The tragic events of September 11, 2001 still live on today in our memories and in the lives of all affected. However, recent years have seen rise to another perspective to 9/11. A perspective that has shifted many into two opposing sides: Those nicknamed “Truthers” who believe the entire event was a cold and calculated conspiracy – and the skeptics who tire of these conspiracy theories.
Recently, while surfing the web, I came across an interesting video called “How to Make Thermite“. I thought it was fascinating, and decided to post it to Digg. The story hit the front page quicker than I had thought it had any chance of doing, but that was not what surprised me.
It was the comments that came as unexpected. While many Diggers discussed the science and dangers of playing with thermite, all of a sudden numerous 9/11 Truthers jumped on board, discussing how thermite was used during the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Littered amongst the discussion of the coolness of the video, was an ongoing debate between the skeptics and the truthers.
I decided rather than get involved in the discussion as it was at that stage; I would do the research myself into what the perspectives are of each side of the debate.
The Point of View of the Truthers:
To first understand the position of the conspiracy theorists, it is important to point out these photographs:
The bright orange/yellow heat color is consistent with that of exothermic reactions. Put plainly: the theorists believe that the jet fuel from the plane crashes would not generate enough heat to melt steel. It is believed the exploding jet fuel in the World Trade Center towers on the day may have generated heat temperatures of about anywhere from 800°F to 1500°F.
When discussing the melting point of steel, it’s important to understand that the melting point depends upon which alloy of steel one is discussing. Most steel has different kinds of metal added to it to adjust its characteristics; such as strength. Thus, instead of pinpointing a single melting point for steel, one has to look at a range. For argument’s sake, and based on various sources, we will say the range is between 1350°C (2500°F) and 1510°C (2750°F).
Either way, so far it would seem that the argument is leaning somewhat in the Truthers’ favor: the estimated temperature of the fires in the WTC do not seem to be high enough to melt the steel.
The theory then turns into the belief that someone (or a group of people) must have planted some kind of explosive devices to help bring down the towers.
This brings us back to thermite.
Thermite, when ignited, can generate temperatures of up to and around 4000°F, which is well above and beyond the melting point for steel.
Conventional thermite reactions also generate the “molten metal” look of flowing metal; usually yellow-hot and associated with white smoke.
To the truthers, this information when linked with the above photos is enough evidence to suggest that there is more than meets the eye to the collapse of the WTC towers on 9/11; and that it had more to do with thermite, rather than the plane crashes.
But as with all theories, there is always an opposing viewpoint.
The Point of View of the Skeptics:
Many investigators and scientists have been studying the 9/11 collapse of the WTC towers since it happened, and many have concluded that the impact of the planes and the blast that followed destroyed the fire-proofing material of the metal skeletal structure of the towers.
However, it is important to again turn to the science of the issue. While the truthers are correct that burning jet fuel wouldn’t generate enough heat to melt steel, they are discounting two major factors: that the fuel wasn’t the only thing burning; and how steel weakens in extreme temperatures.
The ignition of the fires in WTC 1 and WTC 2 was most certainly the exploding jet fuel; which would have initially generated heat of up 1500°F. As the fires spread, they picked up in burning office furniture, carpets, curtains, and so on; and generated temperatures as high as 1832°F (estimated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology).
As steel gets hotter, it loses its strength. According to American Institute of Steel Construction, it loses about 50% of its strength at around 1100°F. At the temperatures generated by the fires in the WTC towers, "it is probably less than 10%" (Noted by senior engineer Farid Alfawak-hiri in an article at Popular Mechanics).
Gathering the factors of the loss of the steel’s fire-proofing from the impact, the higher temperatures of the fire, and the weakening of steel at these temperatures, it is clear that the structural strength of the towers at the points of impact and burning were weakened. According to the Popular Mechanics article, it was this loss of structural strength that began the collapse of the towers. As the collapsing began, it resulted in an effect that engineers call “pancaking”, where the weight of the floors collapsed on one another after another – transmitting the inability to absorb the force to the next floor underneath it.
There are others who have suggested that the aluminum from parts of the plane and rust from the internal structure may have naturally created a thermite-like reaction in the towers. However, there is yet to be any evidence surface to indicate whether this was the case, and the probability of such an occurrence would be extremely low.
While both sides of the argument point to scientific data, the Truthers claims are unfortunately tainted by elements of bias. In other words, someone publishing research to a journal that focuses on 9/11 conspiracy studies is obviously publishing data to justify a cause – or the publishers are printing it to justify their own opinions.
It would be to their advantage if some studies surfaced in some non-biased, established, and peer-reviewed scientific journals.
What is clear, however, is that six years after the terrorist attack happened, the people of the United States still have unanswered questions about the event. That much both truthers and skeptics can agree on.
Was thermite used in the towers on 9/11? At this point the science seems to be on the skeptics’ side. But, having said that, it is inconclusive: the collapse of the towers would have been aided by exothermic reactions if thermite could have been used, and not many have explored the possibility of this being the case in a fair, balanced, and scientific manner.
But theorizing and speculating about the use of thermite on 9/11 does not necessarily mean that it was planned by the government. If it was used, who is to say it wasn’t pre-planted by terrorists in on the plan from the get-go?
Either way, the tragic events that unfolded on September 11 still affect us all deeply to this day. & all of us; the truthers, the skeptics, and the people in the middle ground STILL have unanswered questions… These are unanswered questions that the people of the United States of America deserve answers to.
References and Further Reading: