New York City activist

December 17, 2007

“The Adventures of Max Photon” – a review

These past couple of days, I’ve been looking at a very unusual website called The Adventures of Max Photon, by one Paul Bouvet a.k.a. Max Photon. Given the author’s bizarre sense of humor, it’s sometimes a bit hard to tell what his actual views are, vs. what is intended as just satire. The site seems to be satirizing both the NIST report and some tendencies within the 9/11 Truth movement. Max Photon has also spent quite a bit of time in the JREF forum. (Here’s a collection of links to his JREF posts and a collection of JREFers’ flames against Max Photon.)

His main idea seems to be that thermite may have been used, not to cut steel, but just to weaken it, thereby making it easier for an otherwise “natural” collapse to occur. It so happens that I’ve been thinking along these same lines recently too. (See my post Twin Towers demolition hypothesis: Discussion with Pat Curley.)

His more serious-sounding writings on this topic are these:

Among other things, he shows how thermite could have been placed in close proximity with the structural steel, in three kinds of places (perimeter-column splices, core-column splices, and spandrel splices), in such a way that it would be likely to stay there, without need to drill holes in the steel, but instead taking advantage of already-existing access holes. To show us where the perimeter-column bolt-access holes are, he includes a Photo of a Worker Reaching Into a Perimeter-Panel Box Column, Through the Bolt-Access-Hole.

Oee problem I see here: The perimeter-column bolt-access holes are located between floors, meaning that anyone who placed thermite there would need to have gone into lots of offices to do it, and would need to have drilled holes in the walls (even though not in the steel). Perhaps this could have been disguised as some sort of maintenance (electrical rewiring, perhaps?), but still, disguising it is logistically more complicated than disguising access to either the cores (easily accessible from elevator shafts and stairwells, under the guise of elevator maintenance) or the spandrel splices (accessible perhaps from crawlspaces).

So, if Max Photon’s hypothesis is correct, we should expect a lot of WTC survivors to remember someone coming into their offices to do some sort of maintenance or upgrade work that involved drilling holes in the outer walls — although, alas, most people would be unlikely to remember this sort of thing six years later, unless they just happened to have connected the dots, which most people probably wouldn’t have. According to Richard Gage, it is known that there was an “elevator upgrade” by a company (Ace Elevators) that is no longer in business.

Anyhow, Max Photon urges us to study the photo evidence in the NIST report and the FEMA photo library, both of which, he says, are “hiding the evidence in plain view.” The photo evidence he recommends can be found here:

He also recommends the collections of photo and video evidence on the website WTC Demolition Analysis: Evidence Based Research, although the owner of that site believes that only explosives and not thermite were involved.

At some point I’ll need to spend a lot of time studying the photo evidence.

One very important thing that should be checked, if possible: Is there iron slag inside a lot of column pieces? There wouldn’t need to be iron slag inside of all column pieces, but it should be found inside a significant number of them, if Max Photon’s hypothesis is correct. Unfortunately, if I recall correctly, NIST’s rather small collection of samples is said not to have included any of the hottest columns anyway, so this might be difficult to find, even if we had access to NIST’s samples.

In an article titled NIST WTC FAQ #12 is a Perfect Example of MILDEC Hiding in Plain View How Thermite Was Used to Cloak the Controlled-Demolitions of the WTC Towers, Max Photon warns us that an overemphasis on finding thermite residues may be a dead end. He quotes the NIST FAQ as saying, “Analysis of the WTC steel for the elements in thermite/thermate would not necessarily have been conclusive. The metal compounds also would have been present in the construction materials making up the WTC towers, and sulfur is present in the gypsum wallboard that was prevalent in the interior partitions.”

In defense of Steven Jones’s research, I would say that establishing at least the possibility of thermite residue (especially the iron spherules and the “meteorites,” both of which imply previously-molten iron) is an essential first step, although of course it’s not enough. (See the section Thermite (or Thermate) – good so far, though not conclusive in my post Demolition of WTC: Let’s not overstate the case, please.)

Max Photon correctly points us toward the next steps:

  1. A careful, thorough examination of all the available evidence to determine whether any specific thermite-arson hypothesis is consistent with all the evidence
  2. A careful analysis of everything that is known about the WTC fires, to show why a thermite-arson hypothesis is more likely than the idea that the steel was sufficiently weakened by jet-fuel-induced office fires alone

Whether the above will turn out to be correct remains to be seen. It will require a much more detailed and more careful analysis than Max Photon has given us so far. But his basic idea looks promising.

Apparently there are some very strange things about the WTC fires, as has been acknowledged even by Frank Greening, one of the co-authors of Zdenek Bazant’s latest paper (PDF). Despite his work with Bazant (whose earlier papers about the WTC are among the academic mainstays of the official story), Greening nevertheless has some problems of his own with the NIST report. Max Photon’s website has a collection of links to JREF posts by Frank Greening, whom Paul Bouvet praises as “one of the few signs of intelligent life encountered by this space-traveler,” although Max Photon had earlier denounced Greening as one of the “Sissies,” Max Photon’s term for Zdenek Bazant and his co-authors.

