Saturday, November 16, 2013

Example 1 of Relevant Evidence of the WTC Collapses that NIST did not Investigate: FEMA's Appendix C

A friend has recently accused me of arrogance in suggesting that I, a layman, can somehow judge what evidence is relevant to a proper investigation of the collapses of the WTC towers on 9/11.  So I thought I would discuss a few examples and show why even a layperson should be able to discern that no proper investigation of the collapses was performed by NIST.   The first example: 

FEMA had conducted a preliminary, very limited investigation of the collapses of all three WTC towers on 9/11. In Appendix C they discuss "two structural steel members with unusual erosion patterns were observed in the WTC debris field." In their conclusion, they stated:

 "The severe corrosion and subsequent erosion of Samples 1 and 2 are a very unusual event. No clear explanation for the source of the sulfur has been identified. The rate of corrosion is also unknown. It is possible that this is the result of long-term heating in the ground following the collapse of the buildings. It is also possible that the phenomenon started prior to collapse and accelerated the weakening of the steel structure. [My emphasis] A detailed study into the mechanisms of this phenomenon is needed to determine what risk, if any, is presented to existing steel structures exposed to severe and long-burning fires."

FEMA makes clear that they had found samples of structural steel from WTC1 or 2 and from WTC7, and that they did not know if these samples "accelerated the weakening of the steel structure" prior to collapse.  In other words, FEMA had uncovered what may have been relevant evidence in an explanation of the collapses of the WTC buildings.  A proper investigation would have tried to determine what caused the corrosion of these samples, when it occurred, and whether it accelerated the weakening of the steel structures prior to collapse.

What sort of investigation did NIST perform relevant to these samples?   None whatsoever.  Zip. Zero. Nada.

Someone does not need to be an expert to see  that NIST's failure to investigate what caused the corrosion of FEMA's steel samples is an example of ignoring relevant evidence.  

Professional engineer Jonathan Cole did conduct experiments related to FEMA's samples.   The first involved an attempt to reproduce it using materials that would have been present in a normal office fire: 9/11 Experiments: The Mysterious Eutectic Steel, but Cole was unable to produce similar samples:

However, when Cole performed his 9/11 Experiments: The Great Thermate Debate, by using thermate he was able to produce samples that looked eerily similar to FEMA's samples:  


No microscopic or metallurgic analysis has been done of Cole's samples, but his experiments are far more than anything NIST was willing to do to solve the mystery of FEMA's corroded steel.  A person would need to be willfully blind to complain that a layperson has no reason to doubt that the NIST's official investigation included all the relevant evidence.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Effects of Wealth Inequality on How We Think and Behave

Fascinating report on studies revealing the effects of wealth inequality on how people think and behave: Money on the Mind:

HT: Joel Watts, Unsettled Christianity.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thomas Nagel on Intelligent Design

In his book, Mind and Cosmos:  Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,  the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel offers some rather strong words in support of the endeavor of Intelligent Design theorists, even though he does not accept their theories:

"...Even though writers like Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, the empirical arguments they offer against the likelihood that the origin of life and its evolutionary history can be fully explained by physics and chemistry are of great interest in themselves.  Another skeptic, David Berlinski, has brought out these problems vividly without reference to the design inference.  Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should  be taken seriously.  They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met.  It is manifestly unfair.

     "Those who have seriously criticized these arguments have certainly shown that there are ways to resist the design conclusion; but the general force of the negative part of the intelligent design position - skepticism about the likelihood of the orthodox reductive view, given the available evidence - does not appear to me to have been destroyed in these exchanges.  At least, the question should be regarded as open.  To anyone interested in the basis of this judgment, I can only recommend a careful reading of some of the leading advocates on both sides of the issue - with special attention to what has been established by the critics of intelligent design.  Whatever one may think about the possibility of a designer, the prevailing doctrine - that the appearance of life from dead matter and its evolution through accidental mutation and natural selection to its present forms has involved nothing but the operation of physical law - cannot be regarded as unassailable.  It is an assumption governing the scientific project rather than a well-confirmed scientific hypothesis.

     "I confess to an ungrounded assumption of my own, in not finding it possible to regard the design alternative as a real option.  I lack the sensus divinitatus that enables - indeed compels - so many people to see in the world the expression of divine purpose as naturally as they see in a smiling face the expression of human feeling.  So my speculations about an alternative to physics as a theory of everything do not invoke a transcendent being but tend toward complications to the immanent character of the natural order.  That would also be a more unifying explanation than the design hypothesis.  I disagree with the defenders of intelligent design in their assumption, one which they share with their opponents, that the only naturalistic alternative is a reductionist theory based on physical laws of the type with which we are familiar.  Nevertheless, I believe the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude for challenging a scientific world view that owes some of the passion displayed by its adherents precisely to the fact that it is thought to liberate us from religion." (pp. 10-12)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What's more Unreasonable than Denial of Global Warming and Evolution? Predicting Inflation.

Or so says Paul Krugman.

Back to the evidence versus the orthodoxy. I can, in a way, understand refusing to believe in global warming — that’s a noisy process, with lots of local variation, and the overall measures are devised by pointy-headed intellectuals who probably vote Democratic. I can even more easily understand refusing to believe in evolution. But the failure of predicted inflation to materialize is happening in real time, right in front of our eyes; people who kept believing in inflation just around the corner lost a lot of money. Yet the denial remains total.
I guess it’s a matter of who you’re gonna believe — Ayn Rand or your own lying eyes.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Has Science Disproven Free Will?

Occasionally I read - usually at Jerry Coyne's blog - of some study that is supposed to cast doubt on or disprove free will.  The study usually involves hooking up the human subjects to machines that scan their brains while they are asked to make some arbitrary choice.  Then the machine detects that the brains have made a choice before the subjects are consciously aware of making it themselves.   "Aha!" say the researchers,  "This proves that the choices were physically determined by the brain, not by the conscious decisions of the subjects."   Then someone like Coyne comes along and generalizes from these studies that all of our conscious decisions are physically determined prior to our consciously choosing them.

Perhaps people like Coyne are right.  But before we swallow the argument, let's chew it over a bit.  If I'm asked to make an arbitrary decision, one which I can find no conscious reason for deciding one way or the other, how do I go about making my choice?  From my own instrospections, I seem almost to pull a lever in my brain, as if it were a slot machine at a casino, and let it determine what choice I should make.  Then the brain seems to "spin" for a short period of time until it determines what alternative I should choose.  At some point in time I consciously make the choice.  But it wouldn't surprise me to find out that my brain had already made the choice before I consciously knew about it.  So it doesn't surprise me when studies suggest that this is what happens when other people are asked to make an arbitrary decision.  We don't have any conscious reason to choose one alternative over another, so we let our brains do the choosing for us.

What I think would be a more interesting study is asking people to do a logic or math problem and then choose what they think is the right answer.  I'm curious what the brain machines would show then.  I suspect that the conscious choice of an answer would be either simultaneous to or maybe even prior to what the brain chooses.

But perhaps such studies have already been done.  If so, I would be curious to know what the results were.