Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shorter Graeme MacQueen

"They didn't tell me where they got the three seconds, so I'm going to pretend it doesn't exist."

Longer version is that MacQueen (whose scholarly credentials are in the field of Religious Studies) is claiming that the seismic spike from the collapse of the South Tower occurred at 9:59:04 AM. The collapse began at 9:58:59 and the seismic spike is generally attributed to the building hitting the ground. But since the building didn't start impacting the ground until 9 seconds after the onset of collapse, the seismic spike couldn't have been caused by the building hitting the ground. The seismic monitoring station, Lamont-Doherty later adjusted their time of the seismic spike to 9:59:07, or eight seconds after the onset of collapse, which puts it accurate to within one second.

Here's the crux of MacQueen's paper:

And after that, he goes into hilarious detail as he tries to determine the collapse initiation time and the moment of impact. It just goes on and on forever, with MacQueen claiming precision in his analysis of video footage to within 1/1000th of a second despite the obvious fact that he's doing it by the seat of his pants:

Yes, let's suppose it took half a second, then that puts the precise time at 9:59:11.505. Not 9:59:11.504 or 9:59:11.506. It's completely inane, the sort of false precision that any real peer-review by a scientist would have corrected.

But let's grant MacQueen's timing and his precision; it still doesn't mean anything. Whether the collapse began at 9:58:59 or 9:59:00 and the seismic spike was recorded at 9:59:04 or 9:59:07, the basic fact remains that the seismic spike occurred after the building had already started to collapse. Unless MacQueen is going to claim that the building started to collapse and then they blew it up, his point is meaningless.