The "Twin Towers" episode of the Smithsonian Channel series Conspiracy: The Missing Evidence, which aired last November in the UK, presents the case, made by chemist Frank Greening and metallurgist Christian Simensen, that the Twin Tower fires melted the aluminum airplanes and that this molten aluminum came into contact with water from the building's sprinkler system, thus setting off explosions that ultimately brought both skyscrapers down.

"It was just a matter of time before the whole thing blew up — and down come the towers," Greening declares during his taped interview.

Greening and Simensen say that the presence of the plane wreckage in the towers was something that should have been taken into consideration by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which released its final report on the collapse of the North and South towers in 2005.

"That's a huge omission in their work," Greening says. "I feel that until those tests are repeated, with an aircraft included in the office, their results are essentially meaningless."

The aluminum/water explosion hypothesis is "impossible" and "absurd," according to Richard Gage, AIA, who was flown to New York by the Smithsonian Channel (a joint venture between CBS Corp.'s Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian Institution) for a two-hour interview with the show's producers about the evidence for controlled demolition. (Unlike the interviews with Greening and Simensen, most of the evidence Gage presented ended up on the cutting room floor.) "Besides being impossible," Gage maintains, "the aluminum/water hypothesis utterly fails to explain any of the forensic, eyewitness, or video evidence from that day."

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The aluminum/water hypothesis utterly fails to explain any of the forensic, eyewitness, or video evidence from that day.

— Richard Gage

 This evidence includes:

  • Symmetrical explosions moving down the face of the towers at near free-fall acceleration
  • Lateral ejections from all facades — from massive explosions hurling four-ton structural steel sections laterally at 60 mph, landing 600 feet away
  • Unignited nano-thermite incendiaries found in the World Trade Center dust
  • Billions of previously molten iron microspheres also found in the dust
  • Near free-fall acceleration of the buildings
  • 90,000 tons of concrete pulverized into a fine powder – in mid-air
  • Missing "stack" of 110 pancaked floors 

"These features point to controlled demolition," Gage contends. "The aluminum/water explosion hypothesis," on the contrary, "would be asymmetrical and could not totally destroy the building," he says. "We saw the shattering of almost every structural element, one from another. A couple of aluminum/water explosions, even if the right conditions existed, could only account for a couple of explosions at or below the point of jet plane impacts."

Figure 1. WTC 1’s upper 15 stories are demolished in the first four seconds.  Nothing of a “pile driver” is left to destroy the rest of the intact building below.

Further, Gage rejects Greening's claim that once the destruction began, the weight of the upper section would crush the part below the impact points.

"Even if there were an aluminum/water explosion that dismembered all of the columns, it would still have required an intact block of massive weight to be there to overcome those columns and drive the rest of the building down," Gage notes. "But that upper 15-floor block, above the point of jet impacts, is completely destroyed in a telescoping collapse in the first four seconds before there is any downward movement. None of the videos show such an intact block. So the official theory, along with this latest tacked-together hypothesis, is completely undermined by the actual video evidence."

Scientists weigh in

According to physicist and professor emeritus Steven Jones, the molten metal pouring from the South Tower, as seen in videos 10 minutes prior to its collapse, is certainly not aluminum, as Greening and Simensen claim. Molten aluminum would not have looked anything like the bright yellow liquid that was observed flowing down that tower's side, Jones maintains.

"When it is molten, aluminum has only a very faint glow, which can be seen in a darkened room, but in daylight the appearance is silvery," Jones points out.

Jones also challenges the Greening/Simensen argument that aluminum and water could have even produced an explosion. And he disputes Greening's contention that crushed concrete, gypsum, and aluminum oxide would have been catalysts for an explosion.

"Where are the experiments?" Jones asks. "We performed experiments pouring molten aluminum onto crushed drywall (gypsum) mixed with water, and we saw no reactions whatsoever. If aluminum reacts explosively with water, then where are the experiments to show this?"

