The next section of Popular Mechanics' (PM's) book deals with another subject not previously dealt with in the 2006 edition: the nanothermite discovered in dust samples from the World Trade Center. PM's stated objective of the updated book is to debunk “the most common speculation about free-fall times, ‘nanothermite,' and other aspects of the Twin Towers' collapses. . . ,” (pg. 22). However, PM's section regarding nanothermite utterly fails to do this — not because it presents weak scientific arguments, but because it provides virtually no scientific arguments at all.
Molten Metal Flowing from the South Tower
PM's only scientific criticism of claims made by individuals in the 9/11 Truth Movement in regards to thermite applies to the spout of molten metal seen coming from the 81st floor of the South Tower, which some have cited as evidence of a thermite-based demolition for the Twin Towers. In spite of photographs and numerous eyewitness accounts of molten steel/iron and concrete, PM chooses to address only this one example.
PM's explanation for this is simply that the material is molten aluminum, a claim echoed by other defenders of the official narrative. It is also a claim that has been thoroughly refuted. PM cites NIST as saying that the material may have been molten aluminum, but individuals such as Dr. Steven Jones have demonstrated — by experiment — that, in daylight conditions, molten aluminum appears silvery and does not glow brightly like the metal seen coming from the South Tower.1
Some still may argue that the material was molten aluminum and that it was heated to high enough temperatures to get it to glow that brightly. Below is a chart showing temperature-dependent colors of metals.
At about 980ºC (1800ºF), most metals begin to glow “light orange.” PM asserts throughout the book that this is how hot the fires could have been in the Towers. However, we previously noted that NIST has no evidence that the fires did reach these temperatures in the buildings. However, even if we accept that the fires did reach those temperature levels, the material still could not have been aluminum because of how long it was heated. As explained by physicist Jerry Lobdill:
The problem with concluding that the liquid flowing from the tower's 82nd floor could have been aluminum . . . is that the liquid in the tower was not confined in a container so that more heat could be applied to raise the temperature of the liquid above its melting point. Instead, as soon as the metal liquefied it flowed away from the heat source under the force of gravity. Therefore, the color of the liquid flowing from the 82nd floor [indicated that it] was at approximately the melting point of the metal. And therefore, it was molten iron from steel.2
Perhaps the most important reason why the material could not have been molten aluminum is that the material actually became white hot. Regardless of what kind of material was glowing, nobody has explained what would have heated it to over 2000ºF to get it to glow that brightly.
In addition, there is simply little chance the material could have been molten aluminum, based on the fact that the material glowed for as long as it did. As Dr. Jones summarizes:
[F]alling liquid aluminum, which due to low emissivity and high reflectivity appears silvery-gray in daylight conditions, after falling through air 1-2 meters, regardless of the temperature at which the poured-out aluminum left the vessel. Aluminum does incandesce (glow) like other metals, but faintly, so. . . . falling liquid aluminum [in bright daylight] will appear silvery-gray.3
While molten aluminum can be ruled out because of the reasons stated above, there is a known substance that easily could account for the observations: thermate, which is thermite with added sulfur. The thermite reaction produces temperatures in the white-hot range up to 4500°F, and the added sulfur lowers the melting point of iron significantly.
Accidental Thermite Reactions?
PM also cites Richard Fruehan, professor of metallurgical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University:
The thermite reaction could have occurred with aluminum metal and any oxide that happens to be near it. Or oxygen could react with aluminum as well. There was a lot of aluminum in the building itself—the windows, etc., plus the airplane's aluminum. That could have caused a thermite reaction and produced a small amount of molten iron (pg. 57).
First, for molten iron to be produced, aluminum would have to interact with iron oxide, not just with “any oxide that happens to be near it,” as Fruehan suggests. Regardless, his entire premise is not just unlikely, but impossible. Fruehan's theory would require that random chaotic events—the impact of the planes, the ensuing fires, and the collapses—were able to create not just thermite, but a highly advanced, weaponized version of it, in order to account for the high-tech nano-thermite composite material that was discovered in WTC dust samples. It would be quite interesting if any defender of the official 9/11 story were able to show that a chaotic event like the WTC disaster could create highly engineered, multilayered, nanothermite-composite materials.
Second, any accidental thermite reactions would not have happened at a large scale and at all relevant points. Mechanical engineer Gordon Ross notes:
[I]f I leave margarine, flour, sugar and fruit in a cupboard, when I next open the cupboard I will not find a fruit crumble. Some mechanism is required to convert the ingredients. Similarly, if I take these same ingredients, set them alight and throw them out the window, I still will not get my fruit crumble. The mechanism must have some order… What we are being asked to swallow in place of our absent fruit crumble, is that the tonnes of aluminum aircraft parts were powderised upon impact, thoroughly mixed with tonnes of rust from the towers' steel superstructure in exactly the required proportion to form tonnes of thermite, which then hung around for about an hour before distributing itself to key structural points throughout the tower, then igniting in a complex sequence to cause the towers' collapse. It is granted that a good imagination is a requirement for a good scientist, but this just abuses the privilege. Perhaps the name for this natural thermite should instead be intelligent thermite, or intelligent malevolent thermite.4
Similarly, as noted by Jim Hoffman:
The pyrotechnics, found in nearly all dust samples studied to date. . . . [are] nano-engineered material with thermitic constituents. Such materials are not spontaneously manufactured by melting airplanes or any other such event — they are the product of high-tech manufacturing likely extant only since the 1990s.5
Third, until some type of experiment is presented to show that natural thermite reactions were at all likely at the WTC site, the assumption of natural thermite reactions at the WTC is simply not valid. In fact, experiments have addressed the possibility of accidental thermite reactions under conditions that mirror both airplane impacts into steel buildings and fires in steel buildings. These experiments, performed in 2002, indicate that accidental thermite reactions could not have taken place.6
PM once again quotes Alan Pense, this time saying that he doesn't “know of anyone else who thinks thermite reactions on steel columns could have done that” (pg. 58). However, it is evident that both Pense and PM have not adequately researched the past usage of thermite. This may be understandable for Professor Pense, but it is not for PM. Its October 1935 issue reported that the Skyride Towers (two 628-foot-tall steel structures) were demolished, and one of them was demolished using thermite placed on the bottom steel legs.
In addition, the steel-framed roof of the German Reichstag, which survived arson in 1933 and Allied bombardment during World War II, was felled by thermite charges in 1954.7
These two incidents demonstrate not only that even ordinary commercial thermite can be used to demolish steel structures, but that advances in thermite over subsequent years would obviously permit greater efficiency in demolishing structures. Civil engineer Jon Cole, a supporter of AE911Truth, has also clearly demonstrated that thermite can be used to cut though steel beams.8
In the face of strong evidence of thermite being used to demolish the Towers, PM simply parrots NIST's claim that it is unlikely that large amounts of thermite could have been covertly placed within the buildings. This makes no sense, especially since thermite was discovered in the debris. It is a fallacy that could be called an argument of infeasibility, relying on unsubstantiated assumptions about the resources available to any possible group that planned and executed the attack.
The Nanothermite Paper
Up to this point, PM has only addressed ordinary thermite. PM next addresses the nanothermite discovered in the dust. These results were published in the Bentham Open Chemical Physics Journal in an article titled “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe.” PM provides no scientific rebuttal to the paper whatsoever, but attempts what many ‘debunkers' have attempted in the past when pressed for any scientific criticisms of the Active Thermitic Materials (ATM) paper: smear and discredit it.
PM argues for two reasons why Bentham Open's published research should be discredited: that a hoax paper was submitted to the same journal and was accepted, and that the editor-in-chief of the Journal resigned after the nanothermite paper was published. However, both assertions proved to be red herrings.
First, the hoax paper, submitted to Bentham Open by PhD students, was in fact never published by Bentham. The editors explained that the paper was accepted in order to find the true identity of the author.9 As PM itself notes, even the PhD student who submitted the hoax paper said that “we cannot conclude that Bentham Science journals practice no peer review, only that it is inconsistently applied” (pg. 59). As noted by Eric Larson:
[T]he problem has only been documented at a SINGLE journal among the hundreds published by Bentham — as Scholarly Kitchen notes, another Bentham journal rejected the hoax paper for publication. They say this incident only proves the peer-reviewed process is applied inconsistently. [emphasis added]10
Second, regarding Marie-Paule Pileni, the editor-in-chief who resigned from her post after the nanothermite paper was published, PM writes:
She immediately resigned her position at the chemical physics publication. “They have printed the article without my permission,” she explained to the news site, according to a translation. “I cannot accept that this topic is published in my journal. The article has nothing to do with physical chemistry or chemical physics, and I could well believe that there is a political viewpoint behind its publication. If anyone had asked me, I would say that the article should never have been published in this journal. Period” (pg. 59-60).
Note that Ms. Pileni's objection to the paper—much like PM's treatment — lacks any scientific arguments at all. In addition, her entire objection is problematic for several reasons:
- “They have printed the article without my permission.”
