My Response to Ryan Mackey and the Self-Crushing Building Theory

by C. Thurston


See below for Ryan Mackey's criticism of my statements, cited by David Ray Griffin in Debunking 9/11 Debunking. Mackey's comments can also be found at this link:  pgs 46-47


My article from 2006, "Explosions or Collapse? The Semantics of Deception," is the source of the statements that were quoted by Griffin:



Why Have So Many Been Taken for a Ride?


One of the problems we have with the fraudulent claims that are made by Mackey (and others like him) regarding the existence of self-crushing steel frame buildings is the fact that many people lack an intuitive sense of the strength and resilience of these structures. They have allowed themselves to become convinced by an alleged scenario that is physically impossible. My Erector Set illustration is intended to address this problem.


The Not-so-Plausible Impossible


I can still remember, as a kid, listening to Walt Disney explain the concept of the "Plausible Impossible." When a cartoon character runs off the edge of a cliff, for example, into mid-air, if he turns around and scrambles back fast enough he can save himself from falling. This is impossible of course in "real life," but a skilled animator can nonetheless make it seem quite plausible.


The self-crushing building theory is another example of the "Plausible Impossible," and tremendous effort has been expended — again involving skillful animation — to sell the plausibility of this notion. But self-crushing steel frame buildings do not actually exist in "real life."




Small wonder that Ryan Mackey is so anxious to dismiss my Erector Set illustration with an insult rather than a useful comment, after deliberately misunderstanding and misstating its purpose. These are the kinds of tactics that are used by someone who has no legitimate options. I never suggested that the Towers — as entire buildings — should have "toppled over." What an absurd idea!


On the other hand, the upper section of the South Tower DID begin to fall to the side before disintegrating in mid-air, and it is the behavior of this SECTION of the building that is in question, along with the strength and integrity of the structure as a whole.


His lecture about the behavior of tall structures when they topple over is completely irrelevant. The Tower sections ABOVE the impact zones were not 100 stories high and they are NOT comparable to radio towers!


Even Concrete Buildings Don't Disintegrate in Mid-air


If his claim is true that the buildings that fell during an earthquake in Taiwan, and remained relatively intact, were built with reinforced concrete, that would make the mid-air disintegration of the steel-framed WTC Towers even more remarkable. A steel framework, if anything, is stronger and MORE flexible and MORE resilient than a reinforced concrete structure of the same size. If these weaker buildings can fall to the ground without coming apart, why did the UPPER SECTIONS of the Towers completely disintegrate while falling only a few dozen feet?


The Relevance of Erector Sets


I have to assume (in the absence of an explanation) that if Ryan Mackey thinks he has a bona fide reason for dismissing my Erector Set illustration as "not worthy of discussion" it must be based on a tacit assertion that the strength of a structure doesn't scale proportionally to its size — that a large steel framework is somehow significantly weaker relative to its own size and weight than a smaller one, all aspects being proportional. But is this really true?


One of the reasons steel is used in the construction of high-rise buildings is its relatively LIGHT weight in proportion to its strength and flexibility, particularly when formed into I-beams, H-beams and box columns. Large steel frame buildings are obviously very heavy, but they are also VERY strong.


If we could somehow create an exact scaled replica of one of the Towers, complete with multi-story miniature steel core columns with their steel framing and cross-bracing, high-strength interconnected steel perimeter columns, the floor system with its steel pans and trusses, and all of the other steel framing, welds and bolted connections, it would be much STRONGER than any conceivable Erector Set structure of similar height and proportions.


The difficulty involved in crushing such a model with pressure applied from above should yield an appreciation of the difficulty that would likewise be encountered in crushing one of the Towers.


Stay Away From Tall Buildings!


One of the unavoidable, but unstated, implications of the self-crushing building theory is that ALL steel frame high-rise structures are on the verge of collapse at any moment, due to their "tremendous weight." They can just barely hold themselves up (supposedly) and all it takes is some type of "trigger" and they will fall in a heap like a house of cards. The 100-year track record of steel frame structures prior to 9/11 confirms that this is obviously NOT the case. These buildings would never be built if this were true.


