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October 3, 2006

Reading the news
Posted by Teresa at 05:08 PM *

Bush: “Democrats shouldn’t be trusted to run Congress.”

Invisible subhead: “Because they’ll impeach my sorry ass.”

Comments on Reading the news:
#1 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:22 PM:

Next week they'll have campaign volunteers dressed in rags and smeared with fake blood lying scattered around the President's podium. Then the shrub can say "This is what the Democrats want!"

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:28 PM:

Awww, don't be silly.

A Democratic congress wouldn't impeach Bush.

At least, not until Cheney's moral form is bound with mithril chains and pushed through the Gate of Night into the outer darkness.

#3 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:31 PM:

"If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party, it sounds like -- it sounds like -- they think the best way to protect the American people is, wait until we're attacked again," Bush said Monday.

Who said that, Mr. Bush? No one. No Democrat has ever said that.

He's making it up as he goes along, and the media, damn them, doesn't have the stones to point it out.

#4 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:32 PM:

(sings)
To dreeeaaammm, the impoosssible dreeeeaammm!

*cough* *cough*
*hack*
*wheeze*

Better keep my day job...

#5 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:37 PM:

A Democratic congress wouldn't impeach Bush.

At least, not until Cheney's moral form is bound with mithril chains and pushed through the Gate of Night into the outer darkness.

A moral form? Do morals even enter into it?

And would Cold Iron do as a substitute for mithril?

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:38 PM:

Hmm. "Wait until we're attacked again" sure doesn't sound like a good strategy.

That is, until you compare it to "go smack a bunch of people who weren't mad at us in the face, get a bunch of Americans killed in the process, and make absolutely sure there is an ever-increasing number of people who want to kill us all," which has been the Bush strategy.

#7 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:40 PM:

And would Cold Iron do as a substitute for mithril?

And would the Black Hole of Gitmo substitute for the outer darkness? How about the Bottom of the Atlantic?

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:42 PM:

Q. If George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rusmfeld, and Alberto Gonzales were in a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic, and the boat sprang a leak, who would be saved?

A. The American people.

#9 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:42 PM:

"Wait until we're attacked again" sure doesn't sound like a good strategy.

Strawman arguments never do sound good.

#10 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:54 PM:

If George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rusmfeld, and Alberto Gonzales were in a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic, and the boat sprang a leak, who would be saved?


I would feel a little sorry about something like that happening. A shark might chip a tooth when he bites down on King George's wooden head.

On the other hand, Cheney's cthulhu heritage would certainly make some whale very happy. Whales like giant evil squids.

Then again, Rumsfeld, who is actually Karl Ruprect Kroenen in disguise, has little nutritional value left in him, having long since had all his internal organs replaced with sand and a windup clock mechanism. And I hope he doesn't give some poor dolphin indigestion.

#11 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 05:55 PM:

Well, not all of us were in the position to wait till we were attacked the first time.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 06:01 PM:

That's true, Avram. We weren't hoping to get a casus belli for the war we already had planned, and we weren't safely off in Florida reading My Little Goat when the planes struck the towers.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 06:09 PM:

From the linked story:

Bush delivered the administration's oft-repeated claims about the Democrats as it struggles with persistent questions about a recent intelligence report that suggests the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a new book, "State of Denial," by journalist Bob Woodward that contends Bush misled the country about the war.

In the latest development, a State Department official confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did receive a CIA briefing about terror threats just about two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Rice has said repeatedly she could not specifically recall the meeting.

It's growing clearer and clearer that Bush and Rice knew that something big was coming and they let it come -- they needed their Reichstag Fire.

#14 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 06:17 PM:

If George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rusmfeld, and Alberto Gonzales were in a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic, and the boat sprang a leak, who would be saved?

The only problem is, that makes Dennis Hastert President...

#15 ::: Fred ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 06:23 PM:

#12 Teresa That's true, Avram. We weren't hoping to get a casus belli for the war we already had planned, and we weren't safely off in Florida reading My Little Goat when the planes struck the towers.

#13 It's growing clearer and clearer that Bush and Rice knew that something big was coming and they let it come -- they needed their Reichstag Fire

Oh thank ghod. I've been having this feeling for a long time. If two people I deeply respect feel the same way, maybe I don't need to hunt for thicker tinfoil afterall.

#16 ::: Booklegger451 ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 06:39 PM:

So, which of these sounds best/worst:

The republicans continue to use one of this nations greatest tragedies to make political hay

The republicans continue to use of this nations greatest tragedies to raise political capital

or

The republicans continue to prostitute one of this nations great tragedies to raise capitol funding their political ambitions.

Personally, I think #3 is a bit over the top...

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 06:50 PM:

I think it would be too bad if Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, Rice, Rove etc. all died.

The world would be a better place, don't get me wrong.

It's just that if they died soon enough to make a difference, they wouldn't suffer enough. (No, no matter how they died. A human cannot suffer as much as they deserve to in only a couple of years.)

#18 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 07:16 PM:

Ronald Reagan showed Republicans how to rule. George H. W. Bush showed Republicans how not to rule. George W. Bush showed Republicans that any moron can be President.

You'll be able to finish out this joke in early 2009, I'm sure.

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 07:29 PM:

Fred, I don't believe they knew anything specific in advance about the 9/11 attacks. However, at this point I do believe they deliberately ignored repeated warnings because a terrorist incident would be useful for their existing plans. I doubt they thought the incident would be as terrifying and destructive as it was.

I've repeatedly watched the videotape of Bush in the classroom, gone over what we know of his schedule and actions that day, and read transcripts of his own descriptions of that day.

What I find striking about the classroom tape is that appears to have been the only person in America who wasn't deeply shocked when he heard the news, wasn't anxious to know more, and wasn't desperate to know whether he'd lost anyone he cared about.

His descriptions of his own reactions on the day are not believable.

If I say any more, I'll start ranting, and I have stuff I have to do tonight.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 08:28 PM:

Stefan Jones #2: Cheney has a moral form?

