Monday, April 21, 2014

Steel-Wool Iron Spheres Debunked Again: Shame on NMSR´s Dave Thomas

Edited on May 28, 2014, red text revised in response to Dave´s ranting on - See also new article:

Mr. Dave Thomas announced on the JREF 9/11 forum, on the 19th of October, 2011, that he had posted a YouTube video called Iron microspheres prove Thermite? Despite some controversy, Mr. Thomas still advertizes the video on his NMSR webpage, where he states that:
"The answer to the mystery of the microspheres - "Iron melts only at temperatures far higher than possible in normal fires, so how could microspheres have possibly been formed on 9/11?" – is simply that very small metal particles have much lower melting points than their bulk material counterparts (around 900 o C for iron nanoparticles, as opposed to 1535 o C for bulk iron). This is called the "thermodynamic size effect." The towers contained thousands of computers and electric gadgets. Wires and filaments and meshes from electronics, as well as thin rust flakes and other small iron particles, could all have easily been made into microspheres during the WTC conflagration. To see a vivid demonstration of this phenomenon, watch the video on NMSR's YouTube channel, 'theNMSR', in which a BIC lighter is used to burn steel wool, creating numerous iron microspheres without any Thermite at all!"
The "thermodynamic size effect" does not apply to any materials at the WTC in 2001 because nano-sized iron was not yet commercially available small enough to benefit from the phenomenon. The video does not demonstrate it either because no melting is involved and no spheres are formed. Dave Thomas seems to believe that he has debunked the best evidence in Dr. Harrit´s 2009 nanothermite paper: the peculiar red/gray chips ignite at about 420C, and form the iron-rich spheres that several researchers discovered in the WTC dust. The spherical shape indicates previously melted iron and therefore a reaction temperature above 1400C, which is beyond the capability of conventional combustion in open air, including a jet-fueled building fire. Specialized high temperature coal furnaces can create spheres rich in iron-oxides, but the red/gray chips form spheres rich in elemental iron, and that is the hallmark of a thermite reaction.

Dave Thomas claims his YouTube experiment proves that normal fire temperatures easily form iron spheres, but this statement has three major problems: The first two problems are that the alleged "iron spheres" from his steel-wool experiment are neither iron nor spheres. The third problem is that Dave Thomas has known that his experiment is invalid since the day after the debut of the video, because his JREF forum colleague debunked it on the forum that day!

Part 1: Oystein confronted Dave Thomas on the JREF forum, the day after the initial release of the video, and debunked it from several different angles. Most notably, Oystein recognized that burning steel-wool nets iron-oxide, not iron:
  "At 6:23, you commit a blunder, a false statement: "...spheres were indeed pure iron". Urr say what?"
In response, Dave Thomas retracted the video the same day, and Oystein boasted to Miragememories that "...the difference between faithful truthers and skeptics: We listen to good criticism and hasten to correct our mistakes" And MM replied, "Nice to know Dave has some integrity." 

But Oystein was too quick to assume that the JREF forum could live up to the standard of true skeptics, and MM was too quick to congratulate Dave for having integrity, because Dave Thomas re-posted the same old video again a couple of weeks later, in shortened form, without retracting the false-statement. Dave did however edit out the EDS reading that exposed his dishonesty:

None of Dave´s fellow "debunkers" on the JREF forum had a problem with that, and in 2014, Dave and friends continue to advertize the video and pretend to know nothing about the controversy. And that says all there is to say about the faithful pseudo-skeptics of the JREF forum:

Part 2: Someone noted another problem in January 2012, on the same thread that originally introduced Dave´s YouTube video. Steen Svanholm had performed the steel-wool experiment on Danish TV and received a response from Dr. Harrit, who stated that: "The particles he points to after the experiment are ironoxide and they are not round."

By this time, Oystein had decided to toe the line and obfuscate his previous observation of iron-oxide in the alleged "spheres," and Harrit´s observation about non-spheres was simply left unaddressed by Oystein and all the others:

Harrit´s comment on the so-called "spheres" not really being spheres intrigued me, so I did some research and found a paper that explains everything: The steel-wool itself does burn without flames, but there is no melted metal involved and therefore no actual spheres. Localized internal contaminants burn within the steel-wool wire and form gas which inflates the heat-softened wire. The result is a hollow semi-spherical product that is usually confined to the wire, or burdened with left-over horns from the wire if expelled. Dave Thomas´s original JREF post that announced the completion of the experiment has a photo of one of his horned, semi-spherical, iron-oxide "faux-spheres":

Part 3: Dave Thomas happens to be the president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, and NMSR states that the group,
"consists of individuals, including scientists and non-professionals alike, who share the goals of promoting genuine science, the scientific method, and rational and critical thinking....We are skeptical, however, of those groups who misuse and misrepresent science. We oppose the use of fabrication, flawed logic, distortion of facts, and pseudoscientific propaganda by any and all groups who twist science to suit their own ends..."
Yet, the president´s YouTube pseudo-science is the depiction of this kind of distortion of facts to suit an agenda. Dave´s re-posting of an experiment that has been falsified by his own colleague on his own forum is inexcusable. And a forum of proper skeptics would not tolerate this behavior, but nothing has changed since Dr. Greening gave up and left the JREF 9/11 forum in 2007, denouncing it for "smothering scientific debate". This kind of misconduct is currently known as pseudo-skepticism, and interestingly enough, it was none other than Marcello Truzzi who revived the term to describe these kinds of tactics. Truzzi was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), which is currently called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. CSI is known as the original forum of skeptics, the forerunner of JREF, and the publisher of the Skeptical Inquirer. Truzzi actually left CSI early on because he felt the members "tend to block honest inquiry" and "move the goal-posts" - echoing Dr. Greenings comments about the "debunkers" at the JREF 9/11 forum. Dave Thomas happens to be a member of CSI, but he is also a teacher of physics and critical thinking at New Mexico Tech, which is a much more serious matter! The misrepresentation of data is a form of scientific misconduct in the academic world, and this can have dire consequences!

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