articles archive articles by Michael Green source fair use notice

Pardon Our Dust,
Why the World Trade Center Dust Matters

by Michael Green,
April 20, 2009

Copyright 2009 Michael Green

John R. Moffett, the distinguished neuroscientist and managing editor of OPEDNEWS, has brought his considerable prestige to bear on the issue of whether the Twin Towers and WTC7 were destroyed by controlled demolition using the incendiary and sometimes explosive thermite as a key component. Unfortunately, he has done so with either malicious incompetence, or worse, a cynical deliberate determination to distort, conceal, and suppress the findings of a recently published scientific article, "Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe," that dispositively proves the presence of unignited explosives in the WTC dust. Neither motivation on Dr. Moffett's part obviously recommends him for his post at OPEDNEWS. I will first address Dr. Moffett's smear piece, which was promoted to OPEDNEWS headline status on 4/15/2009, then, the importance of the thermitic dust. If you think that 911 isn't your issue, you should pay close attention.

The evidence that first brought me around to considering 911 as a USG covert operation was the National Aeronautics and Science Administration's (NASA's) publication of a thermal survey taken September 16, 2001, that showed ground temperature hot spots of 1,100 and 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Such temperatures are far too high to be produced by an open-air hydrocarbon fire except in very short bursts, but certainly not as an enduring after-effect. Students of 911 have collected a vast array of evidence that temperatures at the WTC were generated far in excess of what normal hydrocarbon fires could produce. The evidence includes eyewitness testimony of molten iron or steel weeks after the event, videos of orange molten metal pouring from the South Tower minutes before its destruction, and microspheres of once-molten iron in the dust examined by the United States Geological Survey forensics team (without further comment or analysis!).

The importance of iron microspheres is simple. Iron melts around 2,800 Fahrenheit, which is about twice the highest temperature that an open-air fire could produce. A microsphere can only be produced by first melting iron, then dispersing the melted iron by some energetic means (like explosion) into an aerosol whose particles, influenced by the surface tension of the molten metal, form spheres as the smallest surface area required to contain any specified volume of matter. Once again, as with the NASA thermal survey, an intense source of energy other than the WTC fires is required to melt iron or steel, as even the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) admitted in its reports. The science is pretty simple; only its political consequences are complicated, and troubling.

Thermite is simply a combination of aluminum and iron oxide, both in powdered form. When heated to a certain temperature, the highly reactive aluminum steals the oxygen atoms from the iron oxide. This chemical reaction releases intense heat in excess of 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to cut through steel, and produces molten iron as its reaction product.

The first scientist to investigate thermite as a key component of the WTC demolitions was Steven E. Jones, who was then in 2005 a tenured professor of physics at Brigham Young University with a specialization in muon-catalyzed fusion. Jones was subsequently forced to resign because of his 911 research, but he continued his research independently. Alas for Jones and the group of same-minded scientists who were persuaded by the evidence that thermite was involved, the thought that should have come first came considerably later: "No incendiary or explosive is likely to combust completely in an environment of massive collapse and disruption such as 911, so if we are right, there ought to be both residue of and unexploded samples of thermite in the WTC dust. We need to look at the dust." Jones first made a request for the dust in an online paper in the fall of 2006 and examined his first sample in June 2007. Better late than never.

Jones obtained five samples of the dust from concerned citizens who had collected it on or shortly after 911. Four of these people signed affidavits regarding the provenance of the dust. The fifth was unwilling to do so, and though his sample contained the same materials as the others, it was not included in the specimens examined for the article. One of the samples was collected ten minutes after the collapse of the first Tower, so was not possibly contaminated by the collapse of WTC7 later that afternoon, let alone the even later steel-cutting operations. In another instance, Jones personally traveled to California to obtain in the presence of other scientists a second sample from a woman who had provided a sample by mail, thus assuring that no switch had occurred between mailing and receipt. The provenance of the dust is not in doubt and can if necessary be compared with dust samples collected by official agencies that refused to analyze their contents.

All of the dust samples contained an abundance of iron-rich microspheres as well as a collection of tiny chips that were red on one side, gray on the other. These red-gray chips were put in a Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC), a device that slowly heats the chips and measures how much energy the chips emit or absorb at a given temperature. The chips all ignited at 425 degrees Centigrade (+/- 10 degrees) and produced microspheres of molten iron, which is the reaction product of a thermitic reaction.

2Al + Fe2O3 → Al2O3 + 2Fe (molten iron)

Just to make things clear, iron melts at 2,800 Fahrenheit, about 1538oC, so the red-gray chips – as the paper itself makes abundantly clear – generated intense temperatures and are a manufactured incendiary (with explosive potential).

To confirm this finding, the authors measured the energy density of the red-gray chips – the amount of energy generated per gram of material – and compared it to the energy density of a variety of explosives and incendiaries, including conventional thermite. The energy density of the red-gray chips exceeds that of standard explosives like HMX and TNT. The authors state:

It is striking that some of the red/gray chips release more energy in kJ/g than does ordinary thermite, as shown in the blue bar graphs above. [Their Figure 30]

That the energy density of the red-gray chips exceeded the energy density of conventional thermite was especially striking because only the red side of the chip contained the thermitic materials; the gray material was essentially inert and did not contribute to the energy density, but diminished it. This finding was one amongst many results that lead the authors to conclude that the red-gray chips probably contained nano-thermite, a kind of "super" thermite with ultra-fine particles of aluminum and iron-oxide.

The authors then subjected the iron-rich microspherical residue of the red-gray chips to X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS) to compare it with the profile of microspherical residue from known thermite combustions and found them to be virtually identical. Additionally, both were virtually identical to the XEDS of microspheres found in the WTC dust itself, as reported in a previous paper, “Extremely high temperatures during the World Trade Center destruction” [PDF]

As the principal author, chemist Niels H. Harrit, remarked in a 10-minute appearance on Danish television, the paper is merely the keystone in an already well-constructed arch of evidence that the Towers and WTC7 were taken down by controlled demolition. Unfortunately, Dr. Moffett has only pretended to review even the findings in this paper. Not a single one of the facts that I have presented in this review of the "Active Thermitic Material" paper was presented in his review, and there are many more compelling findings that support the same conclusion with which this popular essay will not burden the reader. Instead, Dr. Moffett has actively suppressed them and maligned them by comparing them to the wildly speculative and false claims of Judy Wood in both his title, "Was it Nanotech-Thermite or Phasers that took down the WTC?" and in his conclusions. Ms. Wood has tried to peddle an entirely speculative and contrary-to-evidence fantasy of high-energy beams, phasers, destroying the Towers.

I am going to focus on the central deceit of Dr. Moffett's article. Dr. Moffett dismisses the notion of thermite as absurd and writes,

Before I get into details about why this work is so poorly done, and why the interpretations of the researchers are so suspect, it is important to state that the thermite argument was put forward by these same researchers years ago, and the idea was fully debunked years ago. See for example here: [PDF]

A central point of the paper referenced by Moffett is that the presence of ingredients of thermite (e.g., aluminum and iron oxide) is easily explained by, for example, the aluminum cladding on the Towers and the presence of rust (iron oxide). Dr. Moffett's article elaborates on this simple theme:

It is no small coincidence that the major components that the researchers detected in the red and gray chips include iron, aluminum, oxygen, silica, and carbon, since these relate to the primary building materials that the WTC was constructed from. The girders were steel, which rusts to iron oxide, the façade was aluminum, and the floors were concrete. The traces of calcium and sulfur could easily be from wallboard (calcium sulfate), as the authors themselves conclude....

X-ray dispersive spectroscopy can tell you what elements are in a sample, but not what molecules those elements are incorporated into. Any sample of dust from the WTC collapse would contain similar amounts of these elements because those are the primary elements that made up the steel superstructure, concrete flooring, aluminum facade and other building materials (not to mention the aluminum fuselage of the aircraft).

Thus, Dr. Moffett represents the nine authors of the paper as bumbling idiots who confuse the presence of elements of thermite in the debris with evidence for thermite itself. Yet, on p.13 the authors state:

The existence of elemental aluminum and iron oxide [in the red portion of the red-gray chips] leads to the obvious hypothesis that the material may contain thermite. However, before concluding that the red material found in the WTC dust is thermitic, further testing would be required. For example, how does the material behave when heated in a sensitive calorimeter? If the material does not react vigorously it may be argued that although ingredients of thermite are present, the material may not really be thermitic.

Because the authors understood the issue, they performed the relevant tests that Dr. Moffett suppressed. Instead, Moffett distorted and trivialized the complex case they made with the following aside:

The researchers also showed that the chips could be ignited, and that they burned at a lower temperature than normal thermite. This is of course not surprising since metals such as aluminum do burn if they are complexed with oxidizing agents, and are heated enough.