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 08:32 PM:

The question, of course, is how sinking into the Iraqi tar-pit (and possibly expanding it into Iran) keeps us safe from terrorism. My mother lives in one country where Islamist terrorists have attacked since 9/11, my brothers and their families live in another. They're safer how? We're all safer how?

(BTW, does anyone remember the anthrax attacks? Another unsolved problem....)

#22 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 08:38 PM:

#14 Michael I -- The only problem is, that makes Dennis Hastert President...

Not at the rate things are going now.

#23 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 09:02 PM:

I believe they ignored warnings for three reasons: 1, they thought Clinton was obsessed with Bin Laden 2, they were determined to reject any advice from anyone who served under Clinton, and 3, Bin Laden is Saudi, and because of the close relationship the Bush family has had with the Saudi royal family for a couple of generations, Bush and his cronies didn't think Bin Laden would attack the US during his presidency.

#24 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 09:11 PM:

I don't know if they actually realized that there would be attacks, because the warnings were fact-based, and this group doesn't do that.

Hell, Woodward has Card saying that the reason Bush chose Rumsfeld is because his dad didn't trust him, and he wanted to prove his dad wrong.

I think they decided not to know, because to know would have gotten in the way of their idee fixe.

I also wish I believed in hell.

#25 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 09:56 PM:

Julia, I believe in the law of threefold return...

And I think we may hear Atropos' shears going "snick" on many Republicans campaigns threads real soon now.

#26 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 10:20 PM:

Here's Dick Cheney's moral form. Not Safe For Church.
(Thanks, BoingBoing)

#27 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 10:41 PM:

Kip, that was suitably creepy. Then again, Cheney is totally creepy to me in his normal form. And repugnant.

#28 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2006, 11:13 PM:

"Because they'll impeach [W's] sorry ass."

Do you really think so? I'd be delighted, but I've my doubts.

#29 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:21 AM:

I have strong reservations about dumping the senior Rethuglican leadership at the bottom of the Atlantic. I mean, what the heck did the fish do to make you all so mad at them? Surely you have some kind of infrastructure for handling toxic waste.

#30 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:39 AM:

Teresa (#19): His descriptions of his own reactions on the day are not believable.

Quite blatantly so, since he said in December 2001 that he watched the first plane hit the tower before entering the classroom.

This despite the fact that the Naudet video wasn't available at that point, because those cowardly Frenchies were too busy trying to survive the attacks to get their footage to CNN.

#31 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:52 AM:

#1: 'Then the shrub can say "This is what the Democrats want!"'

Republican campaign workers playing dead instead of push polling or telling voters in minority districts that they vote on November 8th? Hey, I do want that!

#32 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 01:51 AM:

Whether you trust them or not, Mr. Bush, the Democrats are more and more likely to seize control of Congress. It has everything to do with the culture of corruption you and your party have fostered -- a culture that reaches as far away as Iraq, and as close at hand (indeed) as the congressional pages.

Sometimes a picture does say it all about a moment in time:

BW photograph of a truly shameless moment. There's a deep sadness here -- layers upon layers upon layers of meaning in this iconic Buffalo News photo that perfectly sums up and symbolizes not only the whole damn Foleygate scandal, but Republican Washington in general, which has rapidly moved beyond the "merely" sleazy, salacious and corrupt. Now it's an utterly surreal, blame-shifting mass abdication by the Republican leadership of all personal responsibility.

Above all, there's the deep, visible moral rot that anyone can see. Look at the children in the photo. Look at the man (Rep. Reynolds) at the microphone. See the face of a party that uses children to score "family values" points but doesn't give a damn. At all. About children in America. Children in Iraq. They don't give a damn about anybody but themselves.

And it's time for them to go.

#33 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 02:18 AM:

Um -- if there were enough votes to depose Cheney and impeach Bush, it's unlikely that the Speaker would be ol' Denny. It would be truly strange to end up with President Pelosi.

#34 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 03:16 AM:

Christopher @30,

That memory of seeing the 1st tower hit might not be a willful lie- quite a lot of people have that memory. All types of people.

It's a classic case of emotional events strengthening the feel of a memory while weakening the original content.(2) Memories are re-written each time played- People retrofit the memory of seeing the 2nd tower hit over and over (1) with the knowledge that both towers were hit and the subsequent viewing of the 1st tower's hit.

Bugs me to pieces, because I retrofitted too. I know I never saw video of the 1st tower hit. Absolutely know it - not possible, didn't happen. But hook me up to whatever passes for a lie detector these days and I don't know if I'd come out truthful if I said "I didn't see that video that day."

Sharp swearword but I hoped that knowing about emotional retrofitted flashbulb memories would protect me against them. Nope.

And speaking of which, how about that Fox News' O'Reilly putting up "Foley (D- FL)" in the description bar?

(1) Remember the child-psych folks reminding us to tell children that, no, hundreds of towers weren't hit, just two towers hit and the video repeated hundreds of times? But we forgot to tell the adults that, and now I've got the visuals seared in. Next major disaster, no more than 1/2 hour of video, then radio from then on.

(2) I read about it somewhere... perhaps on the web back in 1991?... Anyways, found it:

Flashbulb Memories, from The Ecological Study of Memory [pdf avail. on link]:

"[People who wrote their Challenger memories immediately after and then 3 years after the explosion.] The results were surprising. I myself would have been satisfied to find occasional small errors, enough to show that such memories are not infallible. But many of the errors were not small: instead, the subjects were dead wrong."

"Harsch later interviewed most of these subjects personally. They all stuck to their stories despite fairly strong hints that they might be wrong. At the end of the interview, each of them was shown his or her original 1986 questionnaire. Most of them were astonished: they recognized their handwriting and admitted that the earlier account 'must be right', but insisted that they 'still remember it this other way'. Mistaken memories may be very permanent, and they can be invested with seriously misplaced confidence."

Scary. You read about it here, on Scalzi's Whatever, first.

#35 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:55 AM:

James D. Macdonald #13: It's growing clearer and clearer that Bush and Rice knew that something big was coming and they let it come -- they needed their Reichstag Fire.

I don't normally entertain conspiracy theories but I've come to the same conclusion as you.

