Responses to NIST's FAQs

K. Ryan 9/01/06

Here are my initial responses to NIST’s FAQs, with additional comments from Professors James Fetzer and Steven Jones. The answers given by NIST are considered in each case. Another good source of information on these FAQs can be found at Jim Hoffman’s site. (http://911research.wtc7.net/reviews/nist/WTC_FAQ_reply.html )

NIST Question 1.  If the World Trade Center (WTC) towers were designed to withstand multiple impacts by Boeing 707 aircraft, why did the impact of individual 767s cause so much damage?

The real question here is, since the WTC tower’s design engineer, John Skilling, said that he took airliner crashes and jet fuel fires in to account and then stated clearly that “the building structure would still be there”, why was NIST so sure from the start that fires brought down the buildings? Then, when NIST started to use Mr. Skilling’s words in their later presentations, why did they suggest this was only an anonymous view? Finally, in what places did NIST look for Skilling’s aircraft impact analysis?

For Mr. Skilling’s comments, see Glanz and Lipton, City in the Sky, p138

As Professor Fetzer notes, the WTC’s Construction manager, Frank DeMartini, was the last person known to have made the comments about the building’s potential to withstand multiple impacts and he said the effect would have been similar to "sticking a pencil through mosquito netting". But NIST fails to recognize Mr. Martini’s remarks at all. Why? NIST failing to locate the documentation does not prove that the design and construction engineers were mistaken.

NIST Question 2.  Why did NIST not consider a “controlled demolition” hypothesis with matching computer modeling and explanation as it did for the “pancake theory” hypothesis? A key critique of NIST’s work lies in the complete lack of analysis supporting a “progressive collapse” after the point of collapse initiation and the lack of consideration given to a controlled demolition hypothesis. 

NIST did not consider the demolition hypothesis at all. They did insert an eleventh hour disclaimer about having found “no evidence” to support this hypothesis, but if you look through their presentations you see that they never analyzed or tested any aspect of the demolition hypothesis.

NIST provided no scientific support for their primary contention that thousands of shotgun blasts could be created to cause the fireproofing to be widely dislodged, but yet there IS evidence that energy was not available to affect this fireproofing loss.

Additionally, NIST was deceptive and unscientific at every step of their investigation. An excellent example of this is their computer manipulations to prove that perimeter columns could be bowed inward. After having eliminated all the fireproofing, and exaggerated the temperatures and fire duration times, NIST “disconnected” their virtual columns from the floors before applying an inward force. Where does the inward force come from when the floors are disconnected?

(For details, see my essay “What is 9/11 Truth? – The First Steps” at www.journalof911studies.com.)

It is gratifying that NIST finally admits their findings do not support the “Pancake Theory” of collapse. Note that this is in direct contradiction to Shyam Sunder’s comments reported by Popular Mechanics Magazine in March 2005, four months after NIST’s final draft came out (but six months before their final, final draft appeared).

The statement “NIST found no corroborating evidence for …controlled demolition using explosives” is blatantly false. As any attorney can tell you, eyewitness testimony is evidence, and there are numerous eyewitness testimonies to the presence of explosives on 9/11/01.

Additionally, as the national fire investigation standard (NFPA 921) states, [Sulfur] residue on the steel could indicate the use of thermite or other pyrotechnic materials.

NIST Question 3.  How could the WTC towers have collapsed without a controlled demolition since no steel-frame, high-rise buildings have ever before or since been brought down due to fires? Temperatures due to fire don't get hot enough for buildings to collapse.

A better question is - What is the probability that three buildings could have suffered this fate on one day, and in three different scenarios? Has a maximum likelihood calculation, or any other probability calculation, been performed?

Additionally, Dr. Fetzer points out that the February 1975 fire on the 11th floor of the North Tower burned hotter and longer (for more than three hours), yet none of the steel had to be replaced. 

NIST Question 4.  Weren't the puffs of smoke that were seen, as the collapse of each WTC tower starts, evidence of controlled demolition explosions?

By what mechanism was the air compressed if pancaking did not occur? How were the puffs or squibs ejected in highly directed jets or bursts, far below the collapse front, without pancaking floors?

These certainly don’t look like “puffs of gas”. They look like jets of smoke and debris.

NIST Question 5.  Why were two distinct spikes—one for each tower—seen in seismic records before the towers collapsed? Isn't this indicative of an explosion occurring in each tower?