Mythical Momentum Transfer


Ryan Mackey wants us to believe that an alleged "energy surplus" will supposedly make a collapse look just like explosive disintegration. But what is the mechanism by which this "energy surplus" is applied to the destruction of an intact portion of a building?


An airborne slurry of debris whose diameter is several times the width of the structure is NOT a billiard ball. The mythical transfer of momentum upon which the self-crushing building theory depends assumes highly efficient impacts from solid masses, all concentrated within the original perimeter of the building.


A growing cloud of airborne debris doesn't even have definable boundaries, let alone an impact surface that would create this type of sudden and concentrated momentum transfer. Dropping a heavy steel ball onto something will do a lot more damage than dumping a mixture of sand and nails onto it, even if the total mass of the sand and nails is equal to that of the steel ball. Try this on your foot and you will see what I mean!


Truth or Tactics?


Ryan Mackey is big on intimidation tactics but his views are woefully lacking in meaningful analysis. From these characteristics, we can see that he is following in the footsteps of Popular Mechanics and other so-called "debunkers." He's trying to convince us that an impossible event actually happened, so he certainly has a tall order to fill. But rather than contributing something new and original to this game, he simply repeats the "tall tales" of others before him, which have no basis for validity other than the supposed "authority" of their sources.


He insults, misrepresents or dismisses the arguments that he is unable to counter, and his use of understatements and overstatements is intended to provoke meaningless arguments that can serve as yet another distraction from the non-reality of his position. 






Excerpt (pgs 46-47) from "On Debunking 9/11 Debunking" by Ryan Mackey:


The third and final citation, from Charles Thurston, makes the astonishing claim that the Towers did not collapse at all.  “They instead exploded,” writes Dr. Griffin, and quotes Mr. Thurston as follows:


At the onset of destruction for each Tower, we do see that the top part of each building began to fall, and this, no doubt, is what gives the initial impression that a collapse is taking place.  In both cases, however, the upper block of floors somehow quickly disintegrates and is lost in the growing cloud of dust and debris.  There are no intact portions of either building that survive the wave of destruction that moves down each Tower.  [75]


The passage cited does not, to me, indicate anything inconsistent with the NIST hypothesis.  The falling and growing debris could be termed a “wave of destruction,” and the energy surplus has already been shown to be so great that discussing the collapse as “disintegration” seems to be nothing more than semantics.  Ironically, this quotation is taken from a website [76] subtitled “The Semantics of Deception and the Significance of Categories.”  The majority of his article focuses on what he considers misuse of words like “collapse,” “falling,” and even “explained,” and has very little in the way of scientific justification, or anything that could be considered support, however weak, of Dr. Griffin’s hypothesis.  What little it does contain centers on the following totally unsupported assertions:


Anyone who's ever played with an Erector Set knows that as long as the structural members remain well-connected, a framework may become twisted and distorted if it falls to the floor, but it will never just collapse into pieces under any scenario involving self-related and self-proportional forces.  Steel-frame buildings that have fallen in earthquakes also demonstrate this resistance to disintegration.


If a force large enough to cause total destruction was actually applied to the top of one of the Towers, the continuous vertical strength of the specially fabricated multi-story core columns with their welded connections and dense cross-bracing, along with the high-strength perimeter columns and the integrity of the structural concept as a whole, would cause the building to respond as an entire assembly, splitting out or buckling asymmetrically over a multi-floor region, much like pushing down on a bundle of archery bows.  [76]


Thurston includes two photographs of structures that toppled over rather than collapsed, as if to suggest that the WTC Towers should also have toppled over.  What Thurston apparently fails to recognize is that his photographs are of concrete structures approximately ten stories tall, and that the taller a building is, the less likely it is to topple intact.  This is because the angular momentum required to topple the structure scales as the square of its height, while the ability of a column to withstand such bending decreases with the square of its length.  As a result, a 100-story building toppling over would experience 100 times as much stress as a 10-story building, and columns would be 100 times less able to resist buckling.  This is why tall structures, including those of relatively high strength-to-weight such as radio towers, almost never topple without buckling or breaking apart in at least one location in mid-air.  This also explains why very small structures, such as Erector sets, often topple intact.  Thurston’s claim that an Erector set adequately predicts the WTC Tower collapse behavior is not worthy of discussion.