Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rebuffed! Conspiracy Theory Destroyed By Unsung Internet Heroes

Defenders of Cambridge's Dr. Keith Seffen [photo] and his paper, "Progressive Collapse of the World Trade Centre: a Simple Analysis", are popping up everywhere. Well, not everywhere, but they're popping up in a few places. And with one reasoned rational argument after another, they have taken me apart.

On Sunday, I posted a review of Dr. Seffen's paper, and based on the reactions that piece received, I thought I had done a fairly good job of treating it calmly and rationally. But it turns out that I have been deceived by yes-men and weak-kneed courtiers. The review was shoddy, full of holes, politically motivated and shameful in the extreme.

After excerpts from that review were posted on usenet, at sci.physics, R. Steve Walz explained what was wrong with my analysis:
Dr. Seffen assumes that a constant force, supplied by the suddenly unsupported top of the tower, was pressing down, crushing each story, one after another, all the way down to the ground. An elementary understanding of physics would tell you that this is not possible, unless the top section of the building -- the part doing the crushing -- were made of much denser material than the bottom section -- the material being crushed.
No, the force even increases, being the sum of the total collapsing material, and since it is not limited by air resistance, being an internal air explosion, it can achieve near the speed of sound and not just some speed limited by some modified terminal velocity.
So Dr. Seffen and I were both wrong. The total force increases! And it's not even limited by air resistance! I've always thought some truthers were off in fantasy land with claims that the towers collapsed "faster than free-fall speed". How could that happen, I wondered, unless a force were pushing down on the falling concrete?

It's a shame both Dr. Seffen and I missed such a basic fact!

It was an internal explosion. It wasn't limited by air resistance. And it reached speeds well in excess of terminal velocity.
A single brick could crush a huge stack of paper cups and emerge intact. And this is the sort of situation Seffen's paper models. But that's not what happened to the World Trade Center.

In the case of the WTC, the material being crushed was nearly identical to the material doing the crushing. In fact, the structural steel was thicker at the bottom than the top, in which light Seffen's model appears even less appropriate to the event (not that this makes very much difference in the long run).
As I said, the mass collapsing continues to increase as it collapses.
And therefore all the debris that went whooshing down the streets ... it was actually still pushing down on the towers at the very same time!
The point is: If the top of the building had crushed all the stories below it, then the damage to the top portion would have been significant: we would naturally expect that the amount of damage to the top would be similar to the amount of damage to the bottom. Or, thinking about the thickness of the steel, we might expect the damage to the top to be even greater than the damage to the bottom.
You're completely misunderstanding all the physics behind the non-conspiracy understanding of the 9/11 collapses. The model surely involves the sum of the collapsing material at any instant, and does so by considering the effect of one story on all the stories beneath it, adding the stories above it which collapsed on it when the frame bent.
The frame bent! That's it!! I've always thought the frame snapped into pieces, like we see in the pictures.

But if the frame bent, it makes perfect sense that the buildings collapsed the way they did.

The "bent frame" is not shown in any photographs or videos of the collapse, but that's irrelevant.
But in Dr. Seffen's model, the top section of the building is not destroyed in the process of crushing the stories below it; instead, its entire mass is still available to crush even the lowest stories.
The MASS doesn't disappear if it itself is crushed!!!
If post-collapse photos from Ground Zero had showed the top 20 or 30 stories of each tower, virtually intact and sitting on the ground, then Seffen's model could perhaps be considered appropriate. But according to all the video and photographic evidence, it's not even close.
More nonsense, those hit the pile beneath at much more than any typical terminal velocity, and the whole thing releases quite enough energy to do the melting of aluminum seen in the wreckage, and the sub-red glow of the iron.
Steve almost had me confused for a while. He's quite right that "the mass doesn't disappear if it itself is crushed." But some of it rose up in a huge cloud, and some of it poured out horizontally (or even up and outward) in all directions, billowing down every street, depositing toxic dust and other debris in nearby apartments, and so on.

And it simultaneously remained in place to crush the stories below it!

Furthermore, the crushed material cascading down "hit the pile beneath at much more than any typical terminal velocity" which makes perfect sense. And of course "the whole thing releases quite enough energy to do the melting of aluminum seen in the wreckage, and the sub-red glow of the iron"!!

I especially like how this explanation explains the appearance of molten metal flowing from the towers before they collapsed!

The collapse generated the heat that melted the metal that flowed out of the building just before it collapsed. It makes perfect sense if you repeat it often enough.

In light of this new explanation, we're apparently very fortunate the collapsing towers didn't bore a hole in the Earth all the way to China!

If the Chinese thought we had done it on purpose and chose to retaliate, we'd be finished in no time.

Fortunately that didn't happen, and with Steve having cleared up the technical end of things, we're now in a better position to appreciate the non-technical comments...

PatColo (Pat from Colorado?) threw in a link to the same review at the Gold and Silver Forum:
Keep Your Hats On: Keith Seffen's "Mathematical Model Of The WTC Collapse" Is Incoherent, Inappropriate, And Almost Meaningless
But Juristic Person quickly found all the weak spots in that review. tangent after another, after another, after another.

