Double-checking 9/11 theory

Daily Herald

BYU physics professor Steven Jones's theory on the World Trade Center's destruction has earned him a paid suspension from the university.

School officials suspended Jones over concerns that his paper on the subject has not been published in traditional, peer-reviewed scientific journals. His work is being reviewed by BYU's administration, the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and the Physics Department.

Jones made headlines when he said airliners could not have caused the World Trade Center's twin towers to collapse and knock down an adjacent building. The way the buildings fell -- almost straight down -- suggests to him that explosives were used to bring down the skyscrapers. Jones backs up his theory by citing the presence of molten metal in the buildings' wreckage, which suggests to him that thermite bombs were used because aviation fuel and office furnishings could never have burned hot enough to melt steel.

He has since backed away from a statement that government officials and international bankers were responsible for the attack, but he still maintains that bombs, not planes, destroyed the towers.

Jones's suspension has made him a martyr among 9/11 conspiracy theorists. To them, it is just more proof that the government is trying to keep people from learning the truth, and they have sent messages protesting the suspension to BYU.

If getting BYU to suspend Jones while conducting a review of his research is the government's way of putting a lid on him, it's not doing a very good job of it.

Jones's research is available on the Internet, and the professor recently presented his paper at Idaho State University. He has also published his views in the book "9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out."

He is clearly not being muzzled, nor is his work being shoved down an Orwellian memory hole.

Rather, BYU acted to protect its academic reputation by holding Jones to the same standards that govern all scholarly research. One would expect any other university to take the same steps if one of its professors published a controversial paper without independent scholarly review and made politically inflammatory statements in the process. Independent review ensures that proper scientific procedures were followed and that others can get the same results.

While Jones is a physicist, he is not qualified to fully explain how two quarter-mile-high skyscrapers collapsed. While there is some physics involved in the events of 9/11, questions about what weakened the towers and the adjacent building are best left to engineers who fully understand how structures work.

Jones maintains that his paper had been peer-reviewed three times when it was published in the "Journal of 9/11 Studies," an online publication of 9/11-related research. The professor's work may well have been reviewed by scientists more qualified in engineering than he, but the 9/11 Web site is hardly a neutral party. It disputes the official version of the towers' collapse and openly suggests that the truth is being held back.

Someone advancing a theory that demolition charges were used to destroy the buildings is going to get a more friendly hearing from these "scholars" than someone who can prove the official version of events beyond reasonable doubt.

BYU is seeking disinterested parties who have expertise in structural engineering. These experts will look at Jones's findings from a strictly scientific point of view rather than through the filter of conspiracy theories. They will determine if Jones's version of events is plausible or if he has been irresponsible in his research, either by going beyond his expertise or ignoring facts that contradicted his hypothesis.

Jones's supporters should welcome the chance for this impartial review to give their position some legitimacy in academic and political circles. This process can vindicate Jones just as easily as it can debunk his claim.