Jonesing on conspiracy theoriesBy Bill Steigerwald TRIBUNE-REVIEW Sunday, November 20, 2005
You can drive yourself nuts with conspiracy theories.
Many of our fellow Americans already have. Just go to the nearest PC and start googling. The Oklahoma City bombing. TWA Flight 800. The 9/11 terror attacks.
Was Timothy McVeigh actually in cahoots with Iraqis? Were scores of credible witnesses just having simultaneous hallucinations in 1996 when they saw something streaking toward TWA Flight 800? Or were they all really watching a shoulder-fired Stinger missile shot by some al-Qaida type?
Who knows what really happened? How can a good citizen ever find out the truth or anything close to it? Even with the wonders of the Internet, it's somewhere between hopeless and impossible.
Look what happens when you read the academic paper questioning the official version of the collapse of the three World Trade Center buildings that Brigham Young University physics professor Steven E. Jones recently posted at physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html.
Jones is an honest-to-goodness scientist whose specialties are metal-catalyzed fusion, solar energy and something called archaeometry. The 9,000-word abstract, part of a 2006 book called "The Hidden History of 9/11/2001," asks, "Why Indeed did the WTC Buildings Collapse?"
Hint: The correct answer is not because two airliners slammed into the buildings and started infernos that softened their steel superstructures and caused them to pancake.
Based on the laws of physics, the virtual indestructibility of steel-framed buildings and the suspiciously fast way WTC towers 1, 2 and especially 7 collapsed, Jones asserts they could only have been brought down the same way Three Rivers Stadium was -- by pre-positioned explosives.
Now, that's a conspiracy!
Professor Jones really did his science homework. He supplies links to slow-motion video of collapsing buildings, discuses their well-engineered innards at length and doggedly critiques the official explanation. Jones isn't the first to make this shocking/unbelievable claim (see wtc7.net ). But it's hard to imagine anyone making it clearer.
His most impressive argument: The mysterious way that WTC 7 -- a 47-story, steel-framed monolith that suffered almost no serious structural or fire damage -- dropped with symmetric precision neatly into its own footprint seven hours after the attacks.
You don't have to be a physicist to see that WTC 7's graceful, 6.6-second demise deserves a perfect 10 in the controlled-demolition event. It's also interesting to know that no steel-framed building in history ever totally collapsed from a fire until 9/11/2001, when three did in about eight hours.
Like any good conspiracy-monger, Jones raises lots of good but unanswerable questions and supplies few answers. He doesn't pretend to know who'd actually do such a terrible thing, or how they managed to pre-place all those explosives without being caught. He doesn't finger the Conspiracy Industry's usual suspects -- the CIA, the Jews, the Michigan Militia, the neocons -- but says it probably wasn't Muslims.
Jones, who wasn't returning calls Wednesday evening, asks only that his hypothesis be investigated scientifically by a truly independent body. That completely rules out the U.S. government -- which is just as well.
No matter how obvious, simple or logical it sounds, you should never completely believe the official version. And given our federal government's sorry track record on truth-telling, that's the only rational thing a good citizen should do.
Bill Steigerwald can be reached at (412) 320-7983 or firstname.lastname@example.org. pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/opinion/columnists/steigerwald/s_395972.html