Niels Harrit, a retired chemistry professor, observes, "Very specific conditions are required for any explosion of the kind described by Greening and Simensen to take place. And those conditions were not present in the towers."

Harrit challenges the notion that all the aluminum from the planes would have become molten: "It is ridiculous to envision that a major part of the airliner aluminum would not burn in the blast after total fragmentation during impact and fuel combustion."

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There was no water pressure at these floors.    

— Niels Harrit


Moreover, he contends, "It is not the aluminum/water which explodes in such a scenario. It is hydrogen — conceived from this reaction — mixed with oxygen. To get a big explosion, you would need a large volume of gas created. That is, not only should the aluminum assemble in a great number of pools, the hydrogen/oxygen should as well be contained in more-or-less airtight spaces."

Harrit also says there could not have been sufficient water for a reaction with molten aluminum, because the buildings' sprinkler systems were not functioning on the floors near the plane impacts.

“There was no water pressure at these floors," he argues. "They then bring into the argument the drinking water from the water coolers found in the offices . . . . Come on, be serious." (Greening did cite contributions made by water bottles, Coke machines, and kitchenettes.)

Chris Sarns, a writer for AE911Truth, says that the massive explosion that Greening and Simensen insist initiated the towers' collapse simply could not have taken place.

"The aluminum would only have 'dribbled down' as it melted," Sarns explains. "In order to cause an explosion, it would take a whole lot of aluminum coming into contact with a lot of water — all at once. While high energy explosives can destroy steel building frames, kerosene or aluminum explosions don't have anywhere near the 'pushing power' — the power to actually displace structural steel components."

Adds Gage: "That's why they don't design explosives with aluminum and water."

Gage also points out that the example cited in the Smithsonian program of an aluminum/water explosion that damaged a factory in Sandong, China, fails to support the program's claims about the Twin Towers.

sandong plant 600 bw

In fact, the photo of the damage (see above) contradicts the voice-over's claim, which was that the Sandong plant had been destroyed.

"What they describe as the worst aluminum explosion blew the lightweight roofing up and the siding off, but it didn't damage the supporting columns," notes Gage.

Precise timing required

Physicist Frank Legge says that even if a single aluminum/water explosion had taken place in each of the towers, these explosions could not have created the conditions for a collapse at near-free-fall acceleration.

Figure 3. In 9/11: Blueprint for Truth, Richard Gage shows how the Twin Towers fell symmetrically. Symmetrical destruction would be "impossible," he believes, in an aluminum/water explosion — a hypothesis the Smithsonian film producers appear to endorse.

"Both towers very obviously came down from the top — not as a result of a single massive explosion, but as a result of a sequence of moderate explosions," Legge stresses. "Videos show puffs of dust indicating where and when the explosions occurred. These puffs are in a descending sequence. Both towers came down with uniform acceleration, which indicates that the explosions were set off with very precise timing. The timing was such as to allow the falling debris to get a little ahead of the demolition layers."

The type of explosion claimed by Simensen and Greening is not possible, Legge adds, because such a reaction requires the ingredients to be "finely divided and intimately mixed."

"This cannot happen," he contends. "The water would boil away at the interface when contacted by the molten aluminium before mixing can occur, as has been demonstrated by numerous experimenters."

Ken Jenkins, an engineer and co-founder of the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance, supports Legge's view that a sequence of explosions would have been required for the destruction that video cameras captured.

"Successful building demolitions require high degrees of precision in the relative timings of the many separate explosions," Jenkins observes. "The sequence must be timed within fractions of a second throughout the building.  We observe this precision timing in a number of the videos of the explosive ejections in the towers."

Any aluminum/water explosions that took place would, in Jenkins' view, affect only the top of each building and have no effect on the floors below, which were not impacted by the planes or even touched by any resulting fires.

"That fact alone," says Jenkins, "makes this aluminum/water hypothesis as absurd as the official column failure hypothesis, and for some of the same reasons, including the fact that the lower part of both towers, below the impact zones, retained their full structural strength before any collapse began.”