But of course what the researchers did was to show not merely that the chips could be ignited at a lower temperature than a known nano-composite thermite, but also that the chips were fiercely exothermic, generated iron microspheres with the XEDS of thermite, and released more energy per gram than known samples of conventional thermite possibly could. Thus, curiously, for some reason, the estimable Dr. Moffett writes as though there were one and only one kind of thermite, even though the paper he pretends to review emphasizes that there are many kinds, including thermitic materials researched by the military for both incendiary and explosive purposes, and it provides citations from mainstream journals to support this claim. Instead, Moffett writes, "It is also important to note that thermite is not explosive, and it is difficult to ignite." I hope that willful ignorance or deliberate deceit will not become a standard at OPEDNEWS.

Couldn't the Rubble Make the Thermite?

Let us return to Dr. Moffett's favorite article that "fully debunked" thermite as the key incendiary/explosive in the destruction of the World Trade Center. Remarkably, that article ultimately attributed the destruction of the Towers to thermite, but claimed that the thermite was manufactured on site by the crash, the fire that melted the aluminum from the planes, and various elements of lime, gypsum, water, and rust from the materials of the buildings with which the aluminum combined to produce intense thermitic reactions that destroyed the Towers. The author, Frank Greening, Ph.D., also speculated that the building materials had kept the ground fires burning for months after the collapses because hot aluminum combined with high pH water - made high pH by the aluminum grouting! – to produce combustible hydrogen. The author did this without any direct evidence that such was the case. Fascinating!

An essay I wrote on the Kennedy assassination lays out the general strategy and tactic taken by the USG assets and agents assigned to the media cover-up of major domestic covert operations. Instead of following the evidence and pursuing its obvious implications, the agents – and the voluntarily self-deceived – ignore or distort the natural implications of the evidence and in its place present an entirely speculative account of what the evidence "conceivably" might mean that is consistent with the official story. Crucially, the import of any piece of evidence is usually isolated from the rich body of other evidence so that the "conceivable" interpretation may seem plausible. The defenders of the official story then demand that the "conspiracy theorists" refute their speculation, usually when there is no means of doing so.

In the case of 911, Dr. Moffett's intellectual compatriot, Frank Greening, offers up a witches brew in which:

The molten aluminum re-ignites some of the smoldering fires and rapidly burns through other combustible materials that survived the initial conflagration. Molten aluminum also falls onto fractured concrete, gypsum and rusted steel surfaces inducing violent thermite explosions, dispersing globules of molten metal and igniting new fires.

Steven Jones already rebutted the witches brew “hypothesis," by directly combining molten aluminum alternately with crushed gypsum, wet and dry concrete, and rusted steel. See pp. 8-13 of his paper, “Why, Indeed, did the World Trade Center Buildings Completely Collapse?" at the Journal of 911 Studies site, Jones states therein:

"Nor were violent reactions observed when we dropped molten aluminum onto crushed gypsum and concrete (wet or dry) and rusty steel." [ Jones, 2006 ] These experiments lend no support whatever to the notion [see Greening, 2006] that molten aluminum in the WTC Towers could have destroyed the enormous steel columns in the cores of the buildings, even if those columns were rusty and somehow subjected to direct contact with liquid aluminum.

In those same pages Jones also puts to rest Greening’s hope – echoing both FEMA and NIST reports on 911 – that the orange molten metal pouring from the 81st floor of the South Tower might be the melted aluminum from the airliner rather than molten iron from the thermite reaction. This complex rebuttal should be read in Jones's original paper.

Greening’s “witches brew” production of thermite is a non-starter for other obvious reasons. As noted, two of the red/gray chip samples generated more energy per gram than the theoretical limit for conventional thermite, and did so from the red layer alone. Further details of Greening’s fascinating speculation need not concern us for another very simple reason: the red/gray chips are patently cutting-edge manufactured materials. Random blends of building materials cannot form uniform chips of red/gray layers with precisely identical composition. Red layers for each of the four samples had XEDS spectra that were identical to each other and contained the ingredients of thermite; so were the XEDS spectra of each of the gray layers identical to each other, and were inert materials. Such identical composition is not consistent with a variety of random mixtures scattered to the winds by the buildings' collapses.

