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As it turns out, the real weapon was the jet fuel on the airplanes after all.
My initial calculation mistakenly divided gravitational potential energy as
expressed in Joules by combustion energy as expressed in kilojoules. Thus,
using methane as a rough guide to the heat of combustion of TNT, the energy
released by the collapsing building would only have been equal to 42 tons of
TNT, not 42 kilotons. 42 kilotons does seem a rather shocking figure, come to
think of it. I don't happen to have the exact figure for the heat of
combustion of TNT, so this corrected figure is still just a rough estimate.
I also misspelled kilotons "killotons," putting in the word "kill." Perhaps a
Freudian slip, as the attack resulted in a mass kill of people.
In a message dated 9/20/2001 10:57:00 PM Central Daylight Time,
> Subj: The Real Weapon
> Date: 9/20/2001 10:57:00 PM Central Daylight Time
> From: AaronLynch@aol.com
> Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Reply-to: email@example.com
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Thanks, Anne.
> Unfortunately, I don't think that Dawkins identifies the main weapons, at
> least not as used in New York. The main weapons used in New York were the
> trade center towers and surrounding sky scrapers themselves. They were the
> source of most of the energy that did the mass killing. I suspect that the
> planners of this attack actually carried out the calculations of
> power before the attack, and that running the calculation again may give a
> view of their mind set.
> As a trigger device, the Boeing 767 derived most of its energy from the on
> board fuel. Its fuel capacity is about 90,000 Litres, which would weigh
> 80,000 metric tons. That is, 0.08 killotons of reducer, which comes to
> 0.15 killotons of something such as TNT (trinitrotoluene), which has 6
> atoms per 7 carbon atoms.
> Estimates of the amount of rubble released by the collapsing towers ranges
> from 600,000 tons to 2,000,000 tons. The energy released is equal to the
> m times the gravitational acceleration at Earth's surface g times the
> h by which the center of mass was dropped. Assuming the center of mass
> down by 200 meters, and putting g at 10 meters per second per second, we
> E = 2000m in Joules. The Merck index lists the energy content of methane
> burned in oxygen at 13,300 killocalories, which comes to about 55,000
> killojoules. So the energy of the building's collapse, expressed in terms
> weight of methane, is 2000/53000 times mass m, or 0.037m. Assuming that it
> would take 13/7 times as much TNT to produce the same energy, we get E =
> 0.07m. For m = 600,000 tons, or 600 killotons, the energy released becomes
> 0.07 times 600 or 42 killotons of TNT equivalent. That is equal to about
> combined energy released by the two nuclear weapons used during World War
> The collapse of the buildings even happened as a chain reaction of floors
> hitting floors.
> It is also reasonable to suppose that the killers wanted to kill all
> people who worked in the World Trade Center. One thing that kept the 42
> killotons "yield" from killing hundreds of thousands is that the energy
> mostly directed down into the earth, where much of it became localized
> that continues to help make the ruins smolder, and most of the rest raced
> away as an underground shock wave. Another thing that kept the death toll
> from going into the 6 figures was the energy release happened over the
> "lengthy" span of at least 9 seconds, the time it takes for the highest
> to reach the ground in a 400 meter fall. A nuclear blast wave is deadlier
> because its energy mostly hits in a split second. Nevertheless, it seems
> likely that the killers wanted their weapons to be about as deadly as
> The scale of the attack, along with smuggled messages from Osama Bin Laden
> himself indicate that provoking an all out war was the objective. The
> apparent intention to target the White House and perhaps the Capitol
> further suggest that this is the case. Anyone who intended to collapse the
> civilian government must be seen as wanting to cause an emergency military
> takeover in the USA. Such people might have expected and even desired vast
> escalations, including actual nuclear war. If they had gotten all the
> they wanted, the potential loss of life would be far into the millions,
> only in the USA, but also in any Muslim lands that US generals might have
> as aggressors. I am not sure that even Dawkins has fully stated the level
> Even with the worst scenarios not being realized, there remains the danger
> coming from the fact that the idea of using a jetliner as a trigger device
> for political and structural collapse has now been widely disseminated.
> As to the evolutionary origins of the danger, I have put in my book
> Contagion some discussion of religious warfare, including the violent
> of jihad, and the ideas of martyrdom for those who die fighting for Islam.
> The book also contains some discussion of the evolutionary factors that
> make some religious movements jingoistic while others are pacifistic.
> --Aaron Lynch
> In a message dated 9/15/2001 7:42:15 PM Central Daylight Time,
> email@example.com writes:
> > Subj: Dawkins View
> > Date: 9/15/2001 7:42:15 PM Central Daylight Time
> > From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Anne.)
> > Sender: email@example.com
> > Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
> > To: email@example.com
> > Here is the link to the Dawkins piece!
> > http://www.guardian.co.uk/wtccrash/story/0,1300,552388,00.html
> > Anne.
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