Armed with a brand new batch of clever inventions and one eye-popping scale model, the intrepid team of Mythbusters decided to test a 911conspiracy theory, that the WTC towers collapsed by controlled demolition.
"We wanted to prove the conspiracy wackos wrong," said the intrepid duo, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. "And of course score some big bucks by blowing things up."
According to the New York Times, Mythbusters "may be the best science program on television." Throughout scores of entertaining episodes, the dynamic duo of Savage and Hyneman patiently construct scale models and then smash them, crush them, burn them or blow them up.
"Or blow them down," said Savage, cracking a grin. "All in the name of science."
According to millions of 911 conspiracy theorists, who believe the World Trade Towers collapsed by carefully rigged explosives, the government never proved their case fully. Many suspicions remain. Mythbusters intended to explode the foremost government myth about the 911 terrorist attack--that airplanes filled with fuel could cause a burning steel skyscraper to collapse--and thus prove the conspiracy theorists wrong.
"We usually only blow up pants, toilets and paint cans but we finally decided to explode a popular urban legend and drive a stake through its heart," said Hyneman, standing on Mare Island, former US Navy base.
So the pair hired a team of model makers to build a scale model of one of the WTC towers on the old US Navy base on Mare Island, north of San Francisco. Built to 1/25 scale (25 feet equals 1 foot), like a giant model kit, the scale model tower stood over fifty feet tall. Tens of thousands of miniature steel beams were used, engineered to exact scale, and welded to similar scale model girders in a precise copy of the doomed WTC. Working from blueprints, the model makers even recreated the stout inner core of 47 steel columns, running from three feet below ground to the top floor.
Each face of the 54-foot tower, sheathed in glistening aluminum, measured more than eight feet wide. Additionally, the model makers poured a thin layer of steel-reinforced concrete on each of the 110 floors, to add authenticity to the model, as well as comparable weight.
According to Wikipedia: "All of the original buildings in the complex were destroyed in a massive terrorist attack on September 11, 2001: 1 WTC, 2 WTC, )North and South Towers) and 7 WTC collapsed; 3 WTC (Marriot Hotel) was crushed by the collapses of 1 WTC and 2 WTC; and 4 WTC, 5 WTC, and 6 WTC were damaged beyond repair and later demolished."
"We knew jet fuel must be pretty hot to melt steel beams, and collapse three towers, so we wanted to see for ourselves," said Savage and Hyneman. "We also wondered how jet fuel got hot enough to melt those beams and girders and why that doesn't ever happen in your backyard barbecue grill. We also wanted to know how two women could be standing in plain sight, right there where everyone could see them, on this super hot steel, and not melt like the molten steel that was found later."
So the dynamic duo also built an aluminum Boeing jet plane to scale. The 1/ 25 scale model Boeing 767, only a little more than six feet long by six feet wide, looked puny by comparison to the tower it allegedly destroyed. But in actuality, a full-sized, fully-fueled 767 with passengers weighed close to 387,000 lbs, or more than 190 tons. By contrast, each WTC tower weighed an estimated 500,000 tons.
Mythbusters considered filling their scale model aircraft with fuel (The hijacked planes could carry 23,000 gallons) but decided instead to fill several top floors with kerosene instead. "We couldn't get the model plane off the ground otherwise," said Savage. They had devised an ingenious propulsion system, part catapult, part giant gun, that would fire the cumbersome scale model airplane (minus the highly-combustible jet fuel) into the tower.
"Like ramming a silver SUV going 500 MPH into a shiny square silo," said Savage of his test. "Unfortunately the first model plane we made overshot the WTC and smashed into this two story concrete building belonging to the US Navy. The plane hit at an angle going 500 MPH. Later we picked up pieces of that smashed plane two hundred feet away. One wing detached completely and slid along the building and nearly decapitated a couple of cameramen."
On the second try, the Mythbusters smacked the scale model Boeing exactly on the scale model WTC, almost forty feet up. Striking the tower at a speed of 500 MPH, the model airplane left a definite imprint. The tower shook visibly but remained standing. Seconds later the kerosene ignited. The tower burned brightly, almost exactly as the original WTC burned more than five years before.
"But then the jet fuel, basically kerosene, burnt away within 20-30 minutes. Although we had placed several tons of plastic objects, to simulate office furnishings, throughout the tower, we saw the tower start to smoke less than an hour after ignition."
From a gridwork of construction scaffolding, the pair filmed the tower burning for the first hour and then watched it smolder and smoke for a second hour. And then a third. And a fourth. Eight hours later, at sunset, the tower still stood, smoking like a chimney, but the fire only flickered inside.
"We didn't know what to do next," said Hyneman, looking perturbed. " we know that building manager, Frank Demartini, who died inside the WTC, said the lattice-like steel beam and girder assembly of the twin towers would absorb a big Boeing crash like a mosquito going through screen mesh and remain strong and still standing. But every American saw the towers fall."
Although the inner core of the scale model WTC, those 47 steel columns was bent and shattered, the upper part of the scale model tower never fell. The next day, using precise, laser measuring devices, the dynamic duo measured the distortion of the tower from the scaffold. While the upper segment indicated a perceptible distortion the tower had not collapsed. Nor did they find any molten steel in the sub floor.
Unlike the 32 story steel skyscraper that burned out of control in 2005 and completely gutted the building in Madrid, the twin towers in New York only burned for an hour or so before collapsing. Puzzled, the pair of Mythbusters decided the try to recreate a controlled collapse using a couple of borrowed, US Army flame throwers.
"Our original half hour show, intending to debunk this one urban legend, now became a full hour," lamented Savage. "and from what I've heard, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of 911 urban legends still to be debunked. NORAD, WTC-7, passport...Not enough shows to do them all."
Next the intrepid pair dropped napalm on the tower from a hovering helicopter. "We must have dropped a ton of the stuff and never did find any melted steel later," said Savage, "although for several minutes we got that tower to glow like a fifty foot roadside flare."
Perplexed, the pair wondered if the model makers had built the tower too strong, as an insider prank. Although the scale model still stood, blackened and slightly distorted, the wily experimenters decided to rig several hundred small explosives to the inner core, every eighteen inches, to simulate a heat-weakened WTC.
"According to Popular Mechanics magazine, the WTC fire weakened the system of expansion joints, causing the towers to pancake down and all the concrete to explode like the eruption of Mt St. Helens," said Savage.
Fellow Mythbuster Hyneman concurred. "We tried napalm and that didn't work. So we theorize that the concrete floors in the World Trade Towers must have contained some natural-occurring explosive cement that only occurred in buildings 1,2 and 7. And so we rigged several hundred small explosives to duplicate the explosive quality of the concrete."
"Exactly," said Savage. "How else to explain that concrete exploding into zillions of microscopic dust particles and spreading across miles of lower Manhattan?"
After the Mythbusters rigged 500 cherry bombs and M-80s---"The old style ones that would blow your fingers off," said Hyneman--they stood back and detonated the whole contraption while the cameras rolled. Not surprising, the tower finally collapsed into a pile of miniature beams and girders, proving the government correct. The 911 terrorist attack and the subsequent WTC collapse occurred exactly as described.
Footnote: While the above spoof was satire and never happened (YET), the intrepid Mythbusters have actually experimented with thermite. Yes, our dynamic duo actually used the stuff that MELTS STEEL, in an earlier episode about the airship, Hindenburg. Write, email, fax, or call Mythbusters and ask them to do a WTC show. See how they fare.
Scriptwriter, suspense novelist and amateur CSI satirist,
Douglas Herman writes for Rense and lives in his own private twilight zone.