Seffen's article is only a SUGGESTION.

The 9/11 Troof Movment has certainly presented it's fair share of "suggestions", hasn't it Patcolo?

The Truth Movement is so presumptuous in it's conviction that there is a "missing link" (bombs, thermite, thermate, mini-nukes, space-beam laser, etc) that anyone who presents an alternative suggestion that doesn't fall in line with the pre-purchased philosophy of the 9/11 Truth Movement, is automatically chastised.

Such is the way of the emotionally charged paranoid frenzy called "The 9/11 Truth Movement"....
BaaBaaBaa found substantial merit in Juristic Person's post:
Nail hit.

If George Bush said tomorrow "I ordered the planes to hit the WTC." And gave all the details on how he did it and why. And in fact showed video tapes of the "911 war room". Yet he denies the use of CDs. The "truth movement" would call him a liar.

The Truther movement should be called the controlled demolition movement. Their purpose TODAY is to squash any theory that does not support the theory of CDs. They are not injecting any new evidence just rehashing old speculation.

Forget talking about the 19 Arab hijackers. Forget talking about how these guys who where under surveillance from the FBI pulled this off. Forget about how these guys where funded. Forget about how these extremist Islamic groups got their start. All that is buried by the so called truth movement.

What I do believe is that 19 Arab Jihadist assisted by certain covert agencies planned and implemented the events on 911. This scenario fits the facts as we know them. And more importantly the events after 911. CDs would fit into such a scenario. But I see no evidence for CDs. So I chuck the CD theory out the window. until new evidence is found.

Sure there are missing pieces to the puzzle. But that is no excuse to manufacture a puzzle piece. When you pull this crap you lose credibility.

I am sorry to say the real perpetrators got away with 911. And while we can find fault in the MSM. Some blame should be shifted to the alternative media. Especially the controlled demolition movement. Who is so dogmatic about CDs. And so focused on this speculation that any new evidence that does not have a direct bearing on the CD theory is swept under the floor.
That about covers it, I'd say.

It's precise, detailed, factual ... everything you could ask for in the way of scientific criticism.

There's certainly no excuse to manufacture a puzzle piece, and I guess that's exactly what I did when I pointed out that Dr. Seffen's model made no sense on a number of levels. But it also important to note that I never talk about how Islamic radicalism got its start, and in particular I never mention anything about Pakistan.

All the rest -- from the hypothetical analysis of what I would think if Bush "confessed" to the accusation of manufacturing evidence, must certainly apply to me personally, otherwise Juristic Person would never have said any of it!

Thus, it was all starting to make sense to me. And then Peter Lemkin started a thread at Education Forum, writing
To all the 9/11 Official Version Borg elements, with love!

Where's The Paper? Did The BBC And A Cambridge Don Commit Fraud To Cover Up Mass Murder?
The two main points of the post to which Peter linked were (1) that the BBC had called Dr. Seffen's research published when it wasn't, and (2) that Dr. Seffen and Dr. Ross Corotis, the editor of the Journal of Engineering Mechanics (which had reportedly published the paper), had failed to answer any questions concerning the status or even the existence of the paper.

Len Colby gave a fantastic response, hitting all the right notes and finding all the weaknesses in what was, after all, a rather shoddy report:
This is the kind of silliness that could only impress a “truther”. Perhaps the BBC worded the article badly. The author [...] indicated he visited the Cambridge Engineering department site so he should have seen the press release, which said “Dr Seffen's new analysis, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Journal of Engineering Mechanics”

“will be” and “forthcoming” as in ‘in the future’ presumably the journal doesn’t list papers that haven’t been published yet. I assume Dr. Seffen and the editor of the journal have better things to do than correspond with misinformed paranoids.

If we go to the current page of the blog it turns out that yes indeed the paper will be published as advertised and is even currently available.

The blogger claims to “have taught college maths” see Peter’s link but since he doesn’t tell us where or even his name there is no way to confirm this. He mocks Seffen’s conclusions but they passed peer review in a prominent journal and are inline with the conclusions of other highly qualified engineers.

It's amazing how little research is needed to show that most truther claims don't stand up to scrutiny.
Amazing indeed.

It's also amazing the sort of hoops people can jump through.

The paper has still not been published, but it's available because I obtained a copy, which I then posted and publicized. This proves that my original research was incorrect. Since the paper is available, I must have been lying when I said it wasn't.

Similarly, the original article published by the BBC was badly worded, as the press release from Cambridge says Dr. Seffen's findings "are to be published in an upcoming issue".

Presumably the journal doesn't list papers until they are actually published, and you can easily see that I am not only making a mountain out of a molehill, but lying about it too -- especially if you forget the first sentence of the Cambridge press release, which says:
A new mathematical analysis of the collapse of the World Trade Centre has been published by a Cambridge University academic, with results that challenge conspiracy theories surrounding the September 11th attacks.
And Dr. Seffen could have cleared up all the confusion by replying to a single email, but he chose not to do that because he really does have better things to do than than correspond with misinformed paranoids.

