Tags: wtc

independent minds

Science and Sanity and the 9/11 Decade

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and host of an educational science show for PBS.  He tells this really funny story about the sky in the movie Titanic when the ship sank.  James Cameron got the sky wrong.  Very few people would have noticed that but Dr. Tyson did and eventually got to talk to James Cameron about it.  He is an excellent orator and makes a hilarious tale of the whole thing.  He is competition for Bill Cosby with his Noah story.

On the far from amusing side Dr. Tyson lived not far from the World Trade Center and was at his home on 9/11.  He was able to video some of the destruction and had to abandon his home because of all of the dust in the vicinity.  He posted an email about the experience the following day and it is on his website.



In 2007 Dr Tyson released a book, Death by Black Hole, And Other Cosmic Quandaries.  I haven't read it but it sounds like it could be quite amusing.  Maybe he specializes in Black humor.  But of course the whole point of Black Holes is GRAVITY.  Gravity is a major force in the universe.  It was gravity that pulled the Titanic down as portrayed in the movie 10 years before Dr. Tyson's book.

It will soon be ten years since his more horrific experience.  But gravity is involved in that also.  Living in New York, Dr. Tyson cannot help but have seen numerous skyscrapers.  And as an astrophysicist he can't help but know and think a lot about gravity.  How much has he thought about what it takes for a skyscraper to hold itself up?  The Empire State Building will have its 80th anniversary this year.  Wikipedia says it was designed from the top down.  That make sense for a very simple reason.  They could compute the weight of the structure as they designed it and add the maximum live load and know how much weight the next few levels had to be strong enough to support.  By simply repeating the process all of the way down the building the designers could be assured of having sufficient strength over the entire height.  The building has lasted 80 years.

But what does Dr. Tyson think about an airliner supposedly causing the complete destruction of a skyscraper more than 2000 times its own mass in less than two hours?  Has he thought about how gravity must affect the distribution of steel in any skyscraper?  Who knows?

My intent is not really to get on Mr. Tyson's case.  But after TEN YEARS what happened to those skyscrapers is a global socio-psychological issue.  This gets into epistemology.  The physics and the psychology professions are participants in this decade long misadventure.

Epistemology: from Greek ἐπιστήμη (epistēmē), meaning "knowledge, science", and λόγος (logos), meaning "study of") is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope and limitations of knowledge.  It addresses the questions:

    * What is knowledge?
    * How is knowledge acquired?
    * How do we know what we know?

How can we determine what could or could not have happened on 9/11/2001?

I never saw the World Trade Center either before or on 9/11.  I have only seen postcards and electronic images.  But for this issue to be unresolved after TEN YEARS is a travesty of science if there ever was one.  Before 9/11 I would have regarded the physics of skyscrapers as beneath the notice of most physicists.  What kind of electronic computers did they use to design the first atomic bombs?  They didn't have any.  The Empire State Building was completed 14 years before then.  It did not take ten years to get to the Moon from the date of JFK's statement of intent.

But there are some things we KNOW about all skyscrapers.  Every level must be strong enough to support all of the weight above.  The designers had to put in enough steel to support that weight.  Consequently the amount of steel tends to increase down the building.  But this presents a problem for a straight down collapse especially if it is supposed to have happened in less than double the amount of time for a mass to fall from the top of the skyscraper through empty space.  How could the ever increasing mass be accelerated downward faster than gravity could do it without slowing down the mass falling from above?  The conservation of momentum may not be used by architects very much but it is pretty basic to physicists.

There is considerable difference between what scientists know about how reality works and what the average citizen of planet Earth knows.  What is the responsibility of scientists to clarify any questionable events?  What is the responsibility of the media?  But Dr. Tyson may be on a tightrope in this regard.  He is a scientific celebrity with a TV show which is intended to impart scientific information and promote the scientific perspective of reality.  But how is most of the human race supposed to comprehend 9/11 when for most people it is only "real" through the eyes of the media.

In 1933 Alfred Korzybski published the book Science and Sanity.  He was the son of an aristocratic Polish family whose members had worked as mathematicians, scientists, and engineers for generations.  He came to the United States during World War I after being injured to serve the Russian war effort by less violent means, helping to sell war bonds and organizing the shipments of war material to Russia.  He stayed in the US after the war and began development of what he came to call, General Semantics.