Direct inspection of the red/gray chips, as well as their microstructure, reveals a solid compact gray layer to which the highly granular thermitic red layer adheres. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, about 4 hundred millionths of an inch (1 nanometer = 3.93700787 × 10-8 inch). Magnification of the red layer reveals highly engineered plate-like aluminum particles 40 nm in thickness (40 billionths of a meters) mixed in a solidified matrix with remarkably uniform iron-rich rhomboid particles. (The aluminum particle in the image below looks like a flying saucer.) The highly uniform nano-metric particle sizes are found in engineered explosives, but not in normal building materials. The dense uniform mixture of nano-sized particles is what allows the product to ignite below the temperature of even commercial nano-thermite, and to generate the intense energy output per gram that exceeds the theoretical limits for optimally prepared conventional thermite.

The pictures, especially combined with the nano-thermite performance of the red/gray chips, should persuade any reasonable reader that chips present in all the dust samples are manufactured and engineered. Thus, I suggest that the only witches brew you need to be aware of is the calculated disinformation that replaces the evidence and its face value with a supposedly "conceivable" interpretation of a portion of the evidence – that must also blind you to much of the actual evidence – in order to maintain your devotion to a fictitious Official Story of 911.

Why The Dust Matters

I will be brief here from necessity. If the Towers and Building 7 were destroyed by controlled demolition, then these vastly complicated acts were coordinated through the security apparatus of the World Trade Center in conjunction with high-ranking members of the U.S. military, especially the Air Force, whose cooperation was required to assure that the commercial airplanes hit their targets, and with the media, whose job it was to disseminate the fiction of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda from the mouths of the intelligence agencies that coordinated this grand act of political theater. The cover-up was managed by control of the crime scene and subsequent "investigations", destruction of the evidence, and was anticipated through a variety of legislation and executive orders that are well known to 911 researchers. The USG, in cooperation with elements of private industry and finance capital, brought us 911. The 911 Commission, like the Warren Commission before it, remains a cruel hoax to euthanize critical public thinking. Not all of the actors who served the cover-up were aware of their roles, but they were ultimately set into motion by those who were.

Behind, and parallel to, the visible and overt political power structure lies the fundamental source of political power and action in the United States. It is known well only to those who participate regularly in it, and to a small number of persons, who for one reason or another have stumbled into it, have refused to look aside, and have pursued it to its bottom. I don't wish to dramatize the "invisible government" but these are the persons who control domestic covert action to effect profound changes in political power and political climate in extra-legal ways and who also own and control much of Congress. The motivation and sense of entitlement to do so is an old story, and keeping within the bounds of U.S. history there is John Jay, who would become the first Chief Justice of the United States, who said in arguing against popular suffrage, "The people who own the country ought to govern it." Covert action is one amongst many means that allow those who own this country to rule it without ostensibly violating the spirit of democracy.

These persons are united in keeping their deeds secret from the vast number of Americans even when they strongly disagree amongst themselves about the wisdom of a particular covert action like 911. Providing the details for this political perspective would take us too far afield, but it is this perspective that is entailed by the thermitic dust in the World Trade Center, one that would mobilize the American people could they only grasp it and come to terms with it. That is what people like Steven Jones, Niels Harrit, Jim Hoffman, Kevin Ryan, David Ray Griffin, Richard Gage & friends are trying to promulgate, and people like Dr. Moffett are trying to suppress.

The "Thermitic Dust" paper is a scientific paper produced by scientists using their expertise to illuminate the mechanism of 911 as a covert operation. It presents an extraordinary piece of 911 evidence that allows no wiggle room, that cannot be explained away in any other fashion. Underscoring the evidentiary significance of the thermitic dust does nothing to scant the larger geopolitical picture nor the abundance of non-scientific evidence that others have laboriously, and often very courageously, assembled. As Michael Ruppert emphasized, the world is running out of irreplaceable oil. Others have noted that United States capitalism has been in a long arc of decline since the Vietnam war, and has declined more rapidly in the wake of decisions to deindustrialize and to allow "finance capital" – parasitic practices that produce fictitious profits at the expense of the real economy – to become an ever greater part of the U.S. economy.

The ruling class of the United States responded to threats to the U.S. dollar and U.S. global hegemony by generating a pretext for war in the Middle East in an attempt to shore up both the dollar and the hegemony by obtaining a stranglehold on the oil in that area that constitutes roughly 60% of the world's known reserves. To the rulers of the United States, the sacrifice of 3,000 civilians means nothing more than a form of involuntary conscription that they feel fully entitled to impose. The "endless war on terror" was a pronouncement by the neocons and their allies of their confidence that military might sufficed to intervene against "terrorism" wherever they felt seizure of scarce resources and geopolitical gain were to be found. The need to defend ourselves against an existential enemy of the rulers' own creation served as the pretext to build a domestic police state for use against its own citizens should they mobilize against the rulers' preferred allocation of resources when oil and other scarcities could no longer be profitably found to preserve the standard of living to which the people of the United States, and the advanced western democracies generally, had become accustomed.