And last Sunday my husband persuaded me to watch a documentary he'd downloaded from GoogleVideo (link here) that, if you ignore the terrible music on the soundtrack and the irritating voice-over style, raises a lot of interesting questions about the WTC collapse.

The most significant fact -- the one that sticks in my mind -- is that steel will only melt at temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees fahrenheit, and the fires caused by the planes crashing wouldn't have reached even half that. Something else must have happened for the steel cores to collapse.

#36 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 06:18 AM:

I find the WTC-Collapse-Conspiracy theories unconvincing for several reasons. Chief among them is that they require Osama bin Laden to have communicated his plans to the US Government and acted in concert with them. I find that ... highly unlikely.

#37 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 06:33 AM:

...or they require that the US Government discovered his plans and decided to enhance the effects, not necessarily with his knowledge.

That's the beauty of conspiracy theories, of course: they can adapt to any situation, if there are enough unknowns. Five years later, there shouldn't be so many unknowns about the WTC collapse, which is why people are coming up with theories of their own.

#38 ::: lalouve ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 07:07 AM:

#34 - if you're in security work (as I was) you have also seen these tricks of memory. We were told to write down our account of an incident as soon as possible afterwards, and refer to that account before testifying in court. It's amazing what you will think you went through once it's been a year after the incident.


#39 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 07:07 AM:

The way the WTC was designed made it vulnerable to a fire that burned for a long time. The central core was designed to hold up the building only if the outside skin helped support it as well. The link between the two was severed by the fire which weakened the steel connectors. Also, there was a lot more combustible material in the WTC than was originally planned for in fire suppression designs, leading not to a hotter fire but a longer lasting one, which is almost as bad. I saw an analysis of the collapse from a forensic fire investigator, and he was convinced the buildings fell due to the loss of the outer supports and the duration of the fire.

#40 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 07:23 AM:

"is that steel will only melt at temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees fahrenheit,"

It loses strength at a much lower temperature--IIRC around 700 degrees. This is why columns in major buildings are wrapped in insulation as a matter of course.

Sheesh.

#41 ::: Q ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 07:40 AM:

There are NOT lots of unknowns about the WTC collapse. Conspiracy theorists want to make you think there are, but there are several clear documented analyses by good engineers and scientists that explain it all clearly. The conspiracy nuts just willfully ignore it. The melting point of steel nonsense is particularly annoying to myself as an engineer. As someone mentioned above, steel (like any normal metal) loses strength with increasing temperature, and a significant percentage of that strength is lost at the temperatures caused by burning jet fuel. The nonsensical notion that the steel had to melt for the towers to collapse is so riduculous I can't believe it gets repeated. Search for Popular Mechanics' refutation of the conspiracy theoris'ts major points. Its one of the better and easier to understand refutations.

#42 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 07:53 AM:

Before go automatically believing the WTC collapse conspiracy theories, I suggest you read some of the sites which claim to debunk them: this one from Popular Mechanics for instance, or this one.

Specifically note that steel loses considerable structural strength at temperatures significantly lower than it's melting point.

#43 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 07:54 AM:

Madeline @35: Well, steel may not melt until 2000�F, but it softens considerably before then. Add to this the fact that you have given the building's structural members a rather strong shear force jolt, and the pressure from the levels above the impact point. And if this is the "controlled demolitions" canard, let's just say that the preparations for the controlled demolitions of a building is rather noticeable.

And on preview I see several other people have made the same point. Oh well.

#44 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 08:18 AM:

My knowledge of steel starts (and stops) with "it's jolly strong, isn't it?" so I was hoping someone here would be able to enlighten me. Thank you, all!

Phil #42: I'll pass those links onto my husband.

#45 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 08:27 AM:

"Q. If George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rusmfeld, and Alberto Gonzales were in a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic, and the boat sprang a leak, who would be saved?"

I'd save the boat. Why lose a perfectly fixable boat over this?

#46 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 09:01 AM:

I'd save the boat. Why lose a perfectly fixable boat over this?

You can refloat a boat.

Me? I'd toss them an anchor.

A large one.

A very large one.

Made of Sodium.

#47 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Erik, ah,, sodium and water. Might want to make that out of phosphorus for the bigger bang. Oh, I'm having fond memories of HS Chemistry right at the moment. My instructor blew up a fish tank (sans fish) by demonstrating that principle. He wasn't watching just how much he cleaved off. Good times.

#48 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 09:57 AM:

Madeline: I LOVE the phrase "it's jolly strong, isn't it?". Struck me way funny, don't know why.

I would add to the general skepticism about conspiracy theories the following:

1. Although some individual members of the administration may have high IQs, the overall organization isn't smart enough to implement such a plan. Look how well they did in Iraq, where they had the advantage of not needing to keep everything secret.

2. Just for the sake of argument let's pretend that somebody in the organization had the brains to conceive of such a plan. Perhaps, as was previously suggested, something along the lines of consciously overlooking evidence of an impending attack in hopes that such an attack, if executed, would ultimately generate more political capital for the party in power. Your "Reichstag fire" kind of thing. I don't think for a moment that they'd be dissuaded by the sheer evil of allowing thousands of people to be murdered to serve their political ends. However, I do think it would require some major cojones to follow through. What if they got caught at it?

I have grave doubts that this collection of ivy league draft dodgers and perfumed executives would have the personal courage required to follow through on such a risky endeavor.

IMHO, they just took advantage of an existing situation.

#49 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 10:32 AM:

Not phosphorus; potassium. (You can safely store phosphorus under water.)

#50 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 10:48 AM:

I don't think the Cheney factor would stop a Democratic House from impeaching Bush. I can think of several reasons for this, but the primary one is this: the Democrats would understand that an impeachment, if accepted by the Senate, would be such a blow that the Administration, including President Cheney, would never politically recover. They would also figure that even if the impeachment didn't pass the Senate, it would still be a major blow and a huge distraction for the Administration (more so than the Clinton impeachment was, since the latter was over a personal transgression that did not substantially affect policy or national security). Either way, the Administration's effectiveness would be severely curtailed. And this would be so even with a Senate that remained Republican.

