Saturday, April 19, 2014

Debunking JREF´s Myriad and the Ferrihydrite Hypothesis for Iron Spheres

The JREF 9/11 forum is in a bit of a crisis these days, as the old excuses for the iron spheres found in the WTC dust have become increasingly transparent and ineffective as the years have gone by.  Myriad, one of the moderators of JREF´s 9/11 forum, put one such excuse on display on the 4th of October, 2010, in post #28 on the thread "iron rich spheres" - scientific explanation? Myriad´s "ferrihydrite hypothesis" states that (edited):
"... Wood, like all plant tissue, contains ferritins, iron-bearing protein complexes...It is also well established that wood fires leave behind ferromagnetic traces...The steps in between, addressing the questions of the physical and chemical forms of the ferromagnetic residues and how they form in wood fires, do not appear to have been formally studied. I hypothesize that the ferrihydrate in wood, liberated when the proteins burn, condenses exothermically into iron-rich droplets in the hot reducing environment of the flame...The process is the condensation of already separate iron macromolecules into larger droplets."
Myriad found some "iron-rich droplets" in the wood-ash, and assumes that the fire created them, despite the long standing forum consensus, even on the same thread, that iron-rich spheres are pervasive contaminants in our environment. He assumes that the iron source is the ferrihydrite from protein-complexes in the wood, which naturally occurs in spherical shapes on the nano-scale. According to Myriad´s hypothesis, the fire reduces the ferrihydrite and simultaneously "condenses" it into larger droplets - no melting required. 

Upon closer inspection of the text, the problems start to pile up:

1) The "physical form" of ferrihydrite ash residue has not been "formally studied" so the phenomenon of spherically shaped ferromagnetic residue is not formally recognized: There is no evidence that wood-burning produces spheres of any iron-bearing compound. The scientific method would dictate looking for another explanation for any observed spheres in the ash - such as external contamination - but following such a standard would negate the purpose of the JREF 9/11 forum.

2) Since the spherical phenomenon does not appear to have been recognized and studied, the hypothetical formation process has obviously not been formally studied. Myriad does not and cannot offer any description of the hypothetical "condensation" process, making it an empty phrase, so the hypothesis is quite literally nonsense.

That is the end of Myriad´s hypothesis, but for the sake of argument, let´s continue the story:

Myriad´s hypothesis is supposed to scientifically explain the "iron rich" spheres that several researchers discovered in the WTC dust. The remarkable thing about these spheres, besides the sheer abundance, is the elemental iron content, which distinguishes them from the known spherical metal contaminants in urban environments: iron-oxide fly ash spheres.

3) Even if we pretend that Myriad´s mythical condensation process is real, does it create elemental iron spheres, according to its maker? Myriad gives the answer in post #35 as "generally no" -  the only thing he can safely assume is that the ferrihydrite will transform into hematite.

The spheres would contain iron-oxide like fly ash spheres, not iron, so the hypothesis is a verbose waste of time. But again, let´s continue for the sake of argument:

4) Myriad does offer the preposterous speculation in post # 28 that "the hot reducing environment of the flame" could reduce iron-oxide. The flame burns/oxidizes materials, but the reduction agent in carbon reduction is the carbon monoxide gas (black smoke) from an oxygen starved smoldering fire. Myriad does recognize this fact in post #35 and suggests a structural fire would be likely to produce the environment for reduction to elemental iron. The problem is that Myriad omits the fact that carbon-monoxide gas is only half the requirement, even though one of his colleagues noted the other requirement for reduction to elemental iron on the forum; the other condition is a temperature of about 1250C, which is about 200C above the maximum obtainable in a building fire, and about double the temperature of an oxygen starved building fire.

And that really is the end of Myriad´s ferrihydrite hypothesis, which is a unique display of verbose circular reasoning where all of the premises and the conclusion are false. But Myriad´s story continues, so let´s take a peek for the sake of amusement. Again, post #28:
"[The ferrihydrite hypothesis ] would also explain where the iron-rich microspheres in coal ash (fly ash) come from. (And I believe some explanation of that is needed, since unburned coal does not contain iron spheres and coal is not burned at temperatures at or above the melting point of bulk iron.)"
The US Geological Survey confirms that coals primarily have iron sulfides and oxides, so the ferrihydrite premise is invalid. And although some furnaces may burn at temperatures below the MP of iron, those that produce fly ash spheres with melted iron-oxides do so at temperatures at or above the MP, typically in the 1400C to 1800C range - see here, here and here. And of course, fly ash spheres are not rich in iron, but they can be rich in iron-oxides

Myriad, on April 1, 2014, repeats the ferrihydrite hypothesis:
His forum friend, Chris Mohr, debunks it the same day: ...but no response from Myriad.

It can be sad and amusing to observe how far certain people will go to defend a strongly held belief, which in this case is the belief that one should expect to see iron spheres formed in a fire. It will be interesting to see if the JREF forum will treasure the ferrihydrite fallacy for another four years.