini summed it up this way: "It would be like sticking a pencil through mosquito netting." Martini claimed the towers could withstand several airliner impacts without serious danger of failure.
As predicted—and thus verifying the above design assumptions—each tower returned to a stable configuration within approximately four minutes after the planes struck. The South Tower remained standing for ~56 minutes after the plane hit and the North Tower for 102 minutes.
Since neither tower collapsed till well after the plane impacts, it's clear that the collapses must have been the result of something other than structural damage.
In fact, our skyscrapers are incredibly durable. For example, there was the Feb. 26, 1993 ~1,336-pound bomb attack on the North Tower. It blew a 98 foot hole through four basement pylons—and killed 6 and injured 1,042. But the Tower didn't collapse and was back in service in short order.
However, the fact that structural damage was not the cause of collapse on 9/11 is most clear in the case of the least well- known—some say "hidden in plain sight"—of the three, Building 7 (WTC7). NIST, charged by Congress with the official investigation, summarizes the role of structural damage in Building 7's collapse like this:
"Other than initiating the fires in WTC 7, the damage from the debris from WTC 1 had little effect on initiating the collapse of WTC 7. The building withstood debris impact damage that resulted in seven exterior columns being severed …This was near the west side of the south face of the building and was far removed from the buckled column that initiated the collapse. …"
-- NIST NCSTAR 1A, WTC Investigation… xxxvii… xxxvii
So if these three collapses weren't the result of structural damage, what was the cause?
At first glance, it seems reasonable to suppose that fire must have been that cause, especially since it was present in all three cases—and NIST's Dr. Sunder specifically claims fire for Building 7 this way:
"We really have a new kind of progressive collapse that we have discovered here, which is a fire-induced progressive collapse. In fact, we have shown FOR THE FIRST TIME that fire can induce a progressive collapse." -- WTC Building 7 Chief Investigator Dr. Shyam Sunder
However, things aren't that simple.
Dr. Sunder's claim of a "first time" is the first clue. It points out that such a fire-induced collapse had never happened before in the entire ~117 year history of high-rises at that time. That makes Dr. Sunder's fire-induced claim unprecedented (without a precedent) and thus by definition, extraordinary.
And there's another clue: On Feb. 14, 1975, the North Tower had a serious fire burn out of control for about three hours and spread to an estimated 65% of floor eleven without doing any structural damage (two to three times as long as the fires burned in the Towers on 9/11)—and the building was open for business the next day.
And this from head structural engineer John Skilling, remember. "There would be a horrendous fire. …" he said. "The building structure would still be there."
In fact, this extreme level of fire resistance in all steel-framed high-rises has been designed-in for over a century and was common and accepted knowledge. Dr. Sunder's extraordinary "for the first time" claim for starters. And ——
"New York City, 2001. No tall building had ever collapsed primarily due to fire …" --NIST commentator (intro to NIST Building 7 video linked above)
"…prior to that day [Sept. 11, 2001] high-rise structures had never collapsed…" --FDNY Chief Daniel Nigro's statement on WTC7
Chief Nigro's statement "high-rise structures had never collapsed" is the more comprehensive statement. And correct. And, as of this writing (September, 2016), except for one in Mexico City as the result of an 8.2 magnitude earthquake, none have completely collapsed, let alone in seconds, from any cause or combination of causes since 9/11.
This extreme general durability of skyscrapers was well-known throughout the entire architectural and structural engineering community and was the basis of this initial reaction:
On September 13, 2001, the cover of the New Civil Engineer in the UK consisted of a picture of 1 WTC during its collapse with a single word written across it: "unthinkable". "Just hours earlier, it had been genuinely inconceivable that structures of such magnitude could succumb to this fate." While the initial damage from the airplanes was severe, it was localized to a few floors of each tower. The challenge for engineers was to explain how local damage could result in the complete progressive collapse of three of the biggest buildings in the world. --Collapse of the World Trade Center: "Unprecedented!"
Note for later use: "The challenge for engineers was to explain how local damage could result in complete progressive collapse… ."
But that's only the tip of the iceberg, and the tip of the strangest fires ever told ——
The question is, "If it wasn't fire and/or structural damage, what was it?"
There's only one thing that causes any steel-framed high-rise to collapse the way those three buildings did on 9/11—in fact to collapse at all—and Dan Rather nailed it:
"For the third time today, it's reminiscent of those pictures we've all seen too much on television before when a building was deliberately destroyed by well-placed dynamite to knock it down …"
In other words, the answer to "If it wasn't fire and/or structural damage, what was it?" is "planned and engineered demolitions."
The way they fell, that is, the "collapse signature"—in fact, that they fell at all—is prima-facie evidence of demolitions of some sort. In fact, since nothing else causes such a collapse, the collapse signatures alone are better than prima-facie evidence of demolitions.