Lower explosions explained?

Not only do Greening and Simensen claim that they have succeeded in explaining how the towers came down, but they also assert that the aluminum/water explosion hypothesis accounts for the more than 100 reports from first responders of explosions in the lower part of the towers. Yet in their interview, the two scientists don't even try to explain how multiple explosions in the lower parts of the building — including the lobby and sub-basements — could have been caused by molten aluminum and water.

The program concludes by contending that, based on the aluminum/water explosion hypothesis, there must also have been exploded droplets of aluminum oxide in the World Trade Center aftermath. But then the producers backpedal, noting that nothing can be proven, since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has denied access to materials removed from the site.

Steven Jones documents that traces of aluminum were indeed found in the World Trade Center dust, which is to be expected when thermitic reactions take place.

"Thermitic reactions produce aluminum oxide, usually as a whitish powder — not droplets — per my observations after my numerous experiments with thermite," Jones explains.

A hostile tone

"More troubling than the insupportable claims of this lame hypothesis, though," says Gage, "is the ongoing pattern of deception" employed by numerous mainstream film producers who have interviewed him over the years. At least 95 percent of the evidence he shares with them gets omitted from the end product.

"The Smithsonian used only one small section of the broad swatch of damning information I provided — the evidence for explosions — and they used it to set up their aluminum/water explosion hypothesis. This was completely unethical. It's all manipulation. It would seem they are purposely deceiving their audience."    

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For many of those directly affected by the disaster, claims of government involvement are deeply offensive.

— Smithsonian narrator

The one-sided slant of the program is readily apparent throughout its voice-over. The narrator describes the evidence presented by AE911Truth — and the 9/11 Truth Movement's use of that evidence — as "the outlandish claims of the theorists" and "fanatical rumors" by those with "an obsession for online conspiracy sites." In a half-hearted jab at the official story, the narrator asserts that the failure of the NIST report to explain the collapses provided "fertile ground for conspiracy theories."

In the voice-over, we hear an unrelenting attack on truth-seekers, which includes this pot shot: "For many of those directly affected by the disaster, claims of government involvement are deeply offensive." To prove that point, the producers air portions of their interview with firefighter Bobby McGuire, who lost his nephew in the disaster. In these clips, McGuire sides with the official theory, ridicules evidence for controlled demolition, and calls those who question the party line "conspiracy theorists" who are "out there."

The narrator then throws another low blow at Gage, accusing him of "attempting to gain mainstream acceptability with a combination of science and conjecture."  

After watching the "Twin Towers" show online, Gage observed that, despite what the producers want the public to believe, the evidence of controlled demolition involves only science and no conjecture. He said the producers should have presented the issue in a balanced way by including a reasonable amount of the case he made for controlled demolition, instead of being so obviously biased in favor of a clearly erroneous hypothesis.

That bias is most blatant and egregious when the narrator, referring to Greening's interest in figuring out what happened on 9/11, implies that the chemist came to a conclusion before beginning his scientific analysis: "For [Greening] . . . the question of government conspiracy was never an option."

The voice-over piles on still more praise of the Greening/Simensen hypothesis — heralding it as the breakthrough discovery that "would change our understanding of the disaster forever." And it compliments Greening's computer model, which he says supports the so-called pancake theory, for having "dispelled the conspiracists ideas about controlled demolition."

How did it do that? We're never told.

So where does the 9/11 Truth Movement go from here, in the wake of this Smithsonian episode's clear case of propaganda? For his part, Gage asks only that "everyone take a serious look at the forensic evidence and at the eyewitness and video testimony that has been thoroughly documented by AE911Truth and other truth-seekers — and then come to their own conclusions."

“We don’t have conspiracy theories," Gage proclaims. "We have solid, scientific evidence.”

Craig McKee is a journalist and the creator of the blog Truth and Shadows.