A former employee of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has stepped forward and criticized the government agency for ignoring the scientific errors found in its report on the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7) during the September 11, 2001, attacks. Peter Ketcham, who spent almost fifteen years working at NIST, described how the flawed investigation methods were significantly different from the normal standards used by NIST, in a letter to the editor of the respected Europhysics News magazine. Ketcham’s letter was published in the November 2016 issue and comes just months after the magazine’s August 2016 report examining the Building 7 collapse in detail, which has been downloaded over 350,000 times according to the website.
Peter Ketcham was a contributor to numerous scientific papers during his 14 years as a part of the High Performance Systems and Services Division and later the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Division. Ketcham wrote that he felt compelled to speak out about the NIST WTC 7 investigation after reading the report for the first time in August 2016 and comparing the results with the conventional criticism from other professionals. The NIST report on WTC 7 was published in August 2008, more than 6 years after the attacks, and it concludes that the building collapsed after structural failure due to fires caused by damage from debris when the Twin Towers collapsed earlier in the day.
The root problem with the WTC Building 7 report is that NIST could not perform a definitive study under common standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) because it lacked the physical evidence. Most of the structural steel was removed and melted down beginning within days after September 11, and some beams were stolen as reported by Telegraph. NIST only had access to about 150 smaller pieces of steel, called coupons, cut from the whole sections of structural steel beams.
Due to the lack of remaining evidence, NIST instead generated computer models of the building’s structure to test collapse theories using simulated fires to recreate the conditions prior to failure. The conclusions of the report have questioned for these reasons by thousands of physicists, engineers, and architects in the 15 years since the attacks, as documented by the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911).
The inconclusive methods used for the report are what led Ketcham to speak out after watching documentaries which criticized the report’s conclusions. He noted in his letter that he was “furious” with himself for not knowing and also at NIST for covering up the problems. “How could I have worked at NIST all those years and not have noticed this before,” Ketcham wrote.
“The NIST I knew was intellectually open, non-defensive, and willing to consider competing explanations. The more I investigated, the more apparent it became that NIST had reached a predetermined conclusion by ignoring, dismissing, and denying the evidence. Among the most egregious examples is the explanation for the collapse of WTC 7 as an elaborate sequence of unlikely events culminating in the almost symmetrical total collapse of a steel-frame building into its own footprint at free-fall acceleration,” Ketcham wrote.
The main pre-determined conclusion which Ketcham refers to is the theory created to explain why the 47-story building fell to the ground in about 12 seconds, which suggests the building suffered catastrophic failure in a short amount of time. NIST’s WTC 7 report concludes that fires led to the thermal expansion of long-span steel beams which supported the floors, causing one beam on the 13th floor to fall off of its seat. The report claims part of the 13th floor collapsed, triggering a chain reaction of floors failing around one specific vertical support column, which caused the building to fall in on itself.
NIST used computer modeling to generate the experimental environment from Building 7’s construction plans. However, professionals have criticized NIST because they have not released the models to the public for peer review. The models and methods have been questioned in many ways. However, the initial cause of the collapse receives the most scrutiny as researchers proved NIST did not accurately model the steel’s connection at the stated point of initial failure. NIST left out multiple smaller design elements shown in the construction plans which would have built a stronger connection in the computer model.
The resulting model simulation was released in a video by NIST. However, it shows the beam that failed is twisting in ways that are different from the physical properties of the steel’s connection. Researchers have shown that the NIST theory is significantly different from the possible sequences based on the construction plans and video evidence for multiple reasons.
NIST’s report on Building 7 has generated an increasing amount of controversy in academic circles and led to AE911 funding a study using computer models, which is still ongoing at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Researchers and activists have also been working to investigate the inconsistent methods.