So, with controlled demolition in mind, it isn't the three building collapses that were extraordinary, it's the claim they were caused by fire and/or structural damage that's extraordinary.
And as Carl Sagan famously quipped, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
OK, but despite ~130 years of no-collapse design and history, as proponents of the status-quo like to point out, things do sometimes unexpectedly happen for the first time. But in this case, despite the proven design principles, that would be three fire-mediated collapses on the same day and never again. So, if you're going to claim "fire did it," the evidence had better be hellaciously extraordinary.
Here's some perspective on the organization assigned to come up with that hellaciously extraordinary evidence ——
Until 1988, when renamed the "National Institute of Standards and Technology" (acronym: NIST), the organization had been the National Bureau of Standards, ultimately responsible for things like the accuracy of your fillup at the local gasoline pump. It wasn't until the NCST Act was passed in October of 2002 that NIST took on the massive—and what turns out to be politically sensitive—9/11 investigation.
Most likely the NIST investigators didn't have a clue what they were getting into until later. But whenever it did occur to them ——let me put it like this: Since demolitions would have to have been set up well ahead of 9/11 ——"How would you like to be the first bureaucrat on your block to suggest—let alone prove—demolition brought even one building down on 9/11?"
Which may well explain a lot of what follows. Especially NIST's failure to seriously investigate controlled demolition despite the unique and unmistakable collapse signatures of all three buildings. The collapse signatures even Dan Rather nailed.
So what did NIST do about investigating the prima-facie most likely cause of the collapses?
They try to avoid telling you, but if you look carefully ——
In the case of the towers, NIST forth-rightly asks itself in point 8 of its Towers Investigation FAQ, "Why didn't NIST consider a 'controlled demolition' hypothesis with matching computer modeling and explanation like it did for the 'pancake theory' hypothesis?"
The important point is in the question itself: despite the three prima-facie collapse signatures, for some reason, NIST didn't "consider a 'controlled demolition' hypothesis with matching computer modeling and explanation."
When pressed for a definitive answer, you discover that NIST unrealistically assumed—either honestly or otherwise —a commercial style controlled demolition (which none of the three could possibly have been)—which used the loudest explosives available. Then, ignoring the unmistakable collapse signatures, NIST claimed it didn't hear the proper level of noise for these assumed commercial demolitions and so failed to investigate further.
OK, so one way or another, NIST critically screwed up by failing to seriously investigate demolition, possibly because they had their fingers stuck in their ears and were humming loudly.
The ultimate result of this failure is that NIST cannot claim with a straight face—or at all—that no demolitions occurred.
And there is plenty of evidence elsewhere that they did occur. There's peer-reviewed proof that a quieter non-standard technique using someting called thermite—or thermate—was used. If you're interested, a good place to look is in the 100 plus peer-reviewed papers published here and with the ~2,300 members of Architects & Engineers For 9/11 Truth.
But what about NIST's own competing fire-mediated version of what happened? Clearly whatever they come up with—to satisfy Sagan—had better be hellaciously excellent, especially since they failed to rule-out demolition.
First, to an unprecedented degree in its 9/11 work, NIST counted on computer modeling.
NIST's former Fire-Sciences head, Dr. James Quintiere, explained the underlying problem with that intensive use of modeling like this:
NIST used computer models that they said have never been used in such an application before and are the state of the art. For this they should be commended for their skill. But the validation of these modeling results is in question. Others have computed aspects with different conclusions on the cause mechanism of the collapse. —statement to the U.S. House Science Committee hearings on WTC collapse
Within certain limits, such models are, by design and function, easy to manipulate. As one of my compadres put it, slightly tougue- in-cheek, "Even with "AutoCAD," "SOLIDWORKS," etc., you could model a building to blow over flat in a 30 mph wind."
That's why some nerds call computer simulations "technical fiction."
Such flexibility is a good thing for NIST, though, since its explanations must satisfy this, remember: "The challenge for engineers was to explain how local damage could result in complete progressive collapse… "
To satisfy that challenge, NIST needed to accomplish at least two main things with their modeling:
1. Prove that a fire-mediated total progressive collapse of a model of the building was even possible.
2. Prove that modeled collapse looked like the collapse that actually happened.
With the inherent flexibility of modeling in mind, how hard could that be?
For the towers, NIST came up with their final reports quickly and on time. They were reluctant, though, to make their Towers simulations available to the public—and wouldn't do so until pressured by the architectual and engineering community.
