(originally posted on the randirhodes forum, January 30, 2007)
I don't think that you can underestimate the importance and impact of Dr. Jones' work, his detailed and scientific analysis of the WTC events have helped to give legitimacy to the 9-11 movement and provides a series of excellent critiques of the government agency and government commissioned reports. But he has not proven conclusively that controlled demolition was the cause of the towers collapses.
The following is an informal critique of Dr. Jones' hypothesis. In composing this critique it is not my intention to diminish his accomplishment in conceiving of a scientific alternative explanation for what happened in New York six years ago but only to address certain weakness in his efforts to extrapolate from the available evidence to controlled demolition as the most likely cause.
My comments are in blue, passages and titles from Jones' paper are in black. I didn't put the entire paper in because it is about fifty pages long. You can cross reference the thirteen points I have commented on by referring to Jones' paper here and here.
Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Completely Collapse?
By Dr. Steven E. Jones Physicist and Archaeometrist
The paper has undergone significant modifications following a third set of peer reviews organized by Journal of 9/11 Studies Editor Kevin Ryan.
It has always been my impression that the peer reviews for this were a little biased in favor of Jones. A peer review should be a stringent and uncompromising critique, a strong critique can only help to prove a valid theory or disprove an invalid one.
Not all of his peers gave Jones the thumbs up. Peer reviews are not supposed to be mutual admiration exercises. In the interest of validating and strengthening his theory Jones should invite criticism not banish it.
In this paper, I call for a serious investigation of the hypothesis that WTC 7 and the Twin Towers were brought down, not just by impact damage and fires, but through the use of pre-positioned cutter-charges. I consider the official FEMA, NIST, and 9-11 Commission reports that fires plus impact damage alone caused complete collapses of all three buildings. And I present evidence for the controlled-demolition hypothesis, which is suggested by the available data, and can be tested scientifically, and yet has not been analyzed in any of the reports funded by the US government.
Much of the paper is spent debunking other theories, the amount of incontrovertible evidence of controlled demolition is actually rather slight.
We start with the fact that large quantities of molten metal were observed in basement areas under rubble piles of all three buildings: the Twin Towers and WTC7. A video clip provides eye-witness evidence regarding this metal at ground zero:
The photographs below by Frank Silecchia show chunks of the hot metal being removed from the North Tower rubble on September 27, 2001 (according to photographer's aid). Notice the color of the lower portion of the extracted metal -- this tells us much about the temperature of the metal and provides important clues regarding its composition, as we shall see.
There is some controversy about the accounts of molten metal at ground- zero. And there are no pictures or films of it. The glowing lump in the steam shovel is hot but clearly not melted. The liquid that appears to be spewing from the corner of the south tower just before its collapse has not been clearly identified as aluminum or metal or scotch whiskey.
Dr. Jones begins with a discussion of Building 7 which was surely a controlled demolition. But later in the paper he conveniently extends his theory about WTC to explain the collapse of the towers. Jones was originally compelled to hypothesize controlled demolition after seeing the films of WTC7 falling into its own footprint in six and a half seconds. He is being altogether too casual in extending this theory to include the towers. In doing so, I think he is abandoning scientific analysis and indulging his intuition.
Jones presents the following thirteen reasons (cross reference at link above) to challenge the government reports:
1. Molten Metal: Flowing and in Pools
The eyewitness accounts of molten metal at ground zero have been disputed and if this was such a striking physical event why on earth didn't anyone take a picture of it? There is not one single photograph of molten metal at ground zero. To back up the claim of molten metal Dr. Jones repeatedly provides a link to a single video of a worker at ground zero explaining that metal was red hot.
I maintain that these observations are consistent with the use of high-temperature cutter-charges such as thermite, HMX or RDX or some combination thereof, routinely used to melt/cut/demolish steel. [See Grimmer, 2004] Thermite is a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum powder. The end products of the thermite reaction are aluminum oxide and molten iron. So the thermite reaction generates molten iron directly, and is hot enough to melt and even evaporate steel which it contacts while reacting...
In order for thermite or thermate to have melted or evaporated this much metal it would surely have been necessary to use larger quantities of it than cutter charges which, as the name suggests, are applied to cut structural steel, not to pulverize and evaporate vast volumes of it.
Dr. Jones or somebody needs to show us an example of a controlled demolition which has created rivers and pools of molten metal.