Korzybski's work maintained that human beings are limited in what they know by (1) the structure of their nervous systems, and (2) the structure of their languages.  Human beings cannot experience the world directly, but only through their "abstractions" (nonverbal impressions or "gleanings" derived from the nervous system, and verbal indicators expressed and derived from language).  Sometimes our perceptions and our languages actually mislead us as to the "facts" with which we must deal.  Our understanding of what is happening sometimes lacks similarity of structure with what is actually happening.  He stressed training in awareness of abstracting, using techniques that he had derived from his study of mathematics and science. He called this awareness, this goal of his system, "consciousness of abstracting".  His system included modifying the way we consider the world, e.g., with an attitude of "I don't know; let's see," to better discover or reflect its realities as revealed by modern science.

But in the 1930s there was no television or Internet, there was only radio and newspapers for global communications.  There were two incidents in the late 1930s which might be compared to 9/11 as media events.  There was the Hindenberg crash in 1937 where a reporter gave a tragically moving account for the radio.  And there was Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast which was a totally fictional event but had many people panicking to escape imaginary Martians.  But neither had pictures with video repeats, again and again and again like on 9/11.  But neither of those events were excuses for war or were being hotly debated ten years later.

This incident is at the feet of people we call scientists.

What can one say at the thought of this Newtonian physics problem not being clearly resolved in the next 1,000 years? 

The Horror, the Horror!
independent minds

Physics, Psychology and the 9/11 Decade

By the 10th anniversary of 9/11 the 42nd anniversary of the Moon landing will have passed.  Newtonian physics will be 324 years old.  Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was published on July 5th of 1687 and the first Moon landing was July 20th of 1969.  How can the major events of 9/11 not be fully explained by September 11th of 2011?

Jonathan Kay with his book, Among the Truthers, does the same thing as Penn and Teller with their television program.  They associated 9/11 Truthers with faked Moon landing conspiracy theorists.  Kay has a flying saucer abduction and an Illuminati pyramid portrayed on the cover of his book along with the twin towers and an airliner.  He is implying that questioning 9/11 puts the questioner into the same category with UFO nuts.  What does the media have most people thinking about 9/11 and skyscrapers regardless of the physics?

Getting to the Moon was Newtonian physics.  Isaac Newton could have done the calculations for the project 300 years ago.  The physics of an airliner crashing into a skyscraper and that skyscraper being collapsed straight down by the portion above the impact can't be more complicated than getting to the Moon.  But all skyscrapers must accomplish certain tasks before they can be hit by airplanes.  Skyscrapers must hold themselves up for their entire height therefore every level must be strong enough to support the combined weights of all levels above.  So the designers must determine how much steel is necessary to accomplish that, which means the amount of steel increases down the height of every very tall building.

The cores of WTC 1 and WTC 2 had 47 columns.  The 10,000 page NCSTAR1 report by the NIST says the cores supported 53% of each building's weight.  But since most levels were 12 feet high that meant there were 564 feet of vertical steel in each level of the core.  But there were horizontal beams connecting the columns on each level of the core also.  The cores were 136 by 86 feet.  Since the columns were not in an even 6 by 8 minus 1 array the arrangement must have been more complicated but the layout of the beams is never shown by any official source.  The horizontal steel should still consist of about 6 times 136 feet plus 8 times 86 feet, which comes to 1504 feet of steel.  So on every level of the core there should have been about 2.5 times as many feet of horizontal steel as there were of vertical steel.  But how much did it all weigh?

The steel in the columns was as little as 1/4th of an inch thick at the top of the towers but as much as 5 inches thick at the bottom.  In addition to greater thickness the box columns were longer and wider than the H-beams at the top.  But how much did the thickness of the horizontal steel beams change down the building?  That is another unknown we have to live with after ten years.  But why are we living with it?  Why weren't physicists and structural engineers demanding that information and telling everyone within weeks of 9/11?

Regardless of who destroyed the towers or why, an analysis of the physics would require accurate information about the state of the buildings before the impacts.  The NIST admits in three places that information on the distribution of weight in the towers is necessary to analyze the impact.  But then they didn't do that analysis.  They had empirical data.  They measured the deflection and oscillation of the south tower with recordings from a digital camera up to the 70th floor because the vertical columns on the outside of the building created a moving pattern with the pixels in the camera.  The skyscraper deflected 12 inches at the 70th floor even though the plane impacted at the 81st.  It must have moved about 15 inches at the impact level.  After the impact the tower oscillated for approximately four minutes in progressively smaller deviations.  So how could the bottom of the upper portion completely break loose and move horizontally more than 20 feet 50 minutes later?  Where was the center of gravity?  Where was the center of rotation?  What was the moment of inertia?  Where are the physicists asking about that?