#51 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 10:51 AM:

IIRC, Mohammed Atta had the European-equivalent of a Masters in civil engineering, so I bet he could have easily made the calculations to determine that the jet fuel would burn hot enough to weaken the steel to collapse the buildings. Note that both jets were tilted to about a 45 degree angle on impact, the better to take out several floors' support.

You don't need a conspiracy to explain what happened. You just need one very VERY smart guy who is fanatical enough to carry out the mission, and charismatic enough to recruit enough followers to go with him.

#52 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 10:52 AM:

Bush: "Democrats shouldn't be trusted to run Congress." ... because Bush is anti-democratic.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

#53 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 11:13 AM:

There are elements of the WTC tower collapse that need explaining; one of the really obvious ones is "Why did the building in the WTC complex which was not hit and not on fire fall down?"

The freefall of the upper stories, above the impact sites, and the size, fineness, and speed of advance of the dust cloud is difficult to explain purely in terms of gravitational potential energy.

Personally, especially given the (apparently inadvertent) use of "pull" (=to demolish) about that not-on-fire,not-hit building by the fellow in corporate control of the site at the time, plus the very substantial insurance upgrade reported to have taken place earlier in the summer, I have this dark suspicion that the attack interacted with the preparations for truly massive insurance fraud.

#54 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 11:15 AM:

My instructor had the foresight to use a metal pan for the sodium/potassium-in-water demos. The little chunk of potassium actually propelled itself clear out of the pan and straight up into one of the ceiling tiles. Thankfully, he also had the foresight to have us all stand back a good ways from the demo...

I heard they don't do that anymore at a lot of schools. Damn shame.

#55 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 11:16 AM:

Hmmmm... as long as we're fantasizing about the coat and color of the ponies we'd all like: would it be possible for the House to impeach Bush and Cheney in the same bill, and for the Senate to try them as codefendants?

#56 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 11:26 AM:

Mistaken memories may be very permanent, and they can be invested with seriously misplaced confidence

Jury Duty 101.

(shudders)

#57 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 11:28 AM:

Graydon the line from the debunkers is that WTC 7 was much more significantly damaged by the collapse of the twin towers than was reported in the first FEMA report. Secondly, there was a fire burning in WTC7 for about 7 hours, fed by a pressurised fuel line, which would have weakened the structure further (as for the towers). See: here.

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 11:39 AM:

My instructor had the foresight to use a metal pan for the sodium/potassium-in-water demos.

Mine had us wrap the stuff in aluminum foil. With holes punched in it. (Slowed down the reaction enough to make it more visible.) Watching the lumps of stuff-in-aluminum skitter around the container was amusing.

#59 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 11:49 AM:

Steve at 47: I remember that demonstration! It was the only thing I liked about high school chemistry.

#60 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:10 PM:

Impeachment's not really the right way to go; investigating the hell out of everything in sight (and the many out of sight things, too) will be much better. For one, it's not all-or-nothing. For another, it's bound to bring others down, too. For another, it will last longer, keeping the misdeeds of this administration in sight over time. For another, it's suited to our distributed system of government, which will in itself be a good counter to the monarchical tendencies of the last six years. Finally, ask Gulliver about the Lilliputians.

#61 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:16 PM:

theophylact, thanks, you're absolutely right I should have said potassium. It's been a long time since HS.

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:27 PM:

"Charles Dodgson": My favorite scenario, as I've said before, is

1. The Dems take both houses.
2. Cheney dies, or is indicted and forced to resign.
3. Bush nominates a successor, but the Senate refuses to approve him.
4. House impeaches Bush.
5. Senate convicts Bush, removes him from office.
6. Nancy Pelosi becomes POTUS.
This is not so much a pony as a unicorn. Among other unlikely events, it requires the Dems to have gender-appropriate haploid-cell-generating organs at three different points (electing Pelosi as SOTH, refusing to approve Bush's appointee, and following through the whole impeach-and-remove scenario). We'd be lucky to get ONE.

But I really like the idea of Pelosi as POTUS. I saw a clip of her on Letterman the other day. Damn, that woman can talk! She was clear, definite, and absolutely right on everything she said. Explained it all in terms anyone could understand (and I don't mean that like Einstein did). Her best line: "Mr. President, 'stay the course' is not a strategy. It's a slogan."

#63 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:28 PM:

Conspiracy theories aside, because frankly I think there's enough evidence that these guys have committed criminal acts without worrying about conspiracy, isn't the point here that the man continually and continuously lies, dissemblesm, and misleads, and yet no one is able to call him on it in a way that resonates with a clear majority of the voting public?

At this point, being outraged, pissed off, betrayed, etc., should be givens. The question is, what can be done to change things?

And yes, I know impeachment would change things, but at this point, it's unlikely. I'm becoming more and more disillusioned over the fact that every smart person I know who sees this government for what it is still can't seem to get past the 'what's wrong with the government' stage of things. One of the major things that is wrong is that these bastards have managed to outright lie and have people believe them. It is arguably what cost the Democrats the last election, and it is at the root of the problem, just as it is at the root of Teresa's post.

#64 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:38 PM:

Then again, Rumsfeld, who is actually Karl Ruprect Kroenen in disguise

I've actually been reminded much of late, watching the GOP, of the David Lynch version of the Harkonnen line.

And that's NEVER a good thing.

#65 ::: odaiwai (formerly dave) ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:41 PM:
IIRC, Mohammed Atta had the European-equivalent of a Masters in civil engineering, so I bet he could have easily made the calculations to determine that the jet fuel would burn hot enough to weaken the steel to collapse the buildings. Note that both jets were tilted to about a 45 degree angle on impact, the better to take out several floors' support.

Isn't (or wasn't) Osama Bin Laden also a Civil Engineer? I worked out once that someone his age would have been doing his engineering degree while the WTC was being built. The innovative design of the structure would have been exactly the kind of topical thing taught during structural engineering classes, and the sort of thing that an engineer would remember later.