See Furlong and Ross, Journal of 911 Studies, vol. 2 (coming soon).

Additionally, there were reports of massive explosions in the sub-basements from custodians in the buildings, including William Rodriquez, who was in the North Tower. Mr. Rodriguez contends that the NIST team ignored his testimony.

NIST Question 6.  How could the WTC towers collapse in only 11 seconds (WTC 1) and 9 seconds (WTC 2)—speeds that approximate that of a ball dropped from similar height in a vacuum (with no air resistance)?

What was the potential energy NIST refers to, and how did the release of such energy develop? What recommendations has NIST made for architects and engineers to help avoid the wrong combination of potential energy and potential for aircraft impacts so that this cannot happen again?

On NIST’s poorly defined statement “global collapse ensued”, see Ross, Journal of 911 Studies, vol 1.

NIST Question 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?

A number of people calling themselves experts, just after 9/11, claimed that the jet fuel fires melted the steel as they were trying to justify the official explanation. Those who sought more logical explanations pointed out that this was impossible, and NIST now agrees. But why did NIST use contractors who had previously stated that the jet fuel fire melted the steel? One notable example is Eduardo Kausel, as reported by Scientific American.

NIST’s WTC report often confuses computer results with physical testing results, and gas temperatures with steel temperatures. We might assume they confused these details because, in every case, the physical tests they performed failed to support their pre-determined conclusions.

For example, NIST’s testing of the few steel samples saved showed that steel temperatures were only about 250 C. This matches with thermodynamic calculations considering the available amounts of fuel, and the masses and specific heats of materials in the failure zones.

NIST’s workstation burn tests to establish gas temperatures were “over-ventilated” and this, among other reasons, shows they were not representative of fires in the WTC. Nonetheless, these tests did result in gas temperatures of ~ 800 C for a few seconds. Added to NIST’s computer, these results mysteriously climbed to 1000 C, and then were used in other analyses where they were applied for 90 minutes or more. This is deceptive to say the least. But are these gas temperatures what NIST is referring to when they suggest the steel reached 1000 C for long periods of time over a vast area of the building?

NIST has misrepresented my comments, and the continued use of the “steel vs. steel components” diversion is shameful. According to UL’s CEO, Loring Knoblauch, UL did test steel components used in the construction of the WTC buildings.* We realize that since that time, the documents have “come up missing”, but has Mr. Knoblauch been interviewed? Why is it that neither NIST nor UL can simply say that “UL was in no way involved in testing materials related to the construction of the World Trade Center”?

*See “Propping Up the War on Terror: Lies About the WTC by NIST and Underwriters Laboratories,” to be published in 9/11 & American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, ed. David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott (Northampton: Interlink Books, 2006) (http://www.911review.com/articles/ryan/lies_about_wtc.html )

Professor Fetzer notes that steel is an excellent thermal conductor, which means that the steel temperature increases needed would have required raising the temperature of major portions of the whole structure. 

NIST Qwuestion 8.  We know that the sprinkler systems were activated because survivors reported water in the stairwells.  If the sprinklers were working, how could there be a 'raging inferno' in the WTC towers?

Jim Fetzer has pointed out that the massive fire in the North Tower in February 1975 led to the installation of more sophisticated sprinkler systems and other measures that enhanced the buildings' capacity to withstand fires.  Not only were people in the buildings looking out the impact holes, the windows on the buildings remained intact.  If the fires had been as hot as NIST maintains, then those windows could not have remained intact. 

NIST Question 9.  If thick black smoke is characteristic of an oxygen-starved, lower temperature, less intense fire, why was thick black smoke exiting the WTC towers when the fires inside were supposed to be extremely hot?

It appears that, with this response, NIST is admitting that the fires were not very hot. If this is not the case, what thermodynamic calculations did NIST perform to estimate the temperatures that the steel and other materials within the WTC buildings could have realistically experienced? Can we see these please?

These black, low heat fires must have consumed a portion of the available fuel. How much fuel remained for the presumably much hotter, and much longer-lasting fires in the failure zones?

NIST Question 10.  Why were people seen in the gaps left by the plane impacts if the heat from the fires behind them was so excessive?