Dramatic footage reveals yellow-to-white hot molten metal dripping from the South WTC Tower at this SAME CORNER just minutes before its collapse....
We don't know if this is metal, or something else or even if this is a real photograph. Wood and Reynolds dispute its authenticity and looking at it I have to agree that it looks odd.
Furthermore, Wood and Reynolds have gone to the trouble of conducting experiments demonstrating that aluminum is yellow when melted, contradicting Jones' claim that only iron becomes jaundiced in the heat.
2. Observed Temperatures around 1000°C and Sulfidation in WTC 7 Steel
From a limited evidence of sulfidation Jones posits thermate or some variation of thermite as the cause of the collapses. This is interesting but far from conclusive.
The staggering logistics of wiring two hundred and sixty stories of structural steel with cutter charges really diminish the credibility of Jones theory for me. To be sure it could be done but Jones is speculating. No where in this paper does he address the specifics of implementing such a scheme. It may have been done during the apocryphal power shut down, it may have been done over an extended period of time. And yet with all of the security issues, not to mention the personnel issues this seems rather implausible. But while Jones more or less effectively debunks the NIST and FEMA reports (except when he needs FEMA's metallurgical analysis) and has developed a compelling and interesting theory which focuses on thermate and an array of possible explosives, he never really addresses how they installed all this stuff. We are to believe that the flowing substance is molten steel, from where? A cutter charge that ignited prematurely? An unspecified process of thermate-induced demolition which generated this stream of metal? And what of the superthermate which he cites a cause? Its availability and practicability is purely theoretical.
3. Near-Symmetrical Collapse of WTC 7
Jones theory is most applicable to WTC7 but the disintegration of the towers does not resemble the collapse of WTC7 either in process or in the debris piles. The towers really did not collapse into the sub-basements and the volume of the tower debris piles simply did not reflect the original volume of the buildings. Portions of the buildings really did disintegrate in mid-air. Jones does not address this at all. The argument for controlled demolition is clearly most applicable to WTC7. Perhaps Dr. Jones hypothesis should have been limited to that structure.
4. No Previous Skyscraper Complete Collapse Due to Fires
I think that much of what compels Dr. Jones to hypothesize controlled demolition as the cause of the tower's collapse is the unprecedented nature of these events and WTC7's striking resemblence to controlled demolition jobs. However, the towers collapsed from the top down, the remaining debris pile was out of proportion to the original volume of the structures and damaged in ways that are completely inconsistent with conventional controlled demolition. Even if some variety of superthermate was used along with explosives it does not explain the extent of the destruction and the obvious pulverization of large volumes of material.
And Dr. Jones refers to Jonathan Barnett's remark about partly evaporated steel. Jones suggests that This mystery needs to be explored... and makes no effort to explore it himself. I hope that this isn't because it doesn't support his theory. Barnett's analysis of structural steel from WTC7 can be found here:
What, other than explosives and/orthermate might have a eutectic effect on metals? Electron Beams. This is what they were designed to do in welding fifty years ago. Electron beams are particle beams.
5. Squib-timing during the Collapse of WTC 7
The famous "squibs." I have often been struck by the tremendous emphasis placed on these. Surely they resemble the squibs attendant to controlled demolitions and yet in relation to the towers there aren't that many of them relative to the size of the structures that they are squirting out of and most importantly we really don't know what caused them.
6. Early Drop of North Tower Antenna
From this anomaly Dr. Jones theorizes that the core columns were taken out with cutter charges and/or explosives. The core columns did not merely give way simultaneously, they completely disappeared. Just look at the debris piles -- where are the gigantic supporting columns that you would expect to see remaining in some state of intactness, jutting out of the wreckage even after a controlled demolition? Unless the columns were completely wrapped, top to bottom like maypoles with cutter charges, I fail to see how cutter charges can account for the pulverization of the core columns. This is one of many physical anomalies that begs to be examined and understood. Jones' assertion that cutter charges were the cause is facile.
7. Eyewitness Accounts of Flashes and Loud Explosions
Unquestionably explosions were heard but there is no material evidence in this paper of what caused the sound of explosions. There are eyewitness accounts of sections of the sub-basement being destroyed but, again, there is no evidence as to what caused this destruction. But interestingly, one area where explosions were not heard was in those parts of the building that just about to disappear. This is documented in some of the cell phone calls made from the upper floors in which there is no sound of explosions at all just split seconds from the complete destruction of the floor from which the call was being made.
