Friday, January 5, 2007

Scientists clash over 9/11 collapses

By Paul Conant
A ZNEWZ1 special report
Copyright 2007
Permission is granted to reproduce this article in full or in part, free of charge.

Scientists, some with Ivy League credentials, are battling over whether official accounts of the 9/11 attacks are trustworthy. In particular, the collapses of the twin World Trade Center towers are the focus of spirited debate.

The controversy, which has raged outside the realm of scholarly journals, is largely an internet phenomenon, though it has spilled over into hard-copy magazines.

In the fall of 2006, a leftist magazine published three articles by Manuel Garcia Jr., a government weapons lab physicist, whose aim was to debunk 9/11 "myths." One of his concerns was that critics were saying that collapse times were too short to have occurred unaided by explosives. Garcia, who holds a doctorate in aeronautical and mechanical engineering from Princeton University, published a calculation in Alexander Cockburn's "Counterpunch" magazine arguing that fall times were reasonable.

Nonsense, says David L. Griscom, a retired research physicist for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington with a doctorate from Brown University who is convinced that the twin towers must have been brought down by explosives.

Griscom says he doesn't object to Garcia's collapse time equations but rather takes issue with Garcia's assumptions. Garcia assumes the upper block of each tower fell straight down onto a lower block, says Griscom, though the official account shows that both upper blocks immediately tilted, which would greatly reduce the calculated downward force and significantly affect collapse time.

If the upper block tilted as little as one degree, Garcia's force calculation is thrown way off, asserts Griscom.

Griscom cites a finding of the final report of the National Institute of Standards and Technology that says failure of the south wall in World Trade Center 1 and the east wall in WTC2 caused the portion of the building above to tilt in the direction of the failed wall. Assuming the NIST statement is accurate, says Griscom, Garcia's quantifications are "egregiously wrong" and "his calculations prove nothing."

Griscom also charges that Garcia, a career plasma physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, tacitly assumed that all supports in collapsing floors instantaneously lost all their strength -- which is what would happen if supports were destroyed by explosives.

Griscom's detailed rebuttal is posted at

A Znewz1 check of Garcia's Counterpunch articles shows that his model appears to be inconsistent with his use of an NIST statement saying that floors were dragged inward and downward by "shortened" core columns.

The NIST favors the idea that fires superheated core columns and structural supports sufficiently to initiate collapse and says that it found no evidence that explosives shortened the core columns.

One physicist, who asked to remain anonymous, argues that the massive explosions that immediately preceded the collapses cannot be shrugged off. The NIST speculated that pools of jet fuel erupted but published scanty data concerning those big blasts or the many smaller belches of smoke -- which Garcia thinks were kicked up by fast-moving shock waves initiated by the beginnings of upper-floor collapses.

Garcia's claims don't take into account the "impressive energy" from the large blasts, which is "inconsistent" with the properties of jet fuel. Like like any fuel, jet fuel "can only burn as fast as oxygen can be circulated into contact with it." The trade center blasts seen on videos could only have been produced by commercial explosives, the physicist says.

The scientist also challenges the NIST assumption, defended by Garcia, that the fires could have critically weakened the steel, questioning the plausibility of the NIST claim that office furnishings and supplies could have added enough heat to initiate catastrophic collapse.

Griscom, who has some 185 professional papers to his credit, is urging fellow physicists to look diligently into the circumstances of the 9/11 attacks. "I implore my fellow physicists and engineers who may have the time, expertise and -- ideally -- super-computer access to get to work on the TRUE physics of the World Trade Center collapses and publish their findings in refereed journals like Physical Review and the Journal of Applied Physics."

In response to an email query concerning criticisms of his analysis, Garcia said, "I'm happy with my presentation of the WTC towers collapses, just as it is. I leave it to others to quantify their hypotheses, and prove their own conclusions."

