Terrorist Attacks of 9/11/01 - the Physics

First realized on 9/11/01 but not presented until May 2011

Osama bin Laden would have been a fool to only plan to kill the 3,000 people he caused to die on 9/11/01. He was smarter than that. He clearly intended to cause at least 50,000 people to die in New York that day and possibly close to 70,000 people total, more than twenty times the number of people he actually caused to die on that day.

In other words, as he watched the newscasts of the events of that day, Osama bin Laden had to see each of the four attacks as DISMAL FAILURES on that day, and he must have been extremely disappointed!.

The events which occurred on 9/11/01 were terrible, but they were nowhere near as horrific as what Osama bin Laden had certainly planned to occur. All four attacks were actually essentially FAILURES from what OBL had wanted to cause, and so all four had to be extreme disappointments to OBL.

However, President Bush and others in the US government reacted so hysterically on that day, that the PERCEPTION of events were described as so horrific that clearly OBL soon discovered that he liked the notoriety he was getting! Not bad for having planned attacks which were actually each failures! The fact that EVERY news broadcast was mentioning the name Osama bin Laden at least 25 times was creating a celebrity for OBL that he clearly did not deserve!

It was truly unfortunate that there was no genuine scientist close to Bush and Cheney then. But it probably would not have mattered as Cheney was already making plans to attack Iraq and Afghanistan and Bush had made very clear three months earlier (in a televised news conference with the Prime Minister G├÷ran Persson of Sweden on June 14, 2001) that he hated Sadam Hussein for having tried to "kill my daddy". As I watched that press conference, the EXPRESSION on Bush's face as he expressed his hatred of Saddam caused me to say to two friends "My God! We are going to invade Iraq!" That was THREE MONTHS BEFORE the events of 9/11/01!

That Press Conference was aired live, and it was mostly about the Kyoto Protocol regarding Global Warming. But Bush did not believe that there was any such thing as Global Warming, and he always insulted anyone who ever even mentioned the idea of Global Warming. In any case, when the Press Conference was complete, the two remained sitting there on the stage and they started a quiet personal conversation, where Bush clearly did not realize that the live cameras were still rolling! So three of us men at home listened to Bush making rather private comments to Persson. A New York Times Reporter, a Frank Bruni, who did NOT attend the Press Conference, did a story which ran in their June 16 newspaper, which mentioned this odd fact that Bush did not realize that a live camera was airing his personal comments to the world's viewers. Mr. Bruni mentioned several peculiar comments of Bush, but he did not mention that President Bush made a terrifying comment about 'He tried to kill my Daddy' about Saddam Hussein. To me, the part that caused a chill to run down my back was the deadly serious expression on Bush's face as he said it. I have only ever seen such an expression on the face of a Gangster who was being arrested, when a Reporter asked him if he was going to do anything to the opposing Gangster who had recently murdered the Gangster's sister. The Gangster almost did not need any words as his facial expression made very clear that everyone should expect to soon see that competing Gangster dead. The expression said it all, and Bush's expression on June 14, 2001 was exactly as chilling. THAT was why I immediately said to my friends that America was about to invade Iraq, with the single purpose of killing Saddam Hussein.

At the time I had a long-term friendship with Peter Jennings of ABC News, but that was the only day of more than ten years of knowing Peter that he seemed so distraught that he seemed beyond the logic which I had normally shared with him. Some of Peter's dear friends had just died in the Twin Towers disasters, and I did not see how I could present the following logic to him on that day. On any later day, it would have been too late because the hysteria had spread everywhere even by the end of that day. So the fact that I could not convince anyone ON THAT DAY to describe the attacks as FAILURES, made it pointless to consider describing this on any later day. So I waited until today, just after the death of OBL, where he will not now ever be able to admit these failures in a deathbed confession.

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This was first realized on 9/11/01 but not presented anywhere. This presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 2011.

The best I accomplished with Peter was to encourage him to minimize the number of times he said the name Osama bin Laden in each broadcast, where I got Peter to generally refer to OBL instead. Peter realized that a person who had been nearly unknown a day earlier was now being made into a world celebrity, which I recommended to Peter to try to minimize. Nearly always after that, Peter referred to OBL, which I considered about the best I could hope for.

