The Late Jolt -- Re-Examining the World Trade Center Catastrophe

23 Oct 2019  ·  Schneider Ansgar ·

A model of a gravity-driven collapse of a tall building has been proposed by Ba\v{z}ant et al. We apply this model to the collapse of the North Tower of the World Trade Center to determine the energy dissipation per storey during the collapse. Our findings are (at most) 250\,MJ during the first 4.6 sec... In the time interval between 4.6 and 7.7 sec after collapse initiation we find an additional energy dissipation per storey of 2500\,MJ. Because the steel columns increase in strength towards the ground this value corresponds to a value of 2000\,MJ for the storeys in the aircraft impact zone. After 7.7 sec the value reduces again. These results have two possible interpretations: (1) If due to the building design (column strength, shape etc.) the energy dissipation per storey cannot reach the high values which we observed, then the collapse cannot be described by the gravity-driven collapse model. (2) If the collapse is described correctly by the gravity-driven collapse model, then then we fond direct evidence that the collapse mechanism did not follow the same pattern during the whole of the collapse. The possible amount of energy dissipation was reduced by an order of magnitude during two long time time intervals. In both cases there is no a priori reason to justify the sometimes expressed belief that the collapse was inevitable even after the falling top section had gained a significant amount of momentum. In fact, if the amount of energy dissipation had stayed only little longer on the high level, then a gravity-driven collapse would have arrested. Note that (1) implies that if in principle the gravity-driven collapse model describes gravity-driven collapses of tall buildings, then the collapse was not gravity-driven. read more

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Classical Physics