Presentation by Thomas J. Mackin, Ph.D.
Introduction by John C. Snider
In the aftermath of the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center, many people have been asking how buildings weighing hundreds of thousands of tons could have been totally obliterated by the impact of a single airplane. While it's true that the Twin Towers were intended to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes - and yes, even aircraft impacts - it is also true that no building can be designed to survive every possible occurrence. Thomas J. Mackin, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois, has created an 8-slide presentation to explain exactly how and why the WTC collapsed.
Dr. Mackin created this analysis at the request of his school's administration, as part of an overall effort to help students and faculty discuss and understand the tragic events of September 11. One of his students emailed the presentation to some friends, and pretty soon it was carried all over the world. When we received it, we contacted Dr. Mackin and obtained his permission to post it on scifidimensions.
The slideshow we have posted is actually a corrected version from the one that has spread out across the globe. Dr. Mackin freely admits: "In my haste and in my depression I made a typo which turned into a numerical error. It does not affect the conclusion, but it does have an effect on the numbers." He also expressed amazement at how far and wide his work has traveled. "I had no idea that my simple presentation was going to make its way around the world!... Regardless, this WEB is an interesting story as well...how a simple lecture for my class ended up being e-mailed by a student, then shipped round the world, and generated a huge amount of incredibly stimulating interaction."
We thank Tom Mackin for his fortitude in tackling such a grim task. When asked what engineers could do to prevent something like this from happening again, his reply is simple. "Nothing."
Click here to view Prof. Mackin's presentation (requires Adobe Acrobat).
Another paper by Mackin.