What happened in New York on 9/11 was so unique and phenomenal one would think physicists would be fascinated and never let go of it until it was resolved.  But that appears to not be the case.  If anything there seems to be a deafening silence on the part of most physicists.  Consequently we have had nearly TEN YEARS of rhetorical and psychological nonsense.  We have the Orthodox 9/11 Religion versus the Heretical 9/11 Psychosis.  On the one hand 1360 foot skyscrapers collapsed straight down in less than 18 seconds and this miracle is supposed to be believed even though accurate data on the distributions of steel and concrete are not provided by official sources so the conservation of momentum can be reasonably analyzed.  IT'S A MIRACLE!  On the other hand shadow government agents used holographic planes to teleport explosives into the buildings with particle beams.  Or were they mini-nukes?  IT'S A TINFOIL MIRACLE!

But this is the nation that put men on the Moon.  The Empire State Building, which is only 3 miles from Ground Zero, will have its 80th anniversary this year.  What kind of electronic computers were used in 1929 to design a building that is still among the top 20 tallest in the world?   IBM had its 100th anniversary this year but there were no electronic computers in 1929.   Regardless of who or why or how it should be possible to definitively determine if NORMAL AIRLINERS could destroy buildings 2000 times their mass in less than TWO HOURS.  But no, we are treated to pictures of flying saucer abductions and can't even be told how many tons of steel were on each level within 5 stories of the airliner impacts.

Purdue has given us a computer simulation which they claim is scientific. 


But the core columns do not move in that simulation when the plane impacts.  This contradicts the behavior which the NIST documents for the south tower.  Is Purdue telling us that the conservation of momentum is unscientific?  The effect of mass and its distribution on a vertical flexible body can be easily demonstrated.


Then there is the effect of impacts from above on self supporting masses.  The north tower was hit by the plane at the 95th floor.  So there were 15 stories above that point and 94 below. 

A simple simulation would be to remove the simulated levels 91, 92, 93, 94 and 95. That would leave a 60 foot gap with 15 stories floating in the air and 90 intact simulated stories below. Let simulated gravity take its course. The bottom of the falling 15 stories would impact the top of the 90 in just under 2 seconds at 44 mph.

The levels get stronger and heavier going down and lighter and weaker going up.  Even at a 3 to 1 ratio of destruction, which I regard as extremely unlikely, that would leave 45 stories standing.  That destruction would require energy.  The only source is the kinetic energy of the falling 15 stories.  They would slow down.  Completely eliminating 5 stories is more destruction than the airliner impact and fires could have accomplished. So if that simulation comes nowhere near complete collapse then what is with this nonsense that has been going on for approaching TEN YEARS?


Grade school kids could build that and test it to their hearts content.  Computers must be told how to compute physics and it must be coded perfectly or else they can get it wrong.  Real models cannot escape real physics.  The problem with small models is being too strong in relation to their own weight because of the square cube law.  Engineering schools that charge $100,000 for four years of education should be able to afford to test larger models.  Where is the engineering school that has built a physical model that can completely collapse?  Maybe they don't find 9/11 interesting.

The Laws of Physics are incapable of giving a damn about psychology.  But this nearly ten year 9/11 phenomenon is extremely psychological.  What do psychologists know about Newtonian physics?  It is much older than Sigmund Freud.  If the physics dictates that the towers could not collapse straight down then physicists should have figured it out long ago.  If the physics makes it possible then they should have explained it in detail long ago.  But wouldn't that involve having accurate data on the distributions of steel and concrete in the towers?  So where are the physicists demanding the information?

But if the planes could not possibly have caused that much destruction and the majority of people around the world believe that they did, then the physicists have created a problem for themselves with their years of silence and the media has created a problem with its years of noise.  How do they expect to teach physics for the next 1000 years?  Do they really just want to pretend that Newtonian physics is extremely difficult and expect everyone else to just believe what they are told?  But 9/11 has been a catalyst for war and people with the credentials to supposedly explain this nonsense have allowed the chain reaction to engulf other countries.

Can this go on for another ten years?

There are a couple of amusing things about this fantasy event however.  There are two science fiction novels written before 9/11 which contain incidents which are easily comparable to 9/11.  One is Flag in Exile by David Weber from 1995 and the other is Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold published in 1998.  Weber's book has a dome collapse which is supposed to appear to be due to incompetence or corruption even though it was actually sabotage.  There is significant discussion of computer simulations which eventually uncover how the sabotage was done.  Komarr has a collision between a spacecraft and a huge satellite.  Again there are computer simulations which uncover peculiarities that cannot be explained by "classical physics".  Though not deliberate sabotage there was an unknown technological factor added by unknown individuals.  But in these fictional universes the mysteries are solved in days or weeks not years.  Weber's book also involves a propaganda campaign about the event so a psychological factor is incorporated into the plot.

So if airliners could not cause that much destruction then 9/11 is the Piltdown Man incident of the 21st century and the physics profession has a serious problem. 

Can their silence make it go away?