What was so wrong in the perceptions of the time?

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Either Tower

OBL clearly intended and expected to KNOCK EACH BUILDING OVER. He clearly knew that if a giant building with around 10,000 people inside it fell over in a few seconds, and LANDED ON all buildings within three blocks (the extreme height of those towers was roughly equal to three horizontal city blocks), he could kill maybe 20,000 people INSTANTLY, for maximum terror effect. A couple hundred IN the airliner, ten thousand IN the tower and another ten thousand in buildings and stores that would get landed on. An airplane still nearly full of jet fuel (only having used up a small amount of fuel by then in the short flight from Boston) would also have added a spray of burning Jet Fuel onto other nearby buildings which were not directly landed on.

In other words, between the two buildings, it is realistic that OBL expected to kill at least 50,000 people just in New York. The REALITY was that only around 2,000 people were killed there, and many of them actually had a valid chance of getting out of the buildings in the hour and a half before they each collapsed.

TWO thousand instead of FIFTY THOUSAND? That was a dismal failure compared to what OBL had planned and expected. THAT should have been a true disappointment for OBL.

My thought was that THAT MORNING, the US government and all news media SHOULD HAVE referred to the two buildings as terrible BUT AS FAILURES regarding trying to kill the 50,000 that was clearly intended!

IF all news broadcasts repeated that, of the attacks being FAILURES, then the worldwide celebrity created for OBL would never have happened. He would have been seen as a terrorist who planned big, but who had DISMALLY FAILED in what he had intended to do.

NO "terrorist genius" as was promoted. A "loser" who was able to kill a lot of people, but not nearly what he had intended or expected.

THAT would have enormously changed the course of the next ten years! Thousands of people would NOT have wanted to follow a LOSER, where they DID want to follow the "genius" OBL.

WHY would OBL have expected that? An airliner is a HEAVY object, on the order of 350,000 pounds, of which around 150,000 pounds was flammable Jet fuel, AND it is traveling at around 500 mph. Fortunately, OBL was not a good scientist and he apparently did not have any good scientists around him. A POOR scientist might have tried to calculate the IMPACT of a 350,000-pound object moving at 500 mph against a tall building, and might have told UBL that it would knock the building over.

Actually, that was a realistic expectation IF airliners were built to be sturdy! But in order to fly, airliners are essentially made to be like big empty beer cans, which crumpled up with far less resulting impact to the building. Only parts like the engines, which were structurally more solid, would have tended to go through the buildings. The buildings both shivered but did not get knocked over. When OBL saw that neither of the buildings got knocked over, he must have been very disappointed. HE HAD FAILED!

Fortunately for OBL, the American government and news media reacted with wild hysteria, where the result was that he managed to cause nearly as much "terror" as he had hoped to create. WE caused most of that! Again, if we had the insights to be referring to the 9/11 attacks as FOUR FAILURES, the overall importance of it all would have been far less than our hysteria made it.

Again, it was truly unfortunate that Cheney and Bush both WANTED to create as much hysteria and terror as possible for the attacks they wanted to justify in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Any careful examination of the LOGIC clearly establishes these facts. IF OBL had wanted to TRAP thousands of people inside the buildings, he would have instructed the pilots to aim much lower when hitting the buildings. If several lower floors were destroyed and on fire, many more thousand people would have been trapped to die in the buildings. The fact that both airliners hit rather high on the buildings makes clear that was NOT the intention! OBL had no way of knowing that each building might pancake an hour and a half later, and if they had not, or if fire suppression equipment could have worked, only a few hundred people might have died in the two Towers. OBL would NOT have planned that when he had to realize that if he could have knocked both buildings over, he might have killed around 50,000 people that day.

To try to knock the buildings over, OBL had to realize that it was more effective to hit the buildings relatively high, for maximum LEVERAGE to try to break the buildings loose from the ground. And both airliners DID hit moderately high.