Greening is certainly no believer in thermite arson. However, Greening has speculated that thermite reactions might have occurred spontaneously when the aluminum from the crashed airplanes melted. A while back he wrote the article Aluminum and the World Trade Center Disaster (PDF). Steven Jones later responded to this idea in his video presentation. See also various relevant papers listed in the section Thermite (or Thermate) – good so far, though not conclusive in my post Demolition of WTC: Let’s not overstate the case, please.

I do not agree with everything on Max Photon’s website. For example, he makes use of a variation on Greening’s spontaneous-thermite idea in an article titled The Aluminum Components of Flights 11 and 175 Were Used as Aluminum Powder for Phreato-Thermatic Explosions. Here, Max Photon claims that the South Tower airplane impact was deliberately engineered so that the aluminum was ground to powder, which then crashed into lots of water and iron-oxide, causing thermite-like reactions. I see lots of problems with this article, including the following:

1) Whether or not all the above things actually happened, I don’t think it would be possible to engineer a plane crash with enough precision to make them all happen deliberately. In another place on his website too (I don’t remember where, exactly), Max Photon either stated or implied that the plane crash was deliberately engineered so that the piles of debris would end up in certain particular places. This, I’m pretty sure, is not possible. A plane crash is just too chaotic a process to be controlled with any such precision. (P.S., 12/18/2007: This issue is discussed here in the JREF forum. I would add that, in order to engineer a crash as precisely as Max Photon has suggested, it would be necessary to control not only the position but also the angle of impact, making any last-few-seconds corrections exceedingly tricky, to say the least.)

2) He also speculates that a “thermite-dusted shock-tube – (as opposed to ordinary shock-tube dusted with high-explosives) – ignited remotely by lasers from WTC7 – was used to ignited the planted thermite.” Lasers? Why lasers? Lasers, being light, would not be able to penetrate into anything hidden.

3) He says he suspects that two “projectiles” (of which at least one was “very likely a depleted-uranium (DU) penetrator”) were fired from Flight 175 into WTC 2 before the plane hit the building. To his credit, though, he retracts that speculation: “[Note added September 23, 2007: My model no longer needs the DU penetrators. The hardened front landing gear shattered the tanks. Thermite sparks that occured as the jet’s aluminum collided with rust on the perimeter panels and floor trusses served as a broad ignition mechanism.]”

4) Like too many other people in the 9/11 Truth movement, Max Photon misuses the term “pyroclastic flow,” a term which properly refers only to ejections from volcanoes. The WTC dust clouds were in some ways similar, but far from identical to a “pyroclastic flow.” For one thing, a true “pyroclastic flow” would be hot enough fry everyone it touched. This was not the case for the WTC dust clouds.

5) Near the end of the article, he claims that the alleged “Phreato-Thermatic Explosion” was necessary for the desired psychological impact. Seems to me that a plain jet-fuel explosion would have had pretty much the same immediate psychological impact, although perhaps not the same amount of floor-sagging in the subsequent fire.

Anyhow, in the above article, he again sings the praises of NIST NCSTAR1-5A, Chapter 9 to Appendix C, claiming that its contents are such glaringly obvious evidence for thermite arson that a lawyer would need only to read it to a jury, while also showing the photos, in order to win trillions in damages. Well, I’ll definitely have to study it sometime. Unfortunately not now, because there are some other things I’ve committed to reading in-depth first.

(P.S., 12/18/2007: The basic idea of Max Photon’s that does make sense to me is the idea of what I will call supplementary arson. If indeed anything was planted in the towers for the purpose of ensuring that they would come down, then the simplest strategy would have been to plant thermite, or some other incendiary with non-obvious residues, merely for the purpose of ensuring that there would be fires hot enough, and in the right places, to weaken the structural steel enough to make the towers collapse. I also agree that the best way to determine the likelihood of supplementary arson vs. a purely “natural” fire progression would be by examining, in detail, NIST’s data about the fires themselves. However, Max Photon has not actually done the needed comparative analysis, at least not yet nor have I done it either. Furthermore, I think we should reject any supplementary-arson hypothesis that depends on a demandingly high-precision control of any particular chain of fire-related events. Such high-precision control is not essential to the basic idea of supplementary arson. If indeed there were “Phreato-Thermatic Explosions” involving aluminum from the airplanes, then, most likely, the planners just got lucky in that regard.)

On to other matters: Apparently, sometime this past spring or summer, Paul Bouvet a.k.a. Max Photon got into some sort of squabble with the folks at Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice and was abruptly thrown out of that organization. He devotes a couple of paragraphs to this spat in his Open Letter to Bazant, Le, Greening, and Benson. I’m sorry to hear about it. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what really happened, but I suspect a misunderstanding of some sort, which maybe I might be able to help resolve. I’ve heard that there has been quite a bit of quarreling amongst various people in STJ911 over the past couple of years, not to mention a bitter schism between STJ911 and ST911. As a result, I suspect that some people may have become a bit too edgy and too quick to jump to hostile conclusions about each other.