NIST has told us that the times required for fires to migrate around the core of the buildings to the points of failure (east wall in WTC2 and south wall in WTC1) would allow for, in each case, only about 45 minutes of fire in the failure zones. Why then were NIST’s tests designed to expose floor assemblies and virtual reality column segments to 90 or 120 minutes of fire?

NIST Question 11. Why do some photographs show a yellow stream of molten metal pouring down the side of WTC2 that NIST claims was aluminum from the crashed plane although aluminum burns with a white glow?

Despite the fact that NIST has no evidence for the temperatures required to melt Aluminum, their response describes a counterintuitive result. If organic material mixed with molten Aluminum, it would likely burn, darken, and distribute in spots, not appear to dissolve within, and change the color of, the molten metal. Why did the Aluminum melt and pour out in such a symmetric fashion, when both the damage and fires were clearly asymmetric?

Does NIST have analyses that show the aircraft debris distributed and then reassembled in a symmetric way to form localized pools of molten Aluminum? If so, did all this occur before or after the debris turned into 0.3 inch pellets arranged as thousands of shotgun blasts, shearing off all the fireproofing in every direction around several floors within and outside of the building?

Has NIST melted Aluminum and then added the expected organic materials to form streams of falling, uniformly yellow solution?

See tests performed by Steven Jones, et. al., with results that contradict NIST’s contention on this subject.

NIST Question 12.  Did the NIST investigation look for evidence of the WTC towers being brought down by controlled demolition? Was the steel tested for explosives or thermite residues? The combination of thermite and sulfur (called thermate) "slices through steel like a hot knife through butter."

Again, as NFPA standard 921 states, residue on the steel suggests the use of thermite or other pyrotechnic materials. Why would the National Institute of Standards not follow the national standard for fire investigation?

Can we see the documents where “NIST researchers estimated that at least 0.13 pounds of thermite would be required to heat each pound of a steel section to approximately 700 degrees Celsius”? This does not sound like the superthermite that Dr. Jones suggests.

Dr. Jones has noted that NIST’s discussion on the amount of thermite needed to bring down a Tower ignores his and other’s research on explosive superthermite, a form using ultra-fine aluminum and metal-oxide powders.  Superthermite is explosive so that much less of this form of thermite would be needed to bring the buildings down.

Researchers including Dr. Jones are testing for the residue of thermite-reaction compounds (aluminothermics) both in the toxic WTC dust and in the solidified metal.  They are finding an abundance of Fluorine, Zinc and other elements commonly used in aluminothermics, but not in building materials in the concentrations found.  They are investigating the possibility of thermite-based arson and demolition.

Dr. Jones has noted that the presence of aluminothermic-reaction residues in the WTC rubble and dust indicates that some persons brought these compounds into the buildings prior to their collapses.  The “fingerprint” of abundant fluorine and zinc in these residues, along with 1,3 diphenylpropane and other unusual compounds, may very well allow us to trace who purchased the chemicals used and in what quantities.  We are therefore calling for an independent, in-depth investigation.

NIST Question 13.  Why did the NIST investigation not consider reports of molten steel in the wreckage from the WTC towers?

See Jones, Why Indeed Did the World Trade Center Towers Collapse? (http://www.journalof911studies.com/ )

As explained by Dr. Fetzer, the presence of molten metal weeks later cannot be "irrelevant" to the NIST explanation of the collapse, since it was an effect of that event.  If the NIST cannot explain it, then the NIST's account is incomplete and fails to satisfy a fundamental requirement of scientific reasoning, known as the requirement of total evidence, which states scientific reasoning must be based upon all of the available relevant evidence. Evidence is relevant when its presence or absence, truth or falsity, makes a difference to (affects the support for) the truth or falsity of a conclusion. NIST is evading the issue.  It cannot account for important, relevant evidence.

NIST Question 14.  Why is the NIST investigation of the collapse of WTC 7 (the 47-story office building that collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, hours after the towers) taking so long to complete? Is a controlled demolition hypothesis being considered to explain the collapse?

Since “NIST also is considering whether hypothetical blast events could have played a role in initiating the collapse”, why did NIST not consider this with the WTC towers?

Does NIST plan to challenge the clear statement from the beginning of FEMA’s BPAT report (Chapter 5) that says “The performance of WTC 7 is of significant interest because it appears the collapse was due primarily to fire, rather than any impact damage from the collapsing towers.”