From the Archives: Debunking 9/11 myths: Why conspiracy theories can't stand up to the facts by Dunbar and Reagan

May 15 2011 Published by under book review, engineering, science books

I have a whole pile of science-y book reviews on two of my older blogs, here and here. Both of those blogs have now been largely superseded by or merged into this one. So I'm going to be slowly moving the relevant reviews over here. I'll mostly be doing the posts one or two per weekend and I'll occasionally be merging two or more shorter reviews into one post here.

This one, of Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts, is from February 24, 2008.


This is one of those books that I picked up at a the train station cheap remaindered books kiosk. I do that every once in a while, find a quick read for a long train ride. And this short book is certainly a short and involving read. It's an expansion of a long article in Popular Mechanics a few years ago which took at a bunch of different 9/11 conspiracy theories, looked at the facts from a science and engineering perspective and decided if the theory had any real basis. Guess what? None of them did.

This may be a quick read, but it's still a very important one. There's a lot of stupid stuff on the Web, a lot of it pet theories about what really happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. This book will, I hope, start the process of setting at least some of them straight.

What are some of the myths that are debunked? That not enough damage was caused to the buildings to cause them to collapse. That puffs of dust visible while the buildings were collapsing were the results of planned explosions. That nearby seismographs detected those planned explosions. That WTC 7's collapse was also the result of a controlled demolition. That the Pentagon's blast-proof windows could not have survived a real crash. That Flight 93 was shot down by jet fighters. Well, the list goes on.

And on that topic, in my opinion, are the myths effectively debunked? They certainly are. Some of them are so loopy that it's hard to even believe that some people out there give them any credence at all.

I would recommend this book without hesitation for all public, school and academic libraries.

Dunbar, David and Brad Reagan, eds. Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts. New York: Hearst, 2006. 170pp.

Update 2011.05.16. I should have noted that there's a new, expanded edition of this book coming out in August. Check it out here.

4 responses so far

  • dean says:

    Thanks for the tip. I hope you're ready for the hordes of losers (a.k.a "truthers") to descend on your site.

  • John Dupuis says:

    You're welcome, dean.

    As for the hordes, well, I seem to be lucky so far!

  • Joe A. says:

    I challenge any reader of this comment to explain the destruction of World Trade Center (WTC) Building 7 which was not hit by any airplanes. Collateral damage was caused by falling debris from the collapse of WTC Building 1 and subsequent fires scatter on lower floors of the building. Up to that time and since that time no high rise boilings have ever collapsed from damage caused by raging fire.

    The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) was tasked to determine the cause of the demise of Building 7. NIST’s explanation as to how fire caused Building 7 to collapse starts with thermal expansion, meaning that the fire heated up the steel, thereby causing it to expand.
    A steel beam on the 13th floor, NIST claims, caused a steel girder attached to Column 79 to break loose. Having lost its support, Column 79 failed, and this failure started a chain reaction, in which all 82 of the building’s steel columns failed. Oh really? It would be up to the individual to consider whether or not this hypothesis is even remotely plausible. Nevertheless, in its draft report NIST insisted that the building came down at 40% longer than freefall. Also, NIST insisted that falling debris from WTC Building 1 had no effect on the structural integrity of the building.

    However, on page 607 of the final report, NIST conceded that indeed for the first 2.25 seconds the building indeed fell at freefall and the significance of that concession is that freefall can only be achieved if there is zero resistance to the motion. In other words, the upper portion of Building 7 could have come down in free fall only if something had removed all the steel, concrete, office furniture, etc., in eight floors in the lower part of the building, which would have otherwise provided resistance.

    What could have removed eight floors from Building 7 for it to collapse at freefall? I am not saying what could have caused that phenomenon to happen because I do not know. I am simply defining the problem. That is "good" science. But it is quite a good mystery that needs to be solved.

  • Canada says:

    Whether you believe in the government or not, whether you're an engineer or not, whether you have any use for right-wingers or not, this book is for you. Dispassionately taking on all of the arguments of the conspiracy theorists, it crushes them with simple facts back by unerring logic. Conspiracy believers can rail all they want, calling people sheep and easily deceived but they have no answer--and no evidence. "Debunking 9/11 Myths" is the ideal handbook for those who prefer rationality over emotional certainty.

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