Alas, Max Photon has also written an entire page devoted to the accusation that STJ911 is NIST’s Cloaking Device. I have to wonder: Is he serious about this accusation, or did he intend it as a satire on the tendency of too many people in the 9/11 Truth movement to jump to the conclusion that other folks in the movement are “disinformation agents”? I hope the latter. Max, if you were serious about that accusation, please read my post Identifying disinformation agents?.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen one STJ911 member refer to Max Photon’s site as a “hoax site.” I don’t think it’s an outright hoax, although his sense of humor does make it difficult to tell, sometimes, which parts of his site are intended to be taken seriously. Max Photon does make some wacky claims, but he has explicitly retracted some of those claims. In this post, I’ve pointed out a few other wacky claims on his site, and we’ll see what happens. My feeling, so far, is that he’s the kind of person who will respond well to a friendly, noncondescending, and well-reasoned critique.

I suspect that a lot of people have trouble with his sense of humor, which is admittedly rather bizarre and morbid, and is likely to strike many people as insensitive and all-around inappropriate. But I’m inclined to see this as just a personality thing, not a “disinfo agent” thing, as some folks might be inclined to conclude. I think his humor can be considered acceptable in some contexts, though it obviously should be kept away from, say, a 9/11 anniversary event. Personally, I enjoyed reading his website, although I was (and to some extent still am) a bit puzzled as to which parts were meant seriously vs. which parts were just a joke.

Back to Max Photon’s Open Letter to Bazant, Le, Greening, and Benson. Near the end is the following:

Attention Onlookers:

If you think Max is being too harsh on these guys – or STJ911 for that matter – stop acting like a bunch of idiots.

Bazant’s paper is a big deal!

The entire Global War on Terror is predicated on Bazant’s paper!

Millions of lives depend on Bazant’s paper!

If Bazant et. al. are wrong – which they are – and Max Photon is correct – which he is (as usual) – then the entire Global War on Terror is an illegal fraud, and its instigators – and those who provided material support – are guilty of treason to the United States of America, international war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

So no, Max Photon is not being too harsh.

Max fights honorably. That is Max’s style – his characteristic light touch.

But Max does fight!

What the hell do you want from infantry?


Max is risking his life to end it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So don’t pester him about frivolous style issues. This isn’t a tea party, for goodness’ sake!

Max Photon, are you aware of the reasons for all the concern about “civility,” which apparently bothers you? I suspect you might not be, so here goes:

1) As I said in my post on Identifying disinformation agents?, we have no good way of knowing who the “agents” are. However, one of the historically known ways that government agents do harm political movements is by stirring up divisive interpersonal crap. Hence, to defeat them, we need to keep interpersonal crap to a minimum. Being paranoid about each other is not the answer, because that just creates even more interpersonal crap. To keep the crap to a minimum, we need to uphold the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” and we also need to treat each other in a civil manner.

2) Another known way that government agents have harmed political movements is by being agent provocateurs. By agreeing to refrain from hostile and violent rhetoric even toward our enemies, we can make it difficult for agent provocateurs to do their thing.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little satire now and then, if it focusses on issues rather than personalities. And the movement is going to need to learn to accommodate a variety of personalities and personal styles.

Before you post a comment, please note that I’m one of those onerous people with rules about civility (and various other things too): Please read my Comment policy.

P.S., 12/17/2007: I’m now looking at a page on which Max Photon says he has discovered evidence of a Shock Tube in the WTC Towers, which he says is clearly shown in Figure 6-4 of NIST NCSTAR 1-3C (Damage and Failure Modes of Structural Steel Components) in the NIST report. He reports that a JREFer has said that the wires are just grounding wires. Max Photon adds, “By the way, even if that is not shock-tube in the photo, the heat-effects on N8 are bizarre nonetheless.”

P.S., 2/3/2008: In this JREF thread, Max Photon gives his suggestions on how to read NIST NCSTAR 1-5A, Chapter 9 to Appendix C.


  1. Max is aware of your post. Whether he decides to comment or not is up to him now.

    Comment by ref1 — December 19, 2007 @ 5:37 am | Reply

  2. Thanks very much.

    To Max Photon:

    If you’re reading this, I would appreciate it very much if you could post a comemnt here.

    Comment by Diane — December 19, 2007 @ 6:28 am | Reply

  3. On my “dashboard” for this blog, I just now noticed that someone clicked a link on this page on Max Photon’s site to get here. That page turns out to contain, among other things, a response to the above blog entry.

    I’ll post a response at some point, hopefully within the next couple of weeks.

    Comment by Diane — December 27, 2007 @ 2:04 am | Reply

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