Thursday, January 11, 2007

My concerns about Professor Jones's forensic science

[Update: I have rewritten the Introduction on January 13, for clarity and to add new information. The initial comment at 9/11 Blogger remains the same. The updated portions are in italics. ]

: On January 12, I posted a comment in a 911 Blogger article related to a German court sentencing Motassadeq to 15 years in prison as an accessory to the murder of 296 airline passengers and crew on 9/11.

The main point of my comment is that Professor Jones has spoken against the "no-planes" theory on the basis of two areas of flawed evidence:

(1) He assumes aircraft debris allegedly from Flights 11 and 175 to be authentic, even though it is obviously planted, NIST's own models could not show this debris leaving either building, and as a physicist he should do his own review of the physics of the debris trajectories before citing the debris as evidence.

(2) He pronounced the video of "Flight 175" entering the South Tower
to be authentic on the basis that the amount of kinetic energy lost by the plane on impact is consistent with the plane's decleration he says is observable in the video. The problem is that he cites to a German lawyer's analysis of a paper by an MIT professor that was posted on the Internet, and does not cite to two later papers in peer-reviewed journals. One of these papers was by the same MIT professor and not much different in its conclusions. The other paper by another professor shows a far higher amount of lost kinetic energy, which on Jones' own terms would show that the video is fake. He should at least have acknowledged the current literature on the subject.

This comment also applies to Professor Jone's most recent publication, "What are the Goals of the 9/11 Truth Community,

where he says at page 6:
In contrast the theory that no planes hit the towers does not stand up to scrunity, as published in a peer-reviewed by Eric Salter, here:
Salter shows that evidence that real planes hitting the Towers is compelling.

Before publishing my 9/11 Blogger comment here, I will first explain the context.

After providing some information and opinions about the Moussaoui trial, I decided to post a comment about Professor Steven Jones, who has recently published a letter in the Journal of 9/11 Studies in which he held forth on which areas of inquiry are appropriate for the "9/11 Truth Movement" to promote as the basis for a criminal investigation.

Several days prior to seeing this letter, I realized that Professor Jones was purporting to refute the "no-planes theory" with evidence and arguments that I considered to be highly flawed.

For the last 2--3 days, I have been commenting at 9/11 Blogger about my concerns about a presentation Professor Steven Jones gave in July 2006 at a "9/11 Truth" conference.

(Look in the censored comment "Accusing me of 'disinfo' is out of line. Period.")

I had downloaded the Power Point presentation from here, but it is now gone:

I have posted JPEGs of the title page and pages 172-181 that discuss the "no planes theory," here:

At 911 Blogger, I promised to publish my concerns on this blog within a week.

After researching the Motassadeq and Moussaoui trials, I realized that my concerns about Professor Jones's July 2006 presentation, and their relation to future criminal prosecutions, were relevant to an article about 9/11 terrorism trials. I decided to go ahead and write my concerns in a comment.

My concerns about editorial decisions of Professor Jones started less than a week after I dived into this problem of "no planes," but these concerns were trivial in comparison. I published a comment about my concerns about the academic standards of a certain article published at Journal of 9/11 Studies:

I want to make it clear that I am not making any allegations of ill intent, but merely pointing out what I see as very serious questions about Professor Jones' ability or willingness to objectively view evidence.

In this context, I would also point to the level of "peer review" to which the Reynolds/Rajter no-plane paper was subjected. In itself this would be salutary, but it is odd when compared to the low standards apparently applied to Salter's paper, which was a rebuttal to Reynolds' prior no-planes paper.

The "peer reviews" of Dr. Reynolds' paper are available in the preface to the paper that Reynolds submitted to Journal of 9/11 studies, here:

Given that Professor Jones has become a major figure in the "9/11 Truth Movement," most recently appearing in Hustler magazine, I do not think I need to apologize for speaking bluntly.

I am even more concerned now because I have learned that Professor Jones is on panels about "Evidence and Education" and on "9/11 Unity" at an up-coming "9/11 Accountability Project.

My comment at 911blogger is published below. I will look for Professor Jones' email address and inform him of these two publications so that he may respond if he wishes. Ideally, I would have given Professor Jones an opportunity to clarify these matters before I published, but have decided that my conclusions are well-based and my concerns are serious enough to warrant immediate publication. My comment follows.


Since we are discussing legal matters, I will make a comment on my view of evidence.

Much of this relates to how I see prosecutions going forward, but also relates to my concern that a man is sitting in a German prison accused of being accessory to the murders of 296 people, a crime I do not think was committed by those he is alleged to have assisted.

That bothers me on principle and should bother all of us, not only for the sake of people already wrongfully convicted, but also for the sake of those who might be falsely accused as scapegoats as a result of a "consensus" reached and promoted by this "truth" movement.

