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Scholars for 9/11 Truth

On grand pianos and terminal velocities

by James H. Fetzer with Judy Wood and Anonymous Scholar

22 November 2006

Steve reports here that a "poll" taken on the Scholar's forum showed 60% favored a web site run by a 5-person committee, 32% favored voting on what appears by all members, and 8% favored the current arrangement, where I manage the site with advice from the steering committee. This result might be a bit more impressive if he had observed that only 25 out of some 400 members of the society cast votes, each weighing in at 4%.

Posting by a committee is guaranteed to produce mediocre and uninteresting posts. Only the most widely accepted views are going to be represented. Votes by the whole society would be absurd. It would take forever to secure a quorum, for example, and most of those that eventually appear would be out of date by the time they were put up on the web site. Based upon my experience, the ideas under consideration have little merit.

Steve does not mention that I advanced a proposal to resolve tensions within the society just yesterday, which, I suggest, are more deserving of being taken seriously. They are these:

. . . . . . .


Here are my proposals, which I invite all of you to consider:

(1) Steve and Kevin will strengthen the editorial board of the society's journal by adding up to a dozen highly-qualified hard science types, possibly drawn from the membership of SPINE;

(2) The editors will be more even-handed in processing papers that represent non-standard points of view, where there is some evidence of partiality to positions preferred by the editors;

(3) The web site will be overhauled to clearly demarcated be- tween proof that the official account is wrong and attempts to explain how it was done, which is overwhelmingly more difficult;

(4) The founder will make an effort to emphasize problems with the official account and be very careful in his discussions of the state of research to not create false impressions thereof.

(5) All parties will cease and desist from attacks upon each other, where objective discussion of the merits of different theories about the case should be done in a respectful manner.

We need resources to overhaul the web site, which may require some time and effort. Suggestions are welcome. Perhaps we can recruit professionals who will assist us in doing this. I will be glad to undertake the supervision of the project with advice from a new set of co-chairs or the steering committee. Perhaps this list would be willing to serve as that committee.


P.S. Steve and I have been invited to appear together at The
National Press Club on Wednesday, 10 January 2007. I
suggest we both accept the invitation and do our thing.

. . . . . . .

I have accepted the invitation to speak at The National Press Club, and I hope that Steve will as well. We could focus on what happened to the World Trade Center and discuss some of our differences in point of view. For example, after studying Judy's work, I am convinced that the problem we confront in explaining what happened is vastly greater than just what happened to WTC-1 and WCT-2, even if we toss in WTC-7! That still leaves out WTC-3, WTC-4, WTC-5, and WTC-6! Take a look at Judy's photographs and diagrams. It will blow you away!

Moreover, thermate increasingly appears to be an inadequate cause of the devastation of the complete World Trade Center. EVEN IF IT WERE GOOD AS GOLD REGARDING WTC-1 AND WTC-2, we would still be left with a monumental task in explaining the devastation to WTC-3, WTC-4, WTC-5, and WTC-6, which, to the best of my knowledge, Steven Jones has never addressed. His evidence of the use of thermate also seems to be undermined by the discovery that thermate appears to have been used to bring down what little remained after the towers went "poof"! But if that is the case, then its presence is explainable on grounds other than its use to destroy the Twin Towers and it too, as a framework for explaining the evidence, goes "poof"!

Now it is certainly true that I used the figure of 30 seconds to characterize the time of free fall for a piano from atop a 110 story building. Steve has made a great to-do over this, posting his own calculations that the correct time for such an event should have been 11 seconds! (I was actually citing HIS OWN NUMBER in this response!) Judy Wood, however, has discovered that Steve made a mistake in his calculations and the correct time, given his assumptions, should have been 12.54 seconds. That is fascinating, because Judy had told me a long time ago that her best guess ABSENT CALCULATIONS would be between 12 and 13 seconds, which is exactly right on the basis of Steve's assumptions!

Moreover, Steve biased his argument by using a "baby grand" of abnormal weight rather than a Steinway. This is rather troubling. We usually argue on the basis of premises that are fair to both sides. Even when he "loaded the piano", however, HE STILL GOT IT WRONG! Indeed, given the variables that are involved, if we consider a 500 pound piano with its lid flapping open, it could have taken as long as 30 seconds! So even though I used a figure a friend of Judy had offered, as she had told me at the time, it is correct to say that a piano in free fall could take as long as 30 seconds to make the fall from the top of a 110 story building to the ground!

The benefits of mathematics in argument are thereby again displayed. This demonstrates that even experts in a field such as physics can get things wrong. Steve has put a lot of eggs in this basket, which turns out to have been built on a blunder. (I offer Judy Wood's calculations below and Anonymous Scholar's display of the argument. They do good work.) Why Steve should be persisting in all of this after I have offered a proposal for resolution is a question that ought to be directed to him at I understand that a new web page design is being proposed by an expert in that field, which I look forward to reviewing. Perhaps all of this will have a happy ending, after all!