#66 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 12:46 PM:

Chris Clarke #64: With Cheney as Baron Harkonnen, Rummy as Beast Rabban, and W as Feyd-Rautha?

#67 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 01:08 PM:

I think Bush's reaction to 9/11 was that of a man who was (a) deeply lacking in empathy, (b) scared shitless and (c) waiting for his handlers to tell him what to do.

#68 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 01:14 PM:

For a super-pony, start with Xopher's scenario in #62. After step #4, a Democratic congressman from a state with a Democratic governor (say, New York) resigns. The governor appoints Al Gore to fill his seat. The House Democrats caucus and elect Al Gore as Speaker. In step #6, Al Gore becomes POTUS. Then the original NY congressman is reappointed to Gore's vacant seat, and Pelosi is reelected as Speaker.

#69 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 01:20 PM:

The most significant fact -- the one that sticks in my mind -- is that steel will only melt at temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees fahrenheit, and the fires caused by the planes crashing wouldn't have reached even half that.

Which would be significant except for the fact that there was no evidence of melted structural steel in any of the wreckage, and that steel looses its temper and therefore its bearing strength at much lower temperatures, around (according to my BIL the welder) 500F for ten minutes.

#70 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 01:46 PM:

JESR (#69): steel looses its temper and therefore its bearing strength at much lower temperatures, around (according to my BIL the welder) 500F for ten minutes

Picking a minor nit, different steel alloys will behave, well, differently on heating. Tool steels are typically tempered at much higher temperatures, and some won't soften significantly until ca. 600 C or higher. (They have to be able to take temperatures like that--think about what kind of frictional heating you can get machining metal, even with cutting fluid.)

Tool steels are waaay too expensive to use for buildings, though, and I think that JESR's BIL is pretty-much on the money for common structural steel.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 01:54 PM:

The freefall of the upper stories, above the impact sites, and the size, fineness, and speed of advance of the dust cloud is difficult to explain purely in terms of gravitational potential energy.

It's easy to explain as the speed and advance of a shockwave.

There was a huge amount of potential energy in those buildings. Really huge.

Did you notice that none of the controlled demolitions shown in that film resembled the collapse of the WTC in the slightest? (Just to start: all of them started at the bottom and worked up; the WTC started at the top and worked down.)

#72 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 02:06 PM:

re steel: I've played with forging/blacksmithing steel, and (as a result) spent a lot of time around smiths.

Steel is bendable, by hand, at temps far below 2,000F

Annealing (softening by heat)happens, in a controlled way, by slowly raising the temperature of the steel (in this case) to about 1,400F, and then slowly cooling it.

But, to work steel, one needs to get it to at least 1290F (dark cherry), though light red to orange is better (and yellow to light yellow (1920F/2010F) are where lots of things start, so that the steel can be worked until it gets down to blood red 1200F).

At those temperatures the pressure from a light hammer (2-5 lbs) swung by an average person, is enought to, dramatically, deform, and reshape, a piece of steel.

At temps as low as 1000F a drop hammer (with a few tons of pressure) will compress and shape steel.

So, with all of the torque, and strain on the supports, I don't think the steel needed to get that hot (perhaps as low as 900F) before it failed.

And once it started to fail, just like a zipper, stuff that was otherwise holding up, would come crashing down.

For some details on the nature of the fire see How hot were the fires in the World Trade Center at CR4, "The Engineer's Place for News and Discussion" which has some clear explanations, and some less clear (to me, a non-engineer) though quite comprehensible, diagrams.

One of the things pointed out theres is that asbestos stopped being used as an insulator as the WTC was being built, so the upper floors had a less effective insulator on the trusses and beams.

#73 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Terry K:

That's a nice explanation at CR4. (And a phase diagram too! Cool!)

#74 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 03:48 PM:

Kathryn @34:

And speaking of which, how about that Fox News' O'Reilly putting up "Foley (D- FL)" in the description bar?

It's not just O'Reilly, either.

#75 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 04:20 PM:

TomB in #68,

Nice thought, but on the whole I think I'd rather stick with Pelosi. Fewer steps, simpler, and I think a female president (at least a clear and competant one) would be a good thing.

#76 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 04:27 PM:

From the AISC Manual of Steel Construction, LRFD/ 1994 edition, which is one of the legal bases for the codes dealing with steel construction.

The yield strength ratios for carbon (A36/ A529) and high strength low alloy steels (A242, A571, A588) are approximately 0.77 @ 800F, .63 at 1000F, and .37 at 1200F.

#77 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 04:34 PM:

So at 1200F that's still only a 3:1 reduction. I recall 5:1 to 6:1 being the range of safety margins I was taught way back in civil engineering class (though that was long ago I chose not to enter that profession...). Should the building have fallen? Why have no other burning highrises fallen? I'll buy the skin vs core construction of the twin towers, but that wasn't replicated in WTC 7's more traditional construction.

#78 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:00 PM:

TomB, Xopher's pony brings the shiny. With chocolate sprinkles.

#79 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:05 PM:

Re Sodium + water (all the way back up the thread... haven't been here for a while!).

The canonical version of this experiment is, of course, this one. Which reveals that you don't want that anchor to be too big, otherwise it'll just bounce out of the water when it hits it and skip over the surface a few times before finally submerging. About 100g would probably be ideal.

#80 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:08 PM:

Paul: the factors are far less than that, but more complicated. Given the age of the buildings, they'd be using the older design methods whicn I don't have the refs for, but a 2:1 factor there would be about the highest that I'd expect.

Newer codes have loading and resistance factors that represent the uncertainty of the loading and how extreme they are: e.g. eatrhquake loads get a 1.0 factor (extreme, rare), while dead loads (building structure) is known pretty well and gets a 1.4 factor alone and 1.2 when in concert with live loads (people, office equipment/ etc) at 1.6.

Resistance factors are between .9 and .75, depending on the mode of failure. (e.g. tensile fracture is .75, tends to snap and go boom. compression (columns) are .85, beams are at .9)

So the net safety factors are all in the realm of 1.5->2.0 or so. This is why progressive failure is such a bad thing, since once one goes, the rest just follow.

