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March 18, 2002

Hunt the brain I’ve seen several links to Hunt the Boeing, a site devoted to questioning the idea that a plane actually hit the Pentagon. After all, they say, you can’t see plane bits in the photos. And why didn’t the wings make a wider hole, if the plane actually plowed into the Pentagon’s outer ring? And so forth.

Before you become dizzy trying to figure out whose interests would be served by such a hoax (“Quick! Terrorist airplanes have rammed into the World Trade Center! On the double, detonate the secret truck bomb we stashed next to the Pentagon!”), you might want to look at Paul Boutin’s weblog, where he and Patrick Di Justo do a fine job of demolishing both the rhetoric and the science of “Hunt the Boeing.” (This generally interesting weblog discovered via Virginia Postrel.)

[Quoting from “Hunt the Boeing”:] The first satellite image shows the section of the building that was hit by the Boeing. In the image below, the second ring of the building is also visible. It is clear that the aircraft only hit the first ring. The four interior rings remain intact. They were only fire-damaged after the initial explosion. Can you explain how a Boeing 757-200, weighing nearly 100 tons and travelling at a minimum speed of 250 miles an hour* only damaged the outside of the Pentagon?

Paul: The question and photos are misleading: Parts of the plane penetrated the ground floors of the second and third rings of the building. These photos show only their intact roofs. Eyewitnesses and news reporters have talked about the twelve-foot hole punched through the inside wall of the second ring by one of the plane92s engines.

More importantly, the question focuses on the plane92s size and weight, making it sound extraordinarily heavy, but leaves out the size and weight of the Pentagon 96 America92s largest office building with three times the floor space of the Empire State Building - as well as the difference in relative stiffness and energy absorption between a building and an airplane. Each side of the Pentagon contains over 100,000 tons of Potomac sand mixed into the steel-reinforced concrete under its limestome facade. There are nearly 10,000 concrete piles anchoring each side of the building. And in the wake of bombings in Oklahoma City and Saudi Arabia, that portion of the Pentagon had just been reinforced with a computationally modeled lattice of steel tubes designed to prevent it from collapsing after an explosion.

By contrast, the plane is only 100 tons of custom alloys stretched thin enough to fly. It92s not like a giant bullet; more like a giant racing bike. Even so, the plane knocked down 10,000 tons of building material - 100 times its own weight - in the crash and subsequent collapse. Another 57,000 tons of the Pentagon were damaged badly enough to be torn down. The Brobdingnagian scale of the Pentagon makes the total area of damage seem small, but it would hold several Silicon Valley office buildings, or an airport terminal.

I’m still working on the question of how our secret fascist insect overlords would have benefitted by (1) blowing up part of the Pentagon and (2) falsely claiming a terrorist-piloted jet aircraft plowed into it. Even leaving aside all the eyewitnesses and firefighters they would have to have paid off or mindwiped. (After all, we know they have k00l underground facilities for that sort of thing.) [01:05 PM]
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Comments on Hunt the brain:

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 02:21 PM:

The hoaxers should go and look, again, at the pictures of the site of impact of Flight 93. I was shocked the first time I saw it; it was so small, how could an entire airplane have fit into that little hole? There was nothing even vaguely resembling an airplane anywhere in the vicinity, the debris tended to be small enough to pick up in one hand. Why on earth create a mystery out of the perfectly normal workings of physics?aa(I just did a bit of checking. The hole -- impact crater -- in Pennsylvania was 30 to 40 feet long, 15 to 20 feet wide, and about 18 feet deep. A Boening 757-200 is 155 feet long, its wingspan is almost 125 feet, the cabin width is 11 feet seven inches, and the tail height is 44 and a half feet.)

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 03:21 PM:

"K00l"? Isn't it spelled "K3WL"?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 03:28 PM:

Or, indeed, K@h-h00L.aaAvram is fluent in several varieties of gibberish. On the bright side, Nick Denton now believes he exists. aa(I'm still waffling on the question. Quite a bit of evidence suggests Avram is a concatenation of several different folktales told by the nomadic peoples of Prospect Heights.)

Mac Thomason ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 04:14 PM:

I was listening on the radio when the news cut to a Washington reporter, who said that he JUST SAW a plane hit the Pentagon. They sure work fast, huh?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 04:26 PM:

Note: I get an emailed copy whenever someone posts to one of these comment boards.aaWhen Mac Thomason's note, above, dropped into my email inbox a few minutes ago, I had about ten seconds of pure adrenalin before realizing that he was reminiscing about September 11.aaI'll come down from the ceiling now. Maybe.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 05:34 PM:

Chris has suggested that I'm a totoro.