I went through the piano calculations, inside and out. I think I figured out how that bogus number was calculated, but it's easier to show that his values are physically impossible.

Steven Jones has committed a blunder, "big time"!

* If he checked these calculations, he's responsible for them!
(I never said I checked the ones my friend gave me.)

I will use these numbers instead of the ones posted on 911blogger.

These values are less embarrassing to Jones.



1. You start out with the grand piano falling in over 30 seconds, from the height of a Tower. This is wrong. I teach the physics of air drag forces and concomitant terminal velocity -- and the terminal velocity depends very much on the mass (or weight/g) of the object.

Ask Judy to provide her calculation in writing, showing the area she has assumed and the mass, the density of air and the terminal velocity she calculates. Then let me or an independent physicist if you wish check this for you.

Consider a small parachute the size/area of a grand piano, with a man on it. He would fall quite fast. Now replace his mass with that of a grand piano (but in a ball of say lead). Surely you have enough horse-sense to see that the latter case will fall MUCH faster. And that's what the equations say also. A parachute the size of a grand piano acting on a large mass just doesn't slow it much. But let her show her calculations!!
Added: As Alfons showed on the Forum, the terminal velocity can be calculated with the help of a NASA web-site: . Alfons used a Yamaha grand piano, o Length: 161cm (5'3") o Width: 149cm - o Height: 101cm o Weight: 628 pounds (m = 285kg) The drag coefficient depends on the attitude of the piano to the velocity vector as it falls; we take a maximum-drag orientation and therefore take a large drag coeff;

Mass = 285 kg
Cross Section = 2.3989 sq. meters
Drag Coefficient = 1.28 (Flat Object CD = 1.28
Altitude = 417 meters = 1368 ft
Terminal Velocity = 40 m per second
Then the total fall time is 11 seconds (+or-). Which is just about the time the Towers took to collapse! Your example in your Tucson talk backfires on you... gives ammo to those who would debunk everything you say.

Jim, ask Judy to give you the equations, her calculations -- with numbers. And lets check her work.


1. Jones said the values were for a Yamaha grand piano. This is dishonest. They are not. The values he presented are for a heavy baby grand piano, not a grand piano (see listing of Yamaha baby grand, item #6 on list:

2. I entered the measurements and data he gave -- using the internet gizmo to calculate it. The time it gave was 12.54 seconds, not 11 seconds. (His version on 911blogger shows 10.5 seconds.)

3. Here is a simple proof to clearly illustrate he is wrong.


Jones gives Terminal Velocity = 40 m per second

Lets say you drop a billiard ball in a vacuum, no air resistance, so that it can rush up to speed as fast as possible. Then, when it reaches the speed of terminal velocity, it remains that speed from thereafter.

The time it takes to get up to terminal speed:
v = g*t, solving for t, t = 4.0775 sec.

In that time, how much distance was covered, getting up to speed?
Use x = (g/2)*t*t, solving for x, x = 81.549 m

What distance remains of the entire building height, which will be at constant speed of terminal velocity?
Building height - distance getting up to speed = 417 - 81.549 = 335.45 m.

How long does it take to cover that distance at a constant speed?

Use x = vt, solving for t, t = 8.3862

What is the total time?

4.0775 + 8.3862 = 12.46374 seconds.

12.46374 seconds > 11 seconds (+or-)

Or, is Jones going to play games, saying the (+or-) covers any error he has?

Note: The time I calculated is conservative, in that I assumed a fall through vacuum for the first part. In reality it would take the object longer to get to terminal velocity due to air resistance. But hey, even then he's real wrong!



SJ: "I teach the physics of air drag forces and concomitant terminal velocity..."

JW: One might remark, It's no wonder they took him out of the classroom!

SJ: "It really concerns me that you are being so easily led by the nose my friend by these ideas of Judy's or whoever. Ask for numbers, calculations. Insist on these so you can do some checking before you go telling people that a grand piano takes 21 seconds over the time of the tower's fall. What a bunch of obvious garbage, Jim. You're going to be laughed at by anyone who knows how to calculate terminal velocity, which is mass-dependent!"

JW: I believe Jones said he checked these numbers and he had two of his forum friends (Frank Legge and Alfohs) check them, too.

This makes them all look silly. I never said I had checked those numbers. I was only relaying what someone else said. By the way, it is possible to have a grand piano take 30 seconds to drop. You may need to lower the weight to 500 pounds and flop the lid open to increase drag. So it's physically possible!