#81 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:12 PM:

NIST has had to handle this question of temperature and the WTF quite a bit. From their FAQ:

7a. How could the steel have melted if the fires in the WTC towers weren?t hot enough to do so?
OR
7b. Since the melting point of steel is about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of jet fuel fires does not exceed 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certified the steel in the WTC towers to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for six hours, how could fires have impacted the steel enough to bring down the WTC towers?
In no instance did NIST report that steel in the WTC towers melted due to the fires. The melting point of steel is about 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,800 degrees Fahrenheit). Normal building fires and hydrocarbon (e.g., jet fuel) fires generate temperatures up to about 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit). NIST reported maximum upper layer air temperatures of about 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) in the WTC towers (for example, see NCSTAR 1, Figure 6-36).

However, when bare steel reaches temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius, it softens and its strength reduces to roughly 10 percent of its room temperature value. Steel that is unprotected (e.g., if the fireproofing is dislodged) can reach the air temperature within the time period that the fires burned within the towers. Thus, yielding and buckling of the steel members (floor trusses, beams, and both core and exterior columns) with missing fireproofing were expected under the fire intensity and duration determined by NIST for the WTC towers.
UL did not certify any steel as suggested. In fact, in U.S. practice, steel is not certified at all; rather structural assemblies are tested for their fire resistance rating in accordance with a standard procedure such as ASTM E 119 (see NCSTAR 1-6B). That the steel was "certified ... to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for six hours" is simply not true.
#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:13 PM:

Jules: bounce out of the water when it hits it and skip over the surface a few times before finally submerging sounds really good with the subjects involved.

#83 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:21 PM:

My understanding of the current NIST theories of the WTC7 collapse is that the original FEMA story of the building being largely undamaged by debris was false. A combination of debris damage over several stories and fires from the large diesel fuel tanks in the structure caused one of the support pillars to collapse near the base, with a progressive failure after that.

#84 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:31 PM:

Paul Lalonde (#77): So at 1200F that's still only a 3:1 reduction.

I'm not sure if high-temp/low-strain rate plasticity entered into the picture--basically, once the temp exceeds ~half the absolute melting point (which 1200 F is edging up on), other deformation mechanisms begin to operate, and (in this case) the beams would sag slowly until they failed.

Why have no other burning highrises fallen?

If this sort of plasticity was involved, then the answer might be that the other burning highrises weren't on fire long enough to have that happen. Figure that the design basis fire is going to assume some multiple of the expected combustibles loading (furniture, carpets, paper, etc.) when the expected duration is calculated; adding a planeful of jet fuel will probably blow those estimates out of the water.

eric (#76): high strength low alloy steels (A242, A571, A588)

But that's from ~twenty years after WTC was built, and I don't think HSLA steels were around in 1974. While I'm not sure how germane this is, I remember an article in the Iron & Steel Society (IIRC,; the group name mightve been different) trade magazine from about 1995 in which the claim was made that the majority of the steel alloys used for cars in the US had been developed in the past six years, and represented substantial improvements over the state of the art then. Unfortunately, my copy of the Metals Handbook Desk Edition (2nd Ed.) doesn't go in for much historical detail.


(And I see that in the time it took me to write this other people have answered. Ah, well.)

#85 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 05:42 PM:

(And I see that in the time it took me to write this other people have answered. Ah, well.)

I'm following this with interest, since I don't get to play engineering geek very often. (I've been beating people over the head with deformation every time they try to play the melting point card. It's so much fun having taken classes in materials and statics.)


#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 06:00 PM:

Why have no other burning highrises fallen?

The other burning highrises cited were lots smaller than the WTC. Heck, their poster-child burning highrise, complete, was smaller than just the portion of the WTC above the airplane strike.

The best argument against the conspiracy/demolition theory, though, is this: Suppose you were in charge of that conspiracy. How exactly would you have gone about it?

When answering that question, please try to avoid playing Rumsfeld and putting "then a miracle happens" as part of your operational plan.

#87 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 06:09 PM:

Frankly, I'm reasonably convinced that there is no consipiracy - you can't keep as many people as would have been required to execut this conspiracy this quiet this long (well, unless you left the demo guys *in* the buildings...). But conspiracies sure are fun to play with :-)

#88 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 07:00 PM:

As to Bin Laden or Atta expecting the towers to fall: Bin Laden said he didn't expect that. In the video in which he gleefully rejoiced about the attacks, he admitted that he didn't expect the collapse.

In a more recent video, he claimed that he had planned on their collapse, as vengeance for Reagan's treatment of the sacred buildings of Beirut. (Speaking of post-adjusted memories.)

My own personal belief, which is mine, is that he watched "Escape from New York."

#89 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 08:11 PM:

I'm not a forensics engineer, but I used to work for one. (ianafe,biutwfo)

I think an interesting experiment would be to make a tower structure of small saucers connected by a lattice- between and outside- of spun sugar. A croquembouche of tiny plates instead of creampuffs. mmmmmm. Croquemboches.

Then put the tower in a cold oven and start warming it up. Or just leave it in a car on a sunny day. While the temperature to make hard-crack stage candy is 300F/150C, the temperature at which the tower fails will be much lower, I'd predict.

#90 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 08:19 PM:

Pfusand@88 -- My own personal belief, which is mine, is that he watched "Escape from New York."

Flashing across my consciousness -- OBL in black leather saying "Call me Snake." Of course Lee Van Cleef would play OBL better than Kurt Russell.

#91 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 09:02 PM:

Jim --

A shockwave is just that, a moving sharply demarcated pressure change. The cloud from the towers didn't act like a shockwave, it propagated, roiling internally, for something like a minute. The energy to do that, and to very finely divide the concrete and glass of the buildings, isn't at all obviously available in the gravitational potential energy of the building. (Thought experiment -- from how high do you need to drop one of those concrete sewer pipe sections to have the whole thing converted to a very fine aerosoled powder?)

I don't claim I've got an explanation for that, or the oddly vertical free-fall of the building upper sections; I'm just saying I don't think there's been a convincing explanation made.