Garcia once championed the cause of Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who is suing the New York Times over allegations that he was suspected of being a nuclear spy for China, and was a vocal opponent of a plan to administer polygraph tests to scientists and others at weapons labs.

The Garcia controversy follows the uproar caused by Steven E. Jones, who, as a Brigham Young University physics professor, published a widely read internet paper favoring controlled demolition of the towers. Jones was eventually pressured to retire. One version of that paper is found at

Michael Shermer, who holds a science history PhD, scorned 9/11 conspiracy notions in a brief "Skeptic" column in the June 2005 edition of Scientific American. Shermer said the "single best debunking of this conspiratorial codswallop is in the March [2005] issue of Popular Mechanics, which provides an exhaustive point-by-point analysis of the most prevalent claims."

That Hearst magazine article does not mention that federal investigators had found that the best scenario they could devise for the collapse of a third tower, the 47-story World Trade Center 7, had only a "low probability" of occurrence or that one of the experts listed as a Hearst consultant, fire science professor Glenn P. Corbett of John Jay College, had expressed severe doubts about official collapse inquiries. No response has been received to various email queries sent to Corbett.

Another scientist who has weighed in on the 9/11 controversy is Noam Chomsky, the retired MIT linguist and outspoken leftist. Chomsky said in October 2006 that 9/11 truth activists were draining energy from the serious left-wing. In 1993, he said those pursuing the JFK assassination matter were draining energy from the left.

Chomsky asserted that he was "not persuaded that much documentation and other evidence" of a government coverup had been disclosed and suggested that such evidence be submitted to peer-reviewed scholarly journals.

"Scholars in other disciplines, like Chomsky, really have to rely on physicists where physics is concerned," contends Griscom. "I find it unfortunate that perhaps 99 percent of American physicists remain silent on the subject of what really happened on 9/11, since I am confident that most of them would find holes in the official story the first moment they seriously look into the evidence."

Chomsky's charge that 9/11 skeptics were harming the left was echoed in an article by Christopher Hayes, an English professor writing in the progressive magazine The Nation, which publishes a column by Cockburne.

Among scientists on record as questioning the government's 9/11 claims are Frank Legge, PhD; John P. Costella, PhD; Derrick P. Grimmer, PhD; Bill Hammel, PhD; Gregory S. Jenkins, PhD; and Joanna M. Rankin, PhD.

Rankin, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Vermont, reportedly helped organize a petition drive to push Vermont's Washington delegation to call for the reopening of the 9/11 investigation. However, she has not published anything on the web site of the group that organized the petition drive,

, regarding 9/11 physics matters.

Jenkins, assistant director of Howard University's department of physics and astronomy, has been associated with a 9/11 truth group but no responses have been received to email inquiries from this reporter.

A well-known mathematician who is a vocal critic of the official 9/11 accounts is the Canadian A.K. Dewdney, who found that extended cell phone use on Flight 93 high over Pennsylvania seemed unlikely. His site is

Other critics are Robert S. Boyer, professor of mathematical philosophy [logic] and computer science at the University of Texas, and Joseph Phelps, charter member of the Structural Engineering Institute at the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Two former structural engineering professors believe WTC7 was downed with explosives, according to Daniele Ganser, a University of Zurich historian. She quotes Hugo Bachman and Jorg Schneider, both recently retired from Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology, as being of the opinion the building was professionally demolished.

Two others opposing the official scenarios are Peter Phillips, a sociology professor and director of Project Censored at Sonoma State University, and Charles Simpson, chairman of the department of Sociology at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Simpson is an organizer of the Burlington 9/11 ballot question. Dennis Loo, Phd, a sociology professor whose work for Project Censored focused on 2004 election irregularities, has also expressed doubts about the official 9/11 account.

Previous Znewz1 reports on the WTC collapses:

How did the twin towers collapse? Questions remain

Defense contractor aids a stalled 9/11 probe

Trade center collapse times: omissions and disparities

9/11 collapse issues