Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7 by David Ray Griffin.
The starting point of the National Institute of Science and Technology's investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center's building No. 7 *, in which it refused to begin with the most likely hypothesis, was also the starting point for all its other violations of scientific methods. Although there were many reasons to assume that WTC 7 was brought down by a controlled demolition, NIST's lead investigator, Shyam Sunder, claimed that this hypothesis was "not credible enough to justify a careful investigation." Instead, NIST declared: "The challenge was to determine if a fire-induced floor system failure could occur in WTC 7 under an ordinary building contents fire." So although every collapse of steel-framed high-rise buildings that had occurred both before or after September 11, 2001, had been brought about by explosives, which means that none of them had been induced by fire, NIST determined that, in this case, the fire hypothesis was the most credible one.
The claim that this is what NIST really determined is, of course, simply not believable. The only plausible explanation for NIST's behavior (confirmed by the testimony of some of the members of its own staff) is that, as an agency of the Bush-Cheney administration's Commerce Department, it had to exclude, and even try to discredit, the view that WTC 7 was brought down by explosives. This means that NIST, in restricting itself to the fire hypothesis, was violating the most general formal principle of scientific work: Extra-scientific considerations should not be allowed (in so far as possible) to determine conclusions.
By rejecting the controlled demolition hypothesis, NIST was also violating Occam's razor, according to which, if there are two explanations that are equally adequate, the simplest one should be chosen. In this case, of course, the two competing hypothesis were not even close to being equally adequate, because NIST, to advocate its fire hypothesis, had to ignore much of the relevant evidence. But even if NIST had come up with an explanation for all the ignored evidence, it would have needed one explanation for the melted steel, another for the inextinguishable fires (after the collapse), another for the unusual particles in the air, another for the particles in the dust that appear to have required extremely high temperature, another for the apparent nanothermite residue in the dust, and still others for the testimonial evidence about explosions. The result would have been an extremely complex hypothesis. But all of these phenomena can be explained by one and the same hypothesis, namely, that explosives, including nonothermite, were used to demolish WTC 7.
By rejecting and seeking to discredit this hypothesis, NIST was also led to violate the prohibition in scientific debate against straw man arguments. In refuting the claim that RDX explosives could have been used to demolish WTC 7, it ignored the far more plausible hypothesis that nonothermites were used. These types of explosives have very different properties, effects and residues.
NIST's report also, especially in its claims about fire and steel temperatures, violates the principle that prima facie claims should not be made without good reasons. The evidence presented by NIST for its prima facie implausible claims, is, however, extraordinarily weak. For example, in its computer models the sustained 'out-of-control' fires on several levels of WTC 7, for which there is very little evidence anyway, heated the steel components of the structure but not the concrete floors.
NIST's refusal to begin with the most likely scientific hypothesis- engendered by the free fall of WTC 7 which even NIST itself had eventually to accept- violated the principle that scientists should not affirm an unprecedented cause for a familiar occurrence without good reasons. But even more seriously, NIST's refusal to begin with the most likely hypothesis led it down a path that forced it, at the end, to make a claim implying that the fundamental laws of physics had been violated. This is the claim that, although WTC 7's columns had not been simultaneously removed by explosives, the building came down vertically in free fall for over two seconds. After over 600 pages of explanations, simulations, and graphics, NIST resorted to saying, in effect, that a miracle had occurred.
Chapter 2 articulated one more principle: scientific work should be reviewed by peers before it is published. NIST's WTC team did not submit its report to peers in the scientific community to be reviewed before it was published. In not doing this, NIST ignored the recommendation of Dr. James Quintiere, someone it should have taken seriously. A professor of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland, Quintiere was a member of the advisory committee for NIST's WTC project. This was a natural assignment, as he had previously been employed in NIST's fire program for nineteen years, the final years of which he served as Chief of the Fire Science Division.
In a lecture on the WTC investigations at the 2007 World Fire Safety Conference, Quintiere said:
"I wish there would be a peer review of this...I think all the records that NIST has assembled should be archived. I would really like to see someone else take a look at what they've done; both structurally and from a fire point of view."
In an interview later that same year, Quientiere repeated his call, saying:
"I think there should be a full airing of the NIST analysis and results with questions raised by the public before an impartial panel judging the completeness and accuracy of their results. In other words, peer review with accountability to a national body. That should determine whether further investigation is needed."
NIST did, to be sure, meet from time to time with an advisory committee. But it evidently did not take any advice from its members or even answer their questions. Speaking directly to a NIST representative, Quintiere said:
"I found that throughout your whole investigation it was very difficult to get a clear answer. And when anyone went to your advisory panel meetings or hearings, where they were given five minutes to make a statement; they could never ask any questions. And with all the commentary that I put in, and I spent many hours writing things...I never received one formal reply."
In short, besides not having a formal peer preview process, NIST showed contempt for those who offered advice (with the exception of David Chandler)*, including people such as James W. Quintiere and Frank Greening who, not believing that NIST was engaged in a cover-up operation, really wanted to help it produce a better report.
The authors of the NIST report on WTC 7 were evidently not responsible to anyone- except to the agencies mention by the former NIST employee quoted in Chapter One: The Department of Commerce, the National Security Agency, and President Bush's Office of Management and Budget.
*NIST NCSTAR 1-9, Structural Fire Response and Probable Collapse Sequence of World Trade Center Building 7 Final Report, November, 2008.; two volumes, 729 pages.
* David Chandler ( high school physics teacher) put a very effective video presentation on the internet and made an impressive statement at a live broadcast of a technical briefing, forcing NIST top admit WTC 7 did enter into free fall which they had previously denied.