All of which provides a perfect illustration of everything I have done wrong with this story, and with my blogging in general.

I admit it: I've been a truther. I've been a misinformed paranoid. I've been concerned with whether the news was true or false. I've failed to see that it really doesn't matter. But it doesn't.

It doesn't matter whether articles in the media are well-written and tell the truth or so badly worded that they actually invert the truth and say exactly the opposite.

Who cares? It's all ink on newsprint, or pixels on a screen. The medium is the message. You're not reading me, you're sitting at your computer. And so on. You're not watching BBC; you're watching the television. Change the channel; it doesn't matter. Still the same medium. Still the same message.

In other words, content is irrelevant. Accuracy in content is something only a truther could get excited about. And anyway, I was lying.

The paper is available which means it's been published and that means it's been peer-reviewed which means we can believe every word of it, even the parts where the author acknowledges fudging his model by saying things such as
The precise variation does not matter...
Do you see how simple that was?

It's amazing how little research is needed to show that most truther claims don't stand up to scrutiny.

So I'm finished. But that doesn't mean everybody is finished.

James B. of Screw Loose Change started a thread at the James Randi Educational Forum this way:
Keith Seffen WTC Paper Out

It is via a troofer site, but I have no reason to doubt it is not [sic] valid.
R Mackey found the paper most satisfactory:
My compliments to Dr. Seffen, for a straightforward paper and a closed-form solution. The guy even gives us a Lagrangian.

That's one more peer-reviewed paper for the good guys. The opposition still stands at, let's see... carry the two... zero.

Is there anyone out there who still thinks the Truth Movement hasn't forfeit the contest?
Apollo 20 had the gall to disagree!
Dr. Seffen is another engineer who is apparently so enamoured of his own model that he fails to make the distinction between a theoretical/calculated result and a real-world observation/measurement.

Thus on page 18 of his paper we read:

"The actual time for collapse of WTC 1 ranges from 8.3 seconds to 12.0 seconds, and for WTC2, from 7.3 seconds to 12.1 seconds..."

It turns out that these collapse times are not the observed times but the calculated times!

But then Dr. Seffen goes on to claim that his "actual" collapse times "embrace the observed period for both towers."

Where has anyone claimed to have observed a crush down time of 8.3 seconds for WTC 1 or 7.3 seconds for WTC 2?

This is complete BS and is being dishonest to say the least!

But SDC had the perfect comeback for that particular complaint -- indeed for all such complaints.
Well, for heaven's sake, it is your responsibility to send a detailed criticism to the journal in which the article appears. Please get on it!

I suppose some of my readers will get on it, as seriously as possible, if and when the paper is published in a journal.

In the meantime, I'm going to start paying more attention to pomeroo, who had it all figured out a long time ago:
Predictably, conspiracy liars are reduced to parading their ignorance of science and their crude anti-Semitism to rail against an authoritative paper that explodes their pernicious and baseless fantasies. As the alternative to spewing more mindless venom is to acknowledge that their evil movement is dead, the dunces must be excused for a redundant demonstration of their intellectual bankruptcy.
Posting all this marks a fitting end to a blogging career, I should say.

I'm tired of being predictable. I'm tired of spewing mindless venom. I'm tired of being a conspiracy liar. I'm tired of parading my ignorance of science, and my crude anti-Semitism is starting to make me sick, to tell you the truth. I'm tired of railing against an authoritative paper which says things like "the precise variation is unimportant" and thereby explodes my pernicious and baseless fantasies. And rather than spewing more mindless venom, I choose to acknowledge that my evil movement is dead.

I will never tell the truth again. Ever, ever, ever. It wasn't doing me any good anyway. It was only an evil habit brought about by my imaginary membership in an evil movement, and I promise not to do it any more. Now perhaps I may be excused for this demonstration of my intellectual bankruptcy.

Speaking of intellectual bankruptcy ...

I never meant to get into this 9/11 stuff. I never meant to get political at all. I never even meant to start a blog. One day I was just sitting here, drooling all over my keyboard as usual, and trying to figure out how to tie my shoes. And the cat walked across the keyboard, and she did a little dipsy-doodle, and the next thing I knew the computer was saying "Thank you for starting a blog."

I never have anything to blog about so I make stuff up, and I can't tell whether it's true or false because the sad fact is: I can't even read! And I can't spell too many words, but I have a spell checker. I just type random keystrokes and backspaces until the spell checker is happy; then I move on to the next word. I've been doing this for three years now, and even my regular readers haven't noticed that I don't actually know anything at all about anything!

I don't know what I'll do when I quit blogging. After all, I'm not smart enough to get a job, or civil enough to have any friends. I may find I have nothing to do all day but drool on my keyboard and try to figure out how to tie my shoes. Such is life.

Well, I've kept you long enough. I promise I will never say another word about any of this ...

or anything else ...

until next time. ;-)