Thursday, November 6, 2008

Your Call 110608 Physics for Future Presidents

Can we make smart decisions about renewable energy, global warming, terrorism or sustainable agriculture without understanding the science that drives them? On the next Your Call we speak with Richard Muller, Berkeley professor of Physics and the Macarthur Genius award winning author of Physics for Future Presidents. Muller teaches 1,000 undergrads a course of the same name, exploring scientific concepts underlying political questions. Now it's our turn. Can we build a better democracy through chemistry and physics and math? It's Your Call with Rose Aguilar and you.

Guests: Richard Muller in Berkeley
Professor in the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley, and Faculty Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in the Institute for Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics. Author of Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines.

Click to Listen: Physics for Future Presidents


David said...

The Soda Straw Mechanism

Put a soda straw between your two hands and push. The straw will “collapse catastrophically” just as the World Trade center did on 9/11. So states Prof. Richard Muller, popular Physics Professor at UC Berkeley, in an interview with Rose Aguilar on Your Call (KALW Radio 11/6/08.) This is the physics behind the collapse of the Twin Towers, according to Prof. Muller.

Not to keep you in suspense, I, myself, performed this simple experiment only to find that with even mild pressure the straw bent in the middle before my hands had a chance to move more than half an inch, let alone come “crashing together.” Even if you don’t have a straw handy, you can do a simple thought experiment. Imagine placing a straw between your two hands and exerting pressure. Can you see the straw “collapsing catastrophically” onto it’s own footprint with only a fraction of it still standing as your hands “smash together?” Collapsing straws aside, do you really believe that the physics of a plane hitting the WTC is the same as a straw between your two hands?

The entire interview is available on the Your Call web site and I have transcribed below just the portion dealing with Prof. Muller’s amazing explanation of the collapse of WTC buildings.

The day after 9/11 (says Prof. Muller) I went into class and explained in class what happened. There are two effects that occur: one is the weakening of material by heat. The jet fuel - they had 60 tons of jet fuel in each building – that’s the equivalent of 900 kilotons of TNT and it’s worse, you know, if you burn rather than explode. The explosions are very inefficient at destroying things. So this was over a kiloton equivalent in each building. Now what happens when the columns collapse: put your hands and compress a straw and it’s very strong, surprisingly so considering its only paper, but if you push hard enough it collapses catastrophically, your hands come smashing together.

Once that happened in one floor of the World Trade Center then the upper floor comes down like a hammer, like a sledge hammer, like a pile driver. There’s some thing called the hammer amplification effect. If it falls 20 feet, and then … and then stops within half a foot, you get a factor of 40 multiplication of the force. That makes the columns (think of soda straws) below collapse catastrophically. The whole building will come down basically at free fall at that point. This was obvious, I think, to any physicist who was looking at it. I explained to my class on 9/12 …and…and, and later, two years later, a report came out verifying this, but I think it was fairly obvious once you understand the enormous energy in jet fuel, 15 times more than an equal weight of TNT, twice as much energy as in the North Korean nuke.

Now, when the remaining jet fuel spilled out on the ground, it continued to burn for a long time, uh, that weakens the columns at the bottom floor of the, um, …of the …and upper floors too of Building 7 so eventually that collapsed by the same soda straw mechanism. You know, I think you have to distort the physics, you have to ignore the fact that you don’t need melting for these things, you just need a little bit of weakening that, that, there is this hammer effect that greatly multiplies things, that when you have the hammer effect the whole building will collapse at essentially the free fall rate. The little bit of mass on each floor is not enough to overcome the huge amount of mass that’s falling above it. The physics really verifies the standard explanation. Try and come up with another explanation. It’s not easy because you’re not going to find anything that you can use that has more energy than gasoline; TNT is 15 times worse. You can load those buildings with TNT and you wouldn’t get nearly the effect that you get from gasoline.

So, the great Prof. Muller, explains everything without having to visit the site, examine a single piece of physical evidence, interview a single person, or do any research at all. The day after 9/11 he has all the answers and is publicly expounding them. And, to top it off, he states that to disagree with his conclusions would be to go against physics itself. How foolish anyone would be to challenge the great Prof. Muller, guardian and keeper of the sacred flame of physics. Prof. Muller would just laugh at you… “Ha! Ha! Ha! The physics doesn’t support you, you are distorting the physics.” In actual fact, serious physicists have challenged the 9/11 Commission findings and have called for further investigation, among them Steven E. Jones of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Brigham Young University (see Physicists for 911 Truth.) I know this because, unlike Prof. Muller, I did some research.

The WTC is just like a soda straw and some jet fuel spilled on the ground caused the collapse of Building 7? Explosions are very inefficient at destroying things? That anyone (let alone someone who claims to be a scientist) could say, on air, the above quoted nonsense seems incredible. Or would seem incredible if we hadn’t already had 8 years of bad science sanctioned by the Bush Administration. But when you find out that Prof. Muller “…is a member of the “JASON Defense Advisory Group which brings together top scientists as consultants for the United States Department of Defense,” (Wikipedia) things start to make more sense.

If I hadn’t been suspicious of the official story before, I certainly would be after hearing Prof. Muller’s explanation. Until Richard Muller demonstrates in public “the soda straw mechanism,” I’m going to start a campaign to Send a Straw to Prof. Muller.

David said...
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