"WTC investigators resist call for collapse visualisation,"
"World Trade Center disaster investigators [at NIST] are refusing to show computer visualizations of the collapse of the Twin Towers despite calls from leading structural and fire engineers, NCE has learned. Visualizations of collapse mechanisms are routinely used to validate the type of finite element analysis model used by the [NIST] investigators." -- Parker, Dave, New Civil Engineer, October 6, 2005
Moving right along, NIST's approach and mind-set are most transparent and revealing in its attempt to explain Building 7's collapse. Which wasn't so easy. You can tell because the final report took an extra three-plus years.
Here's Dr. Quintiere's take in the middle of that delay:
6. The critical collapse of WTC 7 is relegated to a secondary role, as its findings will not be complete for yet another year. It was clear at the last NIST Advisory Panel meeting in September  that this date may not be realistic, as NIST has not demonstrated progress here. Why has NIST dragged on this important investigation?" -- Former Chief of NIST's Fire Science Division
Can you think of any reason NIST might drag "on this important investigation" for more than three years?
The final report on Building 7 wasn't released until 2008.
What was in that report?
Based on one of its technical fictions, NIST's final report on Building 7 claims that "the most probable initiation sequence" started when Column #79, in the northeast corner of the building, buckled as a result of thermal expansion, and this caused the entire building to collapse in a matter of seconds.
You might want to review that collapse above. It's the clip Dan Rather commented on.
Here's a quick overview of the problems with NIST's scenario:
NIST asserts "most probable initiation sequence" ass-u-me-ing never before seen fire as the cause—remember Dr. Sunder's "first time" claim earlier—and completely ignores that, based on the collapse signature alone, the most probable initiation sequence is clearly demolition.
To compound the problem, during a NIST Tech Briefing, Dr. Sunder further explained the thermal expansion this way: "And, of course, the phenomenon that we saw on 9/11 that brought this particular building down was really thermal expansion, which occurs at lower temperatures." From the presentation you also discover the "lower temperatures" he's talking about are in the 400°C range.
Sounds pretty hot, right? But because of early experience with the damage it can cause, for over a century, steel-framed skyscrapers have been designed to resist thermal expansion, even thermal expansion that occurs at higher temperatures. And remember, history shows that such damage has never resulted in even one collapse.
Next we have the claim that one column in the northeast corner "buckled" and somehow, within seconds, the whole building collapses, including the columns in the far-removed southwest corner? This is what prompted the engineers big challenge: "to explain how local damage could result in the complete progressive collapse of three of the biggest buildings in the world."
And finally, with regards to the above, to provide evidence at all—forget extraordinary evidence—NIST needed to ——
2. Prove that their modeled collapse looked like the collapse that actually happened.
It's not the local damage or a technical fiction that shows an asserted "most probable initiation sequence," it's, "How do you explain the complete progressive collapse?"
Are they going to do that? Here's a clue ——
"Once the collapse had begun, the propagation of the collapse was readily explained without the same complexity of modeling." FAQs—NIST WTC Towers Investigation
So NIST does a good job of ignoring that annoying little detail, and in its collapse animation, they stay true to form. Even in that technical fiction, apparently having been unable to model the collapse itself, they don't show anything beyond their asserted initiation sequence. What they do show, incidentally, doesn't look like the actual collapse anyway. But you can judge that for yourself.
But the final affront is that, fighting off a persistent string of FOIA requests using the national security blanket thrown to it later, NIST refused to release 74,777 (~80%) of the key simulation files it used to come up with its shall-we-say, dubious Column 79 hypothesis, making replication, the back-bone of science and checking its work for logic, rigor, errors and fibs etc. impossible.
NIST's excuse for not releasing the key files? Their release "might endanger public safety." They may have that right if bureaucrats and certain politicians in the stocks or hanging from trees and lamp-posts, etc. is dangerous to public safety. Or do they think their work proves U.S. skyscrapers are so delicate that, as another compadre quipped, "They're afraid terrorists will realize they can bring down our high-rises by setting a wastebasket on fire in the parking garage?"
It's clear that none of the NIST personnel wanted to be "the first bureaucrat on their block to suggest—let alone prove—demolition brought even one building down on 9/11."
Given their career path and the political situation, can you blame them for trying to hide it? Well can you?
And did NIST prove the extraordinary claim that fire was the ultimate cause of those three collapses upon which the Police State is being constructed?
Or is it time to start deconstructing the sucker? Is it time to throw sand in the gears of the out-of-control machine and indict it's lying, domineering, psychopathic minions? As they have in Malaysia. What do you think?
For updates, comments, and corrections, see The Strangest Fires updates, comments, corrections.
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L. Reichard White [send him mail] taught physics, designed and built a house, ran for Nevada State Senate, served two terms on the Libertarian National Committee, managed a theater company, etc. For the next few decades, he supported his writing habit by beating casinos at their own games. His hobby, though, is explaining things he wishes someone had explained to him. You can find a few of his other explanations listed here.
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