That the building would fail, sure; that explanation has been well made; how you get from that to the observed results isn't so obvious.

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2006, 09:27 PM:

What that silly film is pleased to call "squibs" are clearly compressed air ahead of the collapse blowing out windows. What it's pleased to call the collapse is clearly the shockwave created by dropping twenty stories about ten feet travelling ahead of the collapse. The dust and smoke are just that -- dust and smoke. In huge quantities.

Which is all rather aside from the point: that Bush doesn't dare let his actions of the last six years get investigated by any sort of impartial group, far less one led by the Democrats.

#93 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 12:02 AM:

The cloud from the towers didn't act like a shockwave, it propagated, roiling internally, for something like a minute.

I've read that it was more like the shockwave from a volcanic eruption, like Vesuvius. I understand one of the surviving police, upon going to clean a pistol, found the cylinder packed full of concrete dust. Source: Pellegrino's Ghosts of Vesuvius, which is about both Pompeii and 9/11, and is surprising entertaining, given its subjects. (In Pompeii, they found things that were intact and still in place, within a few feet of things that were seriously damaged. Go figure.)

#94 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:49 AM:

"Q. If George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Alberto Gonzales were in a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic, and the boat sprang a leak, who would be saved?"

Presuming there were sharks around, Gonzales. "Professional courtesy."

#95 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:32 AM:

If we're going to talk about sodium + water, someone needs to mention the video where British science series Brainiac goes through all the alkali metals. (Well, except francium. "For some reason, they wouldn't let us have any.") Funny stuff.

#96 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 07:41 AM:

Graydon: it's a big step from "current theories are unable to explain everything about the collapse of the WTC towers" to "it must be a conspiracy!". The WTC collapses are unique: We should expect anomolies and difficult to explain outcomes.

(nb, dropping from a large height won't pulverise something, but having the mass of WTC1 fall on it from above probably will.)

#97 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 08:00 AM:

David: you should be aware that the Brainiac alkali metals stunt was faked.

#98 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 10:03 AM:

Re #91:

A shockwave is just that, a moving sharply demarcated pressure change. The cloud from the towers didn't act like a shockwave, it propagated, roiling internally, for something like a minute. The energy to do that, and to very finely divide the concrete and glass of the buildings, isn't at all obviously available in the gravitational potential energy of the building. (Thought experiment -- from how high do you need to drop one of those concrete sewer pipe sections to have the whole thing converted to a very fine aerosoled powder?)
I don't claim I've got an explanation for that, or the oddly vertical free-fall of the building upper sections; I'm just saying I don't think there's been a convincing explanation made.
That the building would fail, sure; that explanation has been well made; how you get from that to the observed results isn't so obvious.

From what I understand, the cloud/wind wasn't strictly a result of the energy of the collapse, it was the fact that the air that had been in between the different stories of the building had to go somewhere, and was first compressed and then propelled outward as the sides of the building gave way. Think of the water in a water balloon, under pressure, going every which way when the balloon breaks.

The breakdown of the concrete wasn't the result of just the fall, either. There were as series of crashes as each set of supports between the stories failed, and what was above crashed to what was below, and was crashed into by what was above. Dropping the mass of a single story the height of the building might not have pulverized it. But the repeated crashes was more damaging. The energy was transfered back and forth between the different parts of the building repeatedly, each transfer doing more physical damage.

Think high-speed bumper-car pile up, not a single crash.

#99 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 10:41 AM:

Ursula L --

Crunch-crunch-crunch versus kaboom, all fall down at once isn't really the issue; the issue is "how much energy does it take to convert n tons of glass and x tons of concrete to a very fine powder" versus "what's the gravitational potential energy of the material of the structure?"

And, similarly, the energy to compress the air between the floors and then propell it outward has to come from the collapse, right? The only energy source is the mass of the falling building.

It's the comparison between the BOE energy to produce the roiling cloud of dust and the gravitational potential energy of the building that raises the question; people have got order of magnitude differences between the energy required for the dust cloud and the energy available in the mass of the building.

An authoritative public explanation, with real numbers, would be very helpful in this instance.

#100 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 10:42 AM:

Also, for the vertical fall of the upper stories, a the time of the collapse, there wasn't anything to provide a sideways force for the mass to fall anywhere but straight down.

The upper floors were (relatively) undamaged, with the supports intact. The failure occurred in the middle. As the fall began, the intact upper mass fell, landing on the floor below, collapsing that floor, landing on the next, etc. The upward transfer of energy, collapsing the upper stories, was far less than the downward force, pulled by gravity. So the lower stories collapsed at a faster rate than the upper stories.

Hence the initial semi-intact vertical fall of the upper stories.

#101 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 11:26 AM:

Graydon: according to this the WTC towers massed around 450,000,000 kg each. They were 415m high, so that gives a total potential energy of roughtly 5x10^8 x 10 x 400 / 2 or about 10^12 Joules. That's about 250 tonnes of TNT going off.

Of course, some of that energy has to go into breaking the building up and crushing the materials. Do you have any sources for the amounts of energy required to do this that exceed this value? I found a quote that claimed about 30% of the energy went into the destruction of material, but no workings or sources were given (it's in one of the 911 reports IIRC). That's plenty left over to drive a cloud of dust all over the place.

#102 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 12:55 PM:

Phil, You beat me to the punch -- I was doing the same math, and came up with 230 tonnes of TNT. More than enough energy.

Googling around, I found this discussion of the collapse in JOM, the journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society:

THE COLLAPSE
Nearly every large building has a redundant design that allows for loss of one primary structural member, such as a column. However, when multiple members fail, the shifting loads eventually overstress the adjacent members and the collapse occurs like a row of dominoes falling down.