When you start calling for criminal prosecutions, you do not mess around with the truth for political reasons.

Steven Jones in his letter to Journal of 9/11 Studies, "What are the Goals of the 9/11 Truth Movement, " calls for a criminal investigation based on certain theories that he deems most factual, such as "war games" and "stand down."

I am concerned that he is not the best person to assess what is and what is not credible, not only as a matter of legal strategy but also as a matter of science.

I base this on two facts related to Professor Jones' statement that the assertion that "real commercial jets did not hit the WTC towers" serves to discredit the movement.

Professor Jones disregards physical evidence, which he should be well qualified to assess, that leads to the opposite conclusion and may constitute the "smoking gun" he says he seeks.

I am referring to a Power Point presentation he gave in July 2006, in which he purported to show that Boeing jets hit the WTC towers:

This material has been removed from the website of the Journal of 9/11 Studies in the last day or two, interestingly after I started making noises about this document here at 911blogger. I have a copy, which I cite to from memory here because it is not with me. I will document this later, but as events are moving quickly, I have decided to write now. Again, I think this article is an appropriate place to introduce my concerns because they relate to criminal prosecutions.

In his Power Point presentation, Professor Jones purported to disprove the "no planes theory."

Among other arguments, he made arguments related to two aspects of physical evidence: (1) the discovery of aircraft debris near the WTC towers; and (2) deceleration of "Flight 175" in a video, and the relation of that deceleration to a paper on the kinetic energy balance of a modeled "Flight 175" done by Professor Wierzbecki of MIT.

I will address these two arguments in turn. They are interrelated because both involve kinetic energy balance calculations.

(1) Aircraft Debris

In his Power Point presentation, Professor Jones showed pictures of aircraft debris that he argued is strong evidence against the "no planes theory."

Sound practice from both a forensic and scientific view is not to assume that the debris is authentic, but to use science to show that the debris is what the government says it is.

The easiest way to rule out this evidence is to do a calculation of the kinetic energy balance:

Given the initial velocity and kinetic energy of the aircraft, and the resistance of the building along the trajectory of impact, could parts of the plane have exited the other side of the building at all, and if so, could they have exited with sufficient velocity for them to have come landed or come to rest where they were found?

NIST has concluded that no parts exited either building in any of their models, though like always they assume that they must have because of photographic “evidence.”

There is absolutely no doubt that the wheel, which is allegedly from Flight 11, and which was found at the corner of Recter and West , was placed there, and did not fly out of the North Tower and come to rest there.

I have shown this here, citing to NIST NCSTAR 1-2 and 1-5, which should be read between the lines but which clearly state they could not model the "Flight 11" wheel leaving the North Tower, and also applying common sense:

I also discuss the engine fragment allegedly from Flight 175, but reserve final judgment simply because NIST leaves some possibility that it exited the building. My own conclusion is that there is no way that engine fragment left the South Tower, at least as a result of an airplane impact, and especially not with the velocity necessary to place it at Murray and Church. Reynolds and Wood have also suggested the impossibility of the engine fragment hurdling 45 Park Place, here:

(Please don't get upset by my citing to this paper, and do not infer that I am promoting "Star Wars Beams." I am offering this solely for the purpose of the photographs and arguments about the engine fragment at Murray and Church.)

I hope that Dr. Wood or someone else with the necessary skills will calculate the trajectory needed to get the engine fragment to Murray and Church over 45 Park Place, and also calculate whether there would have been sufficient residual kinetic energy, assuming that such a trajectory was possible at all. I could not find out how high 45 Park Place is (was?) but would like to know.

In any case, I conclude that the "Flight 11" wheel was obviously falsified, which places into doubt all debris that is alleged to be from either plane. (The “Flight 175 fuselage fragment, pictured in the Popular Mechanics article and book, seems particularly absurd, yet Professor Jones cites it as evidence of Boeing jets hitting the towers.)

It is terribly bad science and forensics to just assume the verity of this debris in support of an argument.

It is troubling that a professor of physics that purports to doubt the government's story would simply assume this verity without doing a simple (for him) review of the energy balance calculations of NIST and other published work, which place serious doubt on, if not definitively disprove, the verity of that “evidence.”

(2) Video plane deceleration and the work of MIT professor Wierzbecki

In his Power Point presentation, Professor Jones responds to the argument that the video of "Flight 175" melting into the South Tower showed no deceleration.

I have two concerns about Professor Jones' argument:

(1) Professor Jones cited to a lawyer's analysis of an expert's calculation of kinetic energy balance, and the relation of that calculation to observed deceleration in the video. Professor Jones did not cite directly to the expert's analysis and provide no indication that he had done his own review of the expert's analysis.

