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The seventeenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks passed on Tuesday. We had another day of tweets about the president’s misbehavior. Here is a thought experiment to return our minds to places that matter. Imagine that you witnessed destruction of the World Trade Center towers on the blackest night: no moonlight, no New York City lights, no illumination of any kind. What would you have seen?

The only light you would have seen would come from explosions that brought the buildings down. Those explosions occurred inside the building, so these flashes would have been exceedingly dim, especially from a distance. More interestingly, you would have seen steel glow orange as it turned from solid metal into liquid steel. The extraordinary amount of heat required to turn even a small amount of steel into liquid would generate this soft light, visible in the blackness. The flowing metal would have been orange.

For twelve seconds, explosive forces created a giant mushroom atop each tower, as each floor disappeared in about a tenth of a second.

The large reservoir of molten steel underneath the remains of these two skyscrapers originated somewhere. It did not come from the fires that burned for an hour and a half before the towers exploded. Those fires burned at a temperature far lower than that required to create molten steel. Steel turns to liquid at about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The explosions that brought the towers down did not need to melt all or even most of the steel in the framework. The disruptive force simply removed the frame’s structural integrity. For twelve seconds, explosive forces created a giant mushroom atop each tower, as each floor disappeared in about a tenth of a second. Building materials blew out into the mushroom. Molten metal drained straight down into the subterranean spaces below the lobby.

If we ask what happened, our minds dream up thought experiments to help us explain phenomena that appear inexplicable.

We do not talk about that metal now, either the girders that landed a block away, or the orange liquid that collected underneath. We do not want to think about it. If we think about the metal, we have to ask what happened. If we ask what happened, our minds dream up thought experiments to help us explain phenomena that appear inexplicable. If we dream up thought experiments, we start to read books like those by David Ray Griffin. By that point, you have transformed yourself into a respected conspiracy theorist.