Why There Were Explosions In The Twin Towers.

There are many things that seem to give credence to 9/11 conspiracy theories, and often they rely on a lack of understanding of extreme physics which people in their everyday life just don’t see – like “hot spots” in the smoldering rubble which “must” be the result of an explosion.  This seems more reasonable because people simply have no subjective basis for comparison in their everyday lives to comprehend 1.5 million tons of steel and concrete accelerating at 32 feet per second and hitting the ground faster than a nascar.  People just can’t wrap their brains around how much heat the friction of that impact can generate.  I’ve done blogs about 9/11 and other conspiracy theories before, you can read them here.  They include the claim that united 93 was a missile impact, why building 7 collapsed though it wasn’t hit by a plane, flourine conspiracy theories, chemtrails etc.

Anyway, on to the reasons why there were explosions in the twin towers (which has been verified, there is even I believe video footage of the damage to the lower floors).  When people think flaming jet fuel, they think fire, not explosions.  But it can actually produce both especially in large quantities.  But to understand how you have to first re-learn what fire is.  As odd as it may seem, it’s actually physically impossible for liquid jet fuel to catch on fire.  It can only ignite once it’s evaporated and can mix with enough oxygen to sustain the reaction we call fire.  As such the reaction can’t take place in the liquid itself which contains no oxygen, it takes place in the vapor above it.  This is why if you’ve ever lit a charcoal grill with starter fluid and watched the flames, they seem to dance above the coals and the coals themselves only turn to embers as the flame dies down.  This is because the fire starves the area of oxygen needed for the coals to turn to ash, so the coals (which aren’t aerated enough to burst into flames) gradually “burn” away from the residual heat of the fire, which generates enough heat to cook your meal without it tasting and smelling like starter fluid.

The truth is if you took a bucket of gasoline and threw a lit match into it, the match would ignite the fumes on the way to the bucket, then when it hit the actual gasoline the gas would put out the match.  As weird as it sounds, liquid gasoline actually puts out fire and has properties similar to water – we just never notice it because the vapors coming off of it burn so readily.  So if you took a metal bowl with a small hole in the bottom and put it on top of a cylinder and filled the bowl with kerosine (which is basically what jet fuel is) and lit the kerosine as you dumped it into the bowl, what would happen?  Any flames on the bottom of the bowl would be immediately put out by the kerosine itself the same way the gasoline puts out the match, and the fumes on top of the bowl would continue to burn off, so the bowl would be dripping liquid, un-ignited kerosine from the bottom while burning on the top.  What happens next?  Well, the kerosine would drip down into the cylinder and as it went it would give off fumes, filling the entire cylinder with explosive gas.  This is similar to a gas fire on a stove, it will safely burn if it ignites as the fuel becomes aerosolized, but if the fuel is left to become aerosolized and fill a large space then it will violently explode upon ignition.  Gas and kerosine work the same way. 

There are several ways the kerosine jet fuel in the twin towers could leak down into the severed elevator shafts and air ducts without igniting – one is the mechanics I just described, and the other is that the leaking jet fuel was ignited and dripped flame down the elevator shaft until the upper elevator shaft was starved of oxygen and the reaction couldn’t continue, at which time the jet fuel would simply drip down as liquid, cooling as it went, land and aerosolize.  At which point it could be ignited by any of a hundred things from electronics to static electricity, or it could simply continue to aerosolize as fresh air worked it’s way back up to the source of the fire which would act like a slow fuse, instantly detonating the jet fuel bomb that had formed once a connecting air pocket reached a spot hot enough to ignite.  The force of the explosion would be made more severe by the fact that the building was designed to be much stronger than your average building and presumably had security glass on the windows, so there wouldn’t be a lot of weak spots for the pressure to leave (whereas in say a natural gas explosion in a house the windows and possibly doors would be blown out, relieving much of the pressure). 

This reaction which could happen more or less instantaneously or have a delayed reaction, would truly be the equivalent of setting off a bomb.  And it not only could happen, it ought to.  It would be like running a stove in one room while there’s a gas leak in the other – once the gas leak works it’s way around to the open flame, bye bye goes your deposit – and probably your life.  All that is required is for there to be a liquid jet fuel barrier or an oxygen starved area between open flame and the elevator shafts and/or air vents.  If oxygen starvation is the culprit then the phenomenon is not dissimilar to a back-draft in a building fire.  Fire starves the area of oxygen so nothing can burn but it heats up the contents of a room to the point that they’re hot enough to auto-ignite.  Then a firefighter opens a door letting oxygen in and the contents of the room literally explode because they ignite simultaneously converting solids and liquids into gases which causes a shockwave of expanding gas which is by definition what a chemical bomb is.  This is also why in building fires you might occasionally see an explosion of fire out of a window, it’s because something in the fire itself let oxygen in like a window breaking from the heat or the frame burning away. 

Another possibility (and possibly more likely) is that the actual force of the impact caused a significant quantity of fuel to be injected at high speeds into the towers, much went down to the elevator shafts, and unlike the fireball of fuel that left the other side there was simply not enough oxygen in the elevator shafts or ventilation system to ignite it all, or the speed at which it was accelerating put out the flame (by cooling it as it went like blowing out a candle). 