8. Ejection of Steel Beams and Debris-plumes from the Towers
This is further evidence of something having an explosive effect on the buildings. Jones does not demonstrate conclusively that it was thermate and/or some other explosive. The lack of specificity as to the explosive instrument used, assertions concerning the likelihood that the cause was controlled demolition, and demands that the reader make inferences which support his theory seem more appropriate to an ideological debate than to a scientific study.
But this is some of the most intriguing evidence presented by Jones, particularly in light of Mr. Bush's remark last September that:
"For example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed described the design of plane attacks on building inside the U.S. and how operatives were directed to carry them out. That is valuable information for those of us who have the responsibility to protect the American people.
He told us the operatives had been instructed to ensure that the explosives went off at a point that was high enough to prevent people trapped above from escaping."
Of course, as usual, Mr. Bush's scrambled syntax renders his remarks somewhat incomprehensible but you at least get a sense of something about explosives and the terrorists.
9. Rapid Collapses and Conservation of Momentum and Energy
This is an excellent analysis of the unusually fast collapse times. But it does nothing to prove controlled demolition. And Dr. Judy Wood's BBE analysis is at once more precise and more accessible to the layman. And it has been done by others, notably D. P. Grimmer. This is not ground breaking and once again is does not prove controlled demolition.
10. Controlled Demolition Implosions Require Skill
Yes, they do.
I think that Jones analysis of the collapse of WT7 in this section has merit and I think that he is justified in theorizing controlled demolition as the cause. This does not extend to the collapse of the towers. The destruction of the towers had completely different characteristics and really do not really resemble any conventional controlled demolition.
How could they have installed the extensive apparatus for the controlled demolition of a one hundred and ten story building and then ensured its reliable and absolutely precise detonation in the midst of a destructive process that took under ten seconds and which transformed large sections of the towers to dust in mid-air? Jones hypothesizes cutter charges beginning from the bottom but also emphasizes that the towers were brought down from the top. This suggests such an elaborate and unique demolition strategy, dependent on so many finely timed devices that it staggers the imagination. To explain the collapse of the core he theorizes cutter charges, to explain the explosive elements in the events he postulates super thermite. And while he concludes each of his repeated assertions and demanding inferences that the cause must surely have been controlled demolition with a request for further investigation, he does not suggest that the investigation should include the consideration of any other possible causes for the collapses. At the same time that Jones' postulates that a mere 1200 pounds of charges would have been sufficient to bring one of the towers down, he marvels at the sight of the South Tower disintegrating in mid air. I fail to see how strategically placed charges could have caused this kind of devastation.
11. Steel Column Temperatures of 800°C Needed: A Problem in the Argument of Bazant and Zhou
A Mechanical Engineering professor suggested that I review a paper by Zedenek P. Bazant and Yong Zhou, which I did. Quoting:
"The 110-story towers of the World Trade Center were designed to withstand as a whole the forces caused by a horizontal impact of a large commercial aircraft. So why did a total collapse occur?" (Bazant and Zhou, 2002, p. 2.)
This is an effective analysis exposing the errors in the Bazant and Zhou report, but how does this prove controlled demolition?
12. Problems in the NIST Report: Inadequate Steel Temperatures and Tweaked Models
13. NIST's Failure to Show Visualizations An article in the journal New Civil Engineering (NCE) lends support to concerns about the NIST analysis of the WTC collapses.
Once again, in points 12 and 13 we have excellent critiques of problems with the methodology and results of one of the government agencies entrusted with the task of explaining what happened. But it does not prove controlled demolition. One gets the sense that Jones is demanding that we infer from his incisive analyses of other theories that controlled demolition is the only reasonable and scientific explanation for what happened. Perhaps Dr. Jones is too attached to his theory to be more open to other theories.
And when Jones leaves science behind and begins to speculate about the perpetrators (his laughable and condescending notion of technically challenged Muslim cave dwellers), he is departing from scientific analysis and engaging in largely groundless speculation. A purely scientific analysis of the physical and visual evidence of the collapses should not make this jump. Jones is digressing. This should be viewed as a forensics investigation and limited to the evidence only, speculation about who the perpetrators might have been suggests that the analysis may be biased. It would more useful to his theory if, rather than engaging in conjecture about who did it, he would examine, for example, the evidence of evaporated steel.
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