(2) At the time Professor Jones indirectly cited to the expert's paper, which had been published on the Internet and not in a peer-reviewed professional journal, that paper had been superceded by a 2003 paper by the same expert and by a 2005 paper by another expert. The second expert criticized the first experts' assumptions and reached substantially different conclusions. Moreover, the second and third papers had been published in peer-reviewed journals, not on the Internet.

Professor Jones cited an analysis of the work of Professor Wierzbecki, who created a model of a plane with the mass and velocity of Flight 175, and calculated how much kinetic energy would be lost by the plane in penetrating a WTC tower.

Wierzbecki is in the Impact & Crashworthiness Laboratory of the Dept of Ocean Engineering at MIT.

The Wierzbecki paper is available here:

In his Power Point Presentation, at page 174, Professor Jones cited indirectly to the work of an MIT professor by citing to an analysis of that work by a German lawyer named Stefan Grossmann.

I am not sure, but think that Professor Jones was citing to this May 2005 discussion:

Grossmann was basically arguing that based on Wierzbecki's conclusion that the plane would have lost 26% of its kinetic energy in entering the WTC tower, and because this should have corresponded to an observed deceleration of at least 12%, then Wierzbecki's study showed that the videos were faked.

Professor Jones used Grossmann's conclusion (and indirectly invoked the authority of an MIT professor) to argue that in fact the observed deceleration was within the margin of error of what one would expect from a 26% loss in kinetic energy.

At the time of Grossmann's paper (May 2005), a follow-up paper by Professor Wierzbecki had been published in the Journal of Impact Engineering in 2003:

Wierzbecki and Teng, How the airplane wing cut through the exterior columns of the World Trade Center, Int'l J. of Impact Engineering 28 (2003) 601-625

Grossmann did not cite to this paper, which I cannot really criticize because I did not either, though I did provide a citation in my blog article:

At the time of Professor Jones' Power Point presentation in July 2006, a new paper had been published which reached a significantly different conclusion as to the amount of kinetic energy that would result from the plane penetrating the external columns:

Karim and Hoo Fatt, Impact of the Boeing 767 Aircraft Into the World Trade Center, J. of Engineering Mechanics, Vol. 131, No. 10 (October 2005).

Karim and Hoo Fatt make a serious criticism of Wierzbecki's model and conclusions, and estimated a loss of 46% in initial kinetic energy from damage to the external columns and the aircraft. This is a much higher figure than 26%, and does not include the resistance of the floors and the core columns.

I made rough calculations by adding the kinetic energy loss of Wierzbecki's online paper, and Hoo Fatt's conclusion in her peer-reviewed paper, and determined that over 90% of kinetic energy would have been lost in getting the airplane into the tower.

The point here is not that my conclusion is correct . I am not the proper person to do a definitive analysis. Professor Jones would be much more qualified to do that. I published this article less than two weeks after hearing Morgan Reynolds speak about the no-planes theory, and a professor of physics at a major university could certainly have found and analyzed this material quicker.

The point is that Professor Jones showed the relationship between kinetic energy loss and observed deceleration, which is the way I defined the problem after reading the work of Morgan Reynolds and the counterargument of Eric Salter, yet he failed to cite to the most current literature on a key element of this analysis, kinetic energy loss.

Moreover, as editor of the Journal of 9/11 Studies, he published in October 2006 the article of Eric Salter, which also does not cite to the Karim Hoo Fatt article of October 2005.

One would think that the first thing a scientist would do, both in writing a paper and in peer-reviewing a paper , is to check whether the paper at least recognizes the most current literature on a key assumption in the paper.

For these two reasons alone, I have grave concerns about Professor Jones' ability to direct what should or should not be considered to be scientifically and forensic established in a 9/11 investigation.

I will publish this comment in this exact form at my blog, and will not make any changes without indicating that a change has been made.

I will also email him and inform him of this comment and my blog, so that he may respond. Although I am writing under a pseudonym, I intend to be accountable for my arguments and provide an opportunity for rebuttal.


Ningen said...

I wrote "declaration" above where I meant "deceleration"--spell check didn't like deceleration and I didn't look carefully at its proposed change. That's what I get for not thinking for myself.

james ha said...

ningen! you're a smart guy, are you truly surprised at the level of lameness evinced by the so-called 9/11 truth movement in general and jones in particular? do not hold your breath waiting for or even expecting any well-reasoned response to even a single one of your concerns from the 911blogger truthlings.

that being said, please keep on keeping on with your blog.

Ningen said...

Thanks for the support, James. I guess I'm not surprised, but there has to be someone there that is responsive to reasonable arguments.