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Why the Harrit Nano-thermite paper has not yet been debunked

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Many "debunkers" maintain the erroneous belief that the April paper by Harrit et al. has been debunked. This paper of course is entitled "Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe" and was published in the The Open Chemical Physics Journal on April 3, 2009. I will itemize the specious "proofs" below in order of comical absurdity along with their refutation:

[ the paper can be obtained here ]

The scientists in the paper failed to realize that all the elements in the chips found were there in the building contents. There was much steel which rusts making iron oxide, aluminum from the facade. During the collapse the material was pulverized and then crushed to create the red/gray chips.

The red/gray chips found all had uniform red/gray layers and identical composition [1]. In nano-thermite, at least either the aluminum or iron oxide particles are 100 nanometers (nm) (100 billionths of a meter) or less [2]. The red layer contains plate-like aluminum components 40 nm in thickness mixed in a solidified matrix with highly uniform iron-rich rhomboid components [1]. Random mixing of building material can't create such uniform highly engineered materials.

The paper is bunk because it was published in a non-peer-reviewed vanity publication.

There is absolutely no evidence that The Open Chemical Physics Journal is a vanity publication. It is an open journal which means anyone can read the papers within it for free. Closed journals require you to purchase an expensive subscription in order to read the papers. Open journals instead charge the authors a fee to submit a paper. Some open journals only charge the fee when the paper is accepted for publication. Open journals are a superior format because they allow scientific data to be freely accessible to everyone instead of being closed off to a small minority. This journal was chosen because it is open. That means everyone on Earth can read the paper for free. Only subscribers can read articles from closed journals. Everyone else can only read abstracts. This paper needs to be read by everyone and that is exactly why it should have been published in an open journal.

There is absolutely no evidence that The Open Chemical Physics Journal is not a peer-reviewed journal. All the evidence suggests that it is in fact a peer-reviewed journal. It looks like a peer-reviewed journal and acts like a peer-reviewed journal. Bentham, the publisher, says that it is peer-reviewed. The journal editors and the journal contributors say it is peer-reviewed. So until someone provides evidence to the contrary The Open Chemical Physics Journal is, as far as we know, a peer-reviewed journal.

Recently Philip Davis submitted a fake manuscript to another Bentham open access journal [3], The Open Information Science Journal. The paper was created by a computer program named SCIgen and contained nonsensical statements. This paper was allegedly accepted after undergoing peer review. Obviously the peer review process appears to have been conspicuously absent in this particular case. "Debunkers" of the thermite paper take this as proof that no Bentham open publications have peer-review. However, Davis also admits that a similar submission was rejected by another Bentham journal, The Open Software Engineering Journal. So clearly there is only evidence that one Bentham journal, at one time, had a problem with its peer review process. What the "debunkers" have put forth is merely a fallacious guilt by association argument, in particular they commit the hasty generalization logical fallacy [4]. In other words, there is absolutely no substance to this argument. Bentham publishes over 200 scientific journals [5]. To say all Bentham journals are not peer-reviewed because one journal at one time had a problem with the peer review process is like saying all coins are green because you found copper oxide on a penny.

The paper is bunk because its editor in chief resigned saying she was not aware it was published in her journal and that it had nothing to do with physical chemistry or chemical physics. She also claimed she cannot judge the paper because the subject matter is outside her field of experience.

The paper does in fact deal with physical chemistry. Physical chemistry involves among other things, reaction kinetics on the rate of a reaction and the identity of ions on the electrical conductivity of materials [6]. In the paper they documented the reaction rates of the chips in relation to thermite and paint chips. They also subjected the red/gray chips to an electron beam and noted the poor conductivity of the red layer.

Chemical physics is the branch of physics that studies chemical processes from the point of view of physics [7]. This would involve things like studying the dissolution of chemical bonds as they did when they soaked red/gray and paint chips in MEK. Chemical physics also involves the study of nanoparticles which is what the whole paper is about.

Marie-Paule Pileni, the former Open Chemical Physics Journal editor in chief, in fact seems to have the ideal background to judge this paper. She has a thorough background in physical chemistry and chemical physics, as well as with explosives. She also has extensive connections to the defense industry [8]. These facts suggest more of her stretching the truth and resigning under pressure than due to incompetence or indignation. This paper leads to the undeniable implication that some of the most powerful people on Earth lied about what happened on 9/11 and were even possibly involved in the WTC tower demolitions. Would this not be a massive potential source of political pressure? Enough pressure for the editor to lie and resign?

The scientists that wrote that paper are incompetent. The chips they found were just paint chips from the heat-resistant primer coating the support beams.

According to NIST the primer paint contains large amounts of chromium, magnesium and zinc [9] but only trace amounts of chromium and zinc are sometimes found in the red/gray chips. Such primers are designed to be highly heat resistant. The red/gray chips ignite at 430C. According to NIST the primer paint does not ignite even at 800 C. Such primers are designed to be heat resistant not explosive.

Every "debunker" argument leveled against the nano-thermite paper reeks of faulty reasoning and ignorance of the facts. Those that use illogical reasoning and who distort and ignore facts are not skeptics but pathological skeptics. Pathological skepticism has absolutely no place in science.


[1] Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones, Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley, Bradley R. Larsen. Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe. The Open Chemical Physics Journal. Available from: click here

[2] Gash AE, Simpson RL, Tillotson TM, Satcher JH, Hrubesh LW. Making nanostructured pyrotechnics in a beaker. pre-print UCRL-JC-137593, Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory: Livermore, Ca; April 10, 2000. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from: click here

[3] The Scientist blog. Available from:

[4] Fallacy: Hasty Generalization (Nizkor Project). Available from: click here

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Michael Fullerton
BSc. Psychology/Computer Science

The men that American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest the most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. -- H L Mencken
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