The importance of the thermitic dust is complementary to all the other evidence assembled by others. A short non-exhaustive list of such evidence includes 1) the world-wide insider puts that used foreknowledge of 911 to make investments to rake in small fortunes; 2) the many ignored and suppressed warnings derailed from the top of the USG intelligence chain of command; 3) the well-planned and well-concealed War Games running simultaneously with the 911 operation to prevent NORAD from intercepting the airliners and – only if necessary – to provide an excuse why no interception occurred; 4) Dick Cheney's "the order still stands" command not to shoot down the airliner that was approaching the Pentagon, that was suppressed by the 911 Commission; 5) the stories of the brave whistleblowers, including Coleen Rowley, Indira Singh, Robert Wright, and Sibel Edmonds, all of whom have been sidelined and marginalized into political insignificance; 6) the background of Mohammed Atta & friends (from Daniel Hopsicker) that reveals them as well trained and protected USG intelligence operatives, not Islamic terrorists; 7) the cover-up conspiracy too vast even to adumbrate.

I should say in closing that many if not most of even the very good 911 researchers do not understand the nature of this power nor the forces of psychological resistance to reaching an understanding of it. For example, David Ray Griffin has urged Congress to investigate 911 anew in light of this dramatic evidence, in my view apparently having failed to learn the palpable lesson from his own book, The 911 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, i.e., that key members Congress were actively complicit in the cover-up and that the others knew their proper role to be to stand aside in mute silence. Similarly, in his Danish TV interview, Niels Harrit said that now that this paper has revealed not merely the smoking gun, but the "loaded gun," i.e., the unignited thermite, that he expects the authorities to start an investigation and bring the criminals to justice.

I have no such expectations. Between the hard facts of the matter and organized political actions stand both the self-deceived guardians of the psychological status quo and the deliberate agents of the invisible government. Would that the truth were simple, plain, and self-evident. Instead, we face the problem articulated by my friend Vincent Salandria, the father of the first generation of the John F. Kennedy researchers, in a 1971 address. Referring to the JFK assassination, Salandria argued that when a major covert action takes place, the truth about it is revealed:

" differing levels of certainty to diverse people and at different times. In this way, they [the plotters] could avert a concerted counter thrust to their illegitimate seizure of power. Democratic forces could not unite against the new illegitimate governmental apparatus because of timing. The insights of what had occurred dawned in the minds of the decent citizens at different times and with different degrees of clarity. (Vincent Salandria, False Mystery, p. 103)

Salandria believes that often in the Kennedy case, "The new rulers carefully and selectively orchestrated revelations of their bloody work, so as to gain therefrom the deference to which they felt they were entitled by their ascendancy to absolute power." For 911, a possible example of an orchestrated revelation would be the NASA thermal survey showing ground temperatures days and weeks after 911 that were inconsistent with a normal hydrocarbon fire, boasting of their sins rather than confessing them. I don't waste much time wondering whether there was such intent behind the NASA survey, or whether the bureaucracy unwittingly produced this early revelatory finding. The NASA survey failed to produce a collective epiphany because of how slowly information spreads, how ill-equipped most people are to use it, and because even those best equipped to understand it also know the vagaries of research and look for further evidence to confirm or disconfirm it, as have the authors of "Active Thermitic Material." Sly boast or bureacratic release, the effect is the same.

Only now, the facts that matter politically are in, and if I expect the mainstream media to do everything in its power to ignore and distort the findings of unignited thermitic material in the WTC dust – and I do – I was still a little surprised to find the Managing Editor of OPEDNEWS doing the same thing. Perhaps I should not have been.

Author's Bio: I am a retired forensic psychologist living in Los Angeles with enough time on my hands to have spent the past few years studying the deeds whose perpetrators pejoratively deride the correct analysis of which as "conspiracy theories," i.e., USG intelligence community domestic covert operations - fascist politics by unconventional means. A professor of analytic philosophy in a former career, I no longer embrace the Lotus Land argument that if you can work on your abs, then it isn't fascism.