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May 23, 2006

The truth is out there

My favourite idiot conspiracy theory about September 11, 2001 was related to me by a self-described aviation expert. She claimed to have calculated the flight times for USAF F-19s from their bases and determined a shoot-down order must have been executed against Flight 93. Sadly, I doubt the fact that F-19s do not exist dented her belief in her expertise once said fact was pointed out to her. Even so, I hope she had the minimal sense to amend this pesky detail the next time she decided to make a mockery of common sense, the memory of the dead and her own precarious credibility.

With the release of video from the attack on the Pentagon the barking of moonbats once again echoes across the internets. Thank goodness for Popular Mechanics.

To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, Popular Mechanics assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military.

In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history.

Two thoughts. First, it is sad that any of this should have be spelled out though, to paraphrase a wise man, the stupid will always be with us. Second is something said to me by every fire safety professional I came across in my former consulting life with reference to steel construction: Don't trust a truss (pdf file).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) review of available documents related to the design and construction of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers indicated that the fire performance of the composite floor system of the WTC towers was an issue of concern to the building owners and designers from the original design and throughout the service life of the buildings. However, no fire resistance tests of the WTC floor system were ever conducted.

Let us be perfectly clear about something. It is difficult to conceive how any commercial structure could have survived direct hits at speed by an almost fully fuelled passenger aircraft; in this case passenger aircraft that were larger than any in service at the time the WTC was designed. That said, it should not be unreasonable to assume, to take absolutely for granted, that the WTC designers, builders and owners would have conducted such tests. Or failing them, that some combination of municipal, state and federal regulation and oversight would insist they do so.

And this right here is an important reason for the popularity of conspiracy theories. They are often more reassuring than the truth. Many people would rather believe (even a sinister) cabal knows what is going on than face facts: So much of what we rely on is criminally half-assed.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at May 23, 2006 09:33 AM

Comments

Jihad challenges their Chomskyite worldview. Putting the blame back on Bush brings things into alignment again

Posted by: beautifulatrocities [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 23, 2006 03:25 PM