9/11 was horrifying, but I do enjoy the weird and extreme physics of this stuff.  It’s kind of like my admiration for weapons of war – many of them are very elegantly designed and I’ve often thought it would be a fun job to invent new ways of killing people if you weren’t, you know, inventing new ways of killing people.


About agnophilo

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19 Responses to Why There Were Explosions In The Twin Towers.

  1. That is interesting.I think it is funny that people think the U.S. government could pull off something like 9/11.

  2. whyzat says:

    The physics ARE cool, even to someone with only a basic knowledge. I’ve read a number of articles on the 9/11 tragedy, and never understood why people think it was anything but a terrorist act by nutcases. My major question to them is, how many people would it have taken to pull this off? How do you keep any of them from blabbing? Could you  really get our own military to bomb their own country? To assure continued silence, you would have to kill everybody involved–hmm, who would be the last one alive?

  3. saturnnights says:

    I think it’s unlikely that our government could plan and pull this off. This is the same government that measures red tape with more red tape. No, this government isn’t slick enough for that. It had to be high-tech cave dwellers who hate freedom. Their plan was genious too… They attack us, and in return, we invade a completely different country, and change our laws until the victims are suspected, x-rayed & monitored electronically, spied on with drones, and linked to terror groups by saving extra food. This was accomplished with a few box cutters! Genius! Glad they didn’t have shampoo with them too, or the whole would would be under the control of a different set of radical fundamentalist fanatics, even worse than the Santorumites.

  4. Those of us who actually know a thing or two about science already understood that much of what the truthers were saying is hogwash. And as Dan points out, it takes a whole lot of (misguded) faith to believe that the U.S. government is both morally and logistically capable of pulling off something this big and keep it secret for 11 years.

  5. The_ATM says:

    “I’ve often thought it would be a fun job to invent new ways of killing people if you weren’t, you know, inventing new ways of killing people.”I have quite a few friends who graduated and went to work for the “defense” industry. I feel exactly the same about it, so I am applying to every non-defense job possible before I apply to any in the defense industry.Good post.

  6. leaflesstree says:

    I think conspiracy theorists are immune to logic, seriously. I saw a program about the 911 conspiracies on the History Channel and they had experts who debunked every theory they got. It was like 2 hours long. But at the end the theorists, having heard all the science and logic, went on believing anyway. So yeah. I give up. 😛

  7. catstemplar2 says:

    Hey bro, remind me to hire you next time us think tank types need a new bomb buster to blow up the Iranian nuclear reactors.

  8. Aloysius_son says:

    I was trying to explain this to a group of coworkers, all with IQ’s under 95.

  9. YouToMe says:

    Mil gracias, Marcos.  muy interesante, amigo/hermano mio.  

  10. Excellent post. I was once one of those people who believe the 9/11 conspiracy theories. That is what happens when you accept things without researching them yourself. 

  11. Nous_Apeiron says:

    Good post.  I’ve had a lot of coworkers spout the 9/11 conspiracy theories, and it’s increasingly difficult for me to not rain on their parade.

  12. Very well explained,even I understood it.

  13. TheSutraDude says:

    thanks for the explanation. it not only makes sense but now i wish i was barbecuing. i was there at work that morning. after evacuating and being guided by police to the bank of the Hudson River many of us stood there watching the North Tower burning. we had no idea what was really going on and i fully expected to go back to work after the fire was put out which is why i stayed there. imagine that. i watched as the fire traveled from one floor to the floor beneath it and the floor beneath that which seemed counter-intuitive. i would have expected the fire to travel upward but not downward. i never bought into the conspiracy theory. 

  14. QuantumStorm says:

    I often used to correct my Truther friends when they would make all sorts of ridiculous claims regarding the structural collapses or the “molten steel” and all that jazz. But after a while, it gets tedious reviewing basic metallurgical principles with them each time you try to explain the warping of steel structures under heat. For the most part, the biggest sticking point for the Truthers, at least what I’ve seen, is WTC 7 – which, in my opinion, was sufficiently explained by NIST and the other groups, but for some reason it’s more difficult for the Truthers to take the time to understand basic mechanical engineering and metallurgical principles than it is to simply reject the story because it happens to contradict a position in which they’ve emotionally invested themselves. 

  15. cmdr_keen says:

    Great information! It’s certainly interesting to see how physics can really do things that are beyond most people’s comprehension.What gets me is the same type of people who believe that the government can be involved with actions such as 9/11 then turn around and say that the government can’t possibly be involved with mundane everyday occurances because they’re too bureaucratic and tied up that everything would grind to a halt due to the inefficiencies present in the system. Hypocrites much?

  16. Kellsbella says:

    Thanks. That was interesting……I suppose this is why my husband refuses to let me grill…….Just out of curiousty, what do you think the effects would be had their been a bomb planted on the plane?

  17. Interesting.  One of your better posts.Incidentally, the goal of any warrior is to end war – yes, only on his terms, but the ultimate purpose of developing a better weapon is to convince one’s opponents that they don’t want you to use them.  Looked at in that light, a marginally superior weapon perpetuates killing, but a far superior weapon reduces killing.  At least for a while.

  18. an_OM_aly says:

    Reality made more interesting than conspiracy theories, cuz it’s real.

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