The perimeter tube design of the WTC was highly redundant. It survived the loss of several exterior columns due to aircraft impact, but the ensuing fire led to other steel failures. Many structural engineers believe that the weak points--the limiting factors on design allowables--were the angle clips that held the floor joists between the columns on the perimeter wall and the core structure. With a 700 Pa floor design allowable, each floor should have been able to support approximately 1,300 t beyond its own weight. The total weight of each tower was about 500,000 t.
As the joists on one or two of the most heavily burned floors gave way and the outer box columns began to bow outward, the floors above them also fell. The floor below (with its 1,300 t design capacity) could not support the roughly 45,000 t of ten floors (or more) above crashing down on these angle clips. This started the domino effect that caused the buildings to collapse within ten seconds, hitting bottom with an estimated speed of 200 km per hour. If it had been free fall, with no restraint, the collapse would have only taken eight seconds and would have impacted at 300 km/h. It has been suggested that it was fortunate that the WTC did not tip over onto other buildings surrounding the area. There are several points that should be made. First, the building is not solid; it is 95 percent air and, hence, can implode onto itself. Second, there is no lateral load, even the impact of a speeding aircraft, which is sufficient to move the center of gravity one hundred feet to the side such that it is not within the base footprint of the structure. Third, given the near free-fall collapse, there was insufficient time for portions to attain significant lateral velocity. To summarize all of these points, a 500,000 t structure has too much inertia to fall in any direction other than nearly straight down.
(Article by Thomas Eagar, the Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Engineering and Engineering Systems at MIT, and Christopher Musso, graduate research student)
#103 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:48 PM:

Re 99:

Crunch-crunch-crunch versus kaboom, all fall down at once isn't really the issue; the issue is "how much energy does it take to convert n tons of glass and x tons of concrete to a very fine powder" versus "what's the gravitational potential energy of the material of the structure?"

Crunch-crunch-crunch versus kaboom will give quite different destructive results. Kaboom is a single force, applied in a single direction. You'd expect damage consistent with that single direction of force.

Crunch-crunch-crunch has a lot of different forces, going in a lot of different directions, and interacting with each other, and pieces fall, hit each other, bounce up, break apart, are hit by other falling things, etc. The result is going to be a much more chaotic damage.

The same amount of force applied by a flat hammer, pounding meat into a cutlet, versus throwing the meat into a blender and pureeing, getting a lot of tiny pieces.


And, similarly, the energy to compress the air between the floors and then propel it outward has to come from the collapse, right? The only energy source is the mass of the falling building.
It's the comparison between the BOE energy to produce the roiling cloud of dust and the gravitational potential energy of the building that raises the question; people have got order of magnitude differences between the energy required for the dust cloud and the energy available in the mass of the building.

The mass and volume of the air are simply ignored in most calculations, where you see the masses of the building, contents, etc. calculated. The force of the building falling does (most) of the breaking up, but the force of the displaced air is what propelled the cloud, and that isn't in any of the equations based on just the mass of the building.

Even without a collapse or collision, the force of expanding air can cause damage, for example in heating a sealed bottle of compressed air or other gas.

Moving air can propel things - for example, think of a leaf blower, or papers being blown off your desk by the wind of an open window. If there is dust in the air, then as the air is forced outwards from between the pancaking layers will carry that dust and debris.

The Popular Mechanics article gives a pretty good description of how the displaced air works, here:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1227842.html?page=4

#104 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 04:03 AM:

Phil Armstrong @ 97: you should be aware that the Brainiac alkali metals stunt was faked.

Good heavens. How utterly disappointing.

Thank you for adding to my knowledge.

I'll just be over here in a corner brooding about the duplicity of humankind.

#105 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 09:33 PM:

For extensive comments on crunch-crunch-crunch (vs "Where's the kaboom? I was expecting an earth-shattering kaboom!"), see Petroski, Why Buildings Fall Down. He argues (from experience I can't begin to match) that many structures are designed to take reasonable static loads, but if one bit goes SNAP the suddenly added load will take out its neighbors and the disassembly will proceed from there. This was written long before 9/11, but rereading it is illuminating; disasters discussed include the KC Hyatt, a Hartford arena whose roof bowed because it wasn't arced enough to shed meltwater, a jack-the-floors-up-together breakdown, and the plane that hit the Empire State Building (13 dead, IIRC).

#106 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 09:58 PM:

Based on the idea that a fall which "should" have taken 9 seconds actually took 10, I estimate that about 140e9 J of work was done during the collapse, or about 15% of the total potential energy of the building. If all that work went into making 140e9 m2 of 1-micron radius spheres, then that would be nearly 50,000 m3 in volume, or about 20% of the total concrete volume of the building.

Clearly that much fine dust was not made, nor would we expect it to be—that work would have gone into all sorts of processes besides pulverising the concrete. But equally clearly the claim that the building did not have enough potential energy to do it in the fall is insupportable on its face.

And if the building did not, then no practical amount of conspiratorial explosives would have done it either. We are not told who made this assertion, but I wouldn't take them very seriously as a source; they don't appear to have much grasp of arithmetic.

#107 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 10:57 PM:

I seem to remember that a substantial fraction of the particulates from the Trade Center collapse has been identified as paper ash, and a larger component as crushed wallboard. So any "analysis" which assumes that it was all, or even mostly, concrete dust needs to be examined for its basis in fact rather than speculation.

People who don't know about the efficient means of identifying this kind of stuff are easily convinced by verbal argumentation which has no basis in actual microanalysis. To them, dust is dust.

#108 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2006, 10:47 PM:

I think that it would be useful, when considering the role of airblast in the WTC towers collapse, to look at July 10, 1996 Glacier Point rockfall in Yosemite Valley. In this case, 80,000 tons of Sierra granite broke loose from the eastern side of Glacier point, and fell 600+ meters, 500 of them in free fall, to the valley floor near Happy Isles (the primary trail head for Yosemite Valley). The main rockfall took a little over 12 seconds.

What we have is an event roughtly comparable, in certain aspects, to the WTC collapse. The mass is only 15-20% of the towers, but the distance is similar, and the duration of the event is comparable.

The rock hit the valley floor at an estimated 117 m/s or about 260 mph, and clearly registered on seismographs at Berkeley. The an airblast moving at about 130 m/s knocked down about 1000 old growth trees for hundreds of meters from the impact point, and kicked up a dust cloud that blocked the sun for about 5 minuites.

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