However, as Erik Larson points out:
[H]ow can the “editor-in-chief” be unaware? Was she simply trading her name for a title and a paycheck, and paying no attention to what was being published at her journal?11
Moreover, what most people in a position of authority would do if their subordinates went around them, would be to fire the subordinates, or protest to the publisher — not resign, themselves.
- “I cannot accept that this topic is published in my journal. The article has nothing to do with physical chemistry or chemical physics.”
In an interview with Gregg Roberts, a 9/11researcher and one of the authors of the nanothermite paper, had this to say regarding Pileni's statements:
This last criticism is perhaps the only valid criticism Pileni makes. The paper in no way advances the frontiers of the science of chemical physics, so in that sense, she is correct. However, the paper does describe an application of the principles of chemical physics to identifying the composition of a specific set of samples.
Obviously, as the authors of the paper, we had our reasons for submitting their article to this particular journal: (1) No one would have to pay to read the article since it is an open access journal. (2) The editors were willing to run a 25-page article, which is extremely long for a scientific paper. (3) The editors and the reviewers at their disposal could be expected to have the expertise necessary to evaluate whether the principles of chemical physics and the instruments used in the study were used appropriately to make the inferences that were reported. (4) Anyone familiar with efforts to publish evidence that contradicts the official story of 9/11 is also familiar with "political viewpoints" that prevent publication. A record of the rejections of papers or articles is not published or discussed in the publications responsible for the rejections.
- “[B]ecause the topic lies outside her field of expertise, she cannot judge whether the article in itself is good or bad.”12
This point is not mentioned in PM's book — and likely for good reason. Although Ms. Pileni claims the topic of the paper was outside her field of expertise, a review of her past work shows she in fact has an extensive background in these very fields. As summarized by Dr. Niels Harrit:
After resigning, she did not criticize our paper. Rather, she said that she could not read and evaluate it because, she claimed, it lies outside the areas of her expertise. But that is not true, as shown by information contained on her own website (http://www.sri.jussieu.fr/pileni.htm).
Her List of Publications reveals that Professor Pileni has published hundreds of articles in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. She is, in fact, recognized as one of the leaders in the field. Her statement about her “major advanced research” points out that, already by 2003, she was “the 25th highest cited scientist on nanotechnology” (http://www.sri.jussieu.fr/pileni.htm).
Since the late 1980s, moreover, she has served as a consultant for the French Army and other military institutions. From 1990 to 1994, for example, she served as a consultant for the Société Nationale des Poudres et Explosifs (National Society for Powders and Explosives).
She could, therefore, have easily read our paper, and she surely did. But by denying that she had read it, she avoided the question that would have inevitably been put to her: “What do you think of it?”13
Ms. Pileni's story simply doesn't add up. She very well could have (and likely did) read the paper, but chose not to provide any meaningful criticism of its content. Her tactics are essentially the same as PM's, which chooses to engage in merely smearing the ATM paper rather trying to deal with the scientific evidence presented in it.
It seems PM has failed to live up to the promises made about its new book.
Part 6: Seismic Spikes
1 See: http://stj911.org/jones/experiments_NIST_orange_glow_hypothesis.html
2 Quoted from: http://www.journalof911studies.com/letters/MoltenWhat2.pdf
3 Quoted from: Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Completely Collapse?, by Dr. Steven Jones pg. 7 http://www.journalof911studies.com/why-indeed-did-the-world-trade-center-buildings-completely-collapse/
4 Quoted from: http://gordonssite.tripod.com/id4.html
5 Quoted from: http://911research.wtc7.net/reviews/NationalGeographic/index.html
6 See: http://911research.wtc7.net/papers/dreger/GroundZeroHeat2008_07_10.pdf (pages 127-129), http://www.boemre.gov/tarprojects/405/Final Report-2002_1.pdf
7 See: http://www.ae911truth.org/en/news-section/41-articles/575-popular-mechanics-ignores-its-own-historical-records-of-thermite-demolition-destruction-of-skyride-towers-reichstag-dome-set-incendiary-precedent.html
8 See: http://911blogger.com/news/2010-11-10/911-experiments-great-thermate-debate
10 Quoted from: http://911blogger.com/news/2009-06-17/dr-moffett-smears-%E2%80%98active-thermitic%E2%80%99-paper-association-again-erik-larson#comment-210288
11 Quoted from: http://911blogger.com/news/2009-06-17/dr-moffett-smears-%E2%80%98active-thermitic%E2%80%99-paper-association-again-erik-larson
12 See: http://www.visibility911.org/editor-in-chief-of-open-chemical-physics-journal-resigns-after-controversial-article-on-911/
13 Quoted from: http://scientistsfor911truth.org/docs/Harrit_PileniResignation.pdf