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 09:20 PM:

I'd like to know if Avram can turn himself into a bus. And if so, what speed bus. aaBy the way, Patrick, where I presently live is on the approach path for Boulder Airport, a little enough thing, but it's only about five miles away, and so all these nice little planes buzzing their way in generally seem to be, as visible through the window in the room I sleep in and am typing this from, heading almost straight for me. aaAt least they're smaller planes than were constantly descending overhead, landing gear down, where I last lived on Long Island.

Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 09:52 PM:

There's an air base of some sort a little bit north of where I live in Schenectady (no, I haven't found the place where they store the ideas, yet). They run all sorts of military planes in and out of there, and we spent an enjoyable afternoon last August watching fighter jets practicing for an upcoming air show.aaThe night of September 11th, at about 10pm, they airlifted a bunch of supplies to New York from here. In a C-130 or something comparable, which went over my house at a couple thousand feet, tops. Not the best thing for one's peace of mind, on that day of all days.aaIn retrospect, the fact that somebody had their shit together enough to be airlifting supplies in that quantity to New York that soon after the attacks speaks volumes for the strength and resilience of our nation. At the time, I wanted to curl up in a ball and whimper in the corner. And I'm two hundred miles from Ground Zero.aaFor the brief twinge of panic every sighting of an airplane caused through early October, for the ugly bout of nervousness when the man next to me on an airplane opened a book written in Arabic, for every spasm of fear and doubt about the everyday conveniences of modern life, the people behind the attacks need to pay.aaWow, that got ugly fast. No more of that, I promise.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 10:15 PM:

Gosh, I thought it was all just a joke. Or like watching the X-Files. Or something.

Mac Thomason ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2002, 10:56 AM:

Oops. Sorry. I didn't realize that.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2002, 03:21 PM:

Stay tuned for the evidence that all the footage of airliners hitting the WTC was done in Photoshop and AfterEffects. Just because thousands of people (including, perhaps, some you know personally) claim they saw it happen doesn't mean it actually happened. Did you see it for yourself? (And if you say you did, why should I believe you?) Anyway, maybe they were deluding themselves. Maybe it was all done by projecting magnified images on big sheets of Mylar. Maybe all the people who really know what happened were in the towers when they came down.a

(I have a coworker -- an otherwise bright and well-informed kid in his early twenties -- who still thinks the moon landing was faked. This seems to be pretty much his thought process.)a

*sigh* When I was about twelve I pretended to be a solipsist for a while. (I think I'd been reading Number of the Beast. I told people they were figments of my imagination. That's what this feels like.

Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2002, 02:05 PM:

David, send your coworker to http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/tv/foxapollo.html

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2002, 08:20 PM:

I did. It didn't help.aaSomeone once said that it's possible, given a sufficiently clever argument, to convince a sufficently clever person of anything, whereas a less clever person's common sense will prevent you.

James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2002, 10:37 AM:

The "Hunt the Boeing" site has as it's opening paragraph this:aa"As everyone knows, on 11 September, less than an hour after the attack on the World Trade Centre, an airplane collided with the Pentagon. The Associated Press first reported that a booby-trapped truck had caused the explosion. The Pentagon quickly denied this. The official US government version of events still holds. Here's a little game for you: Take a look at these photographs and try to find evidence to corroborate the official version. It's up to you to Hunt the Boeing!"aaaWell, guys ... there's a fib right in that paragraph. I was listening to the radio that morning (that being my only source of information), and taking notes, and personally interested (my brother worked in the Pentagon at that time). The report of the truck bomb by the Associated Press was an unconfirmed report that a truck bomb had exploded _outside the State Department building_. It turned out later that the report had come from someone inside the building who heard the explosion from the Pentagon, and assumed from its volume that the explosion had to have been right out front, and that the only thing it could have been was a truck bomb.

James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2002, 10:53 AM:

Next from the Hunt the Boeing site:aaThe author of the site asks:aa"Can you explain why the County Fire Chief could not tell reporters where the aircraft was?"aaThe Fire Chief had just said:aa"...there are some small pieces of aircraft visible from the interior..."aaI ask (in the style of the site):aaCan you explain why the author of Hunt the Boeing can't read?