It is also significant that both airliners had been given a flight path where they would hit the buildings flat-on from a side, and not from a corner. Again, this increases the leverage of the impact. Both flights also approached from over the East River, where there were no other tall buildings in the way, so they each had rather clear views of essentially the entire buildings. IF they had wanted to, both buildings could have been hit relatively low, IF the desire was actually to cause fire and trap people above the destroyed floors.

So, for OBL to have PLANNED things to go as they did that day would have been immensely foolish. Had the buildings not later pancaked due to the effects of fire, there might have been more people killed inside the airliners than in New York City on that day! He CLEARLY intended and expected to be able to knock both buildings over. Al Qaeda has shown itself for wanting to try to get maximum media attention for its actions, such as making movies of beheading people, and the videos of the two giant buildings being knocked over and landing on many other buildings would have been far more in line with what they seem to try to do. That WOULD HAVE BEEN even more impressive and horrific than what we all watched that day, but as it was, OBL MUST HAVE BEEN very disappointed at first. Only our hysterical reactions gave the impression that OBL was smart or that he had designed an effective act of terrorism.

Pentagon

I have always considered the attack on the Pentagon as being easily describable as a failure. Yes, a FEW people were killed inside the Pentagon, but not enough to make any big claims over. A very small portion of an extremely sturdy building was damaged, barely even affecting activities inside most of the building. Again, if the New York attacks had already been being described as failures, the Pentagon attack would have easily fit right in there.

Pennsylvania Airliner

As to a clear and dismal failure, as far as OBL was concerned, that fourth airliner certainly was it. It never even got near whatever intended target it had in Washington, when the heroic passengers took matters into their own hands. In fact, IF the four attacks had been described as all dismal failures, the Pennsylvania airliner would have added the punctuation, of showing the heroism of American passengers!

In other words, by the end of 9/11/01, we SHOULD HAVE been all be expressing Thanks to the Lord for the fact that only 3,000 victims died that day instead of close to 100,000 that OBL certainly had planned and had intended to celebrate, AND we should have been CELEBRATING those hero passengers on the Pennsylvania airliner as well as the NYC Firefighters who had gone INTO the two towers to try to save people.

Yes, it WAS a terrible day for us. It should NOT have been anywhere near as terrible as our hysteria caused it to be. And IF the American public had been told, and explained as above, that we were LUCKY that ONLY 3,000 people were killed instead of the 100,000 or more that OBL had planned, we MIGHT have seen some cause to feel some comfort.

Unfortunately, that is NOT how it all proceeded, as we all know.


I had always hoped that OBL might have someday ADMITTED that 9/11/01 had not gone anywhere near as he had planned, but now that he has been killed, we will never hear him admit that. I suppose there is a remote chance that one of those computer hard drives that the Seals collected from his compound might include some hint about that, but I doubt if OBL would have kept around anything for ten years that might have suggested he was not the miracle-worker that the world had credited him as being. Given that he got so much unexpected "credit" for genius thinking, worldwide, he probably would never have admitted it to anyone anyway. In retrospect, in the long run, it all came out about as well as he might have hoped.

Shortly after 9/11, when my dear friend Peter Jennings was clearly so distraught, I made a foolish comment to him. I was trying to calm him down with my usual logic, but clearly did not! I tried to present some of the science which he knew me for. I tried to point out that the US has around 310 million people, and that we each have an expected lifetime of around 75 years or about 28,000 days. I tried to show the math division for him to show that it turns out that EVERY DAY in the US, approximately 11,000 Americans die (mostly of natural causes, but of accidents and illnesses, etc). I thought that I should try to tell Peter that on 9/11, the total effect was that around 14,000 died instead of the normal 11,000. I was trying to remove the thought of "3000 died today when NO ONE normally does". Peter knew me well enough to know that I MEANT WELL in that comment, but the fact that some of his dear friends had just died in those acts of terrorism did NOT allow "logic and science" to have any place that day.

UBL was NOT remotely the genius that pundits gave him the credit of being.


This presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 2011.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago