last update Feb. 13 2011
I recently asked for help with the contents of this site, soliciting input from the community, and as expected the most interest came from those I'm least inclined to agree with. I'd like to expand the voice of the Divide, but there are some things I just can't bring myself to support with publication here. Where the different theories fall relative to each other and what I accept and why is explained in part here.
Two groups of claims questioning what happened on the plane have become mixed together in my mind and jointly ignored until now. Those who propose a drastically different bomb detonation than alleged took down Flight 103, and those who say it wasn't a detonation at all, but an accident.
Inherently I agree the explosive force as stated is not necessarily correct, although I do suspect it's reasonably close. First, it's not clearly decided anywhere. The Zeist judges wound up taking away a median of 400 grams of Semtex-H, give or take 50, so 350-450. But the Indian Head forensic tests of 1989 found the container damage observed was consistent with the blasts done using between 454-680 grams, and not the lower amounts. There is reason to believe the higher end of that is closer to reality.
And more recently Dr. John Wyatt's unusual tests say that only a blast as low as 150 grams or less might possibly have have left the electonics remains investigators found. And to make PK/689 legitimate evidence, the bomb might have to be more like 20 grams.
I'm not going to argue the bomb was so small it couldn't rupture a suitcase - the clear solution to this is to suspect the poorly fitting evidence was planted poorly. But clearly there is a lot of room for fudging between the intact paper and the ruptured cargo pallet and plane.
As I recall, there are also some genuine-sounding mysteries over residue testing that seemed to suggest a different explosive than Semtex-H (or in addition to?) was responsible. If anyone is excited to explain this a bit better, feel free to do so in the comment section below. I'll try and dredge it up myself if and when time allows.
The rest of this post, however, is stuff just I don't buy. Partly because I don't trust these theories or theorists to get it straight for me, and partly because I don't know the science to be sure myself, I must call these theories worthy of discussion - in the comments section below and nowhere else on my blog (until further notice anyway).
John Parkes on the bomb's power
As reported in Scottish lawyer's magazine the Firm, August 2006.
John Parkes, an explosives engineer present at the crash site in December 1988, who reported damage indicating the carriage of munitions on the plane. Parkes helped in the rescue operation when the Boeing 747 came down on part of the town, killing 259 on board and 11 on the ground. He claims wounding he observed on three bodies recovered from the crash site, and on one young female victim in particular, were not caused by Semtex-based explosives as claimed in the trial.
"Every munitions or explosives device has its own characteristic signature," Parkes says. "The signature I saw was not consistent with the device they maintained was used. There was not enough power or heavy material around that device to have gone through the luggage and floor and through the back of an aircraft seat to inflict these wounds."
[Dr. Jim] Swire has asked the Crown Office to explain why this testimony was not included in the Air Accident Investigation Board report, asking "whether the AAIB gave any reason for rejection of Mr Parkes's ideas, and if so what that reason might have been".
I have great respect for Dr. Swire, but sometimes...
Well, just off the top of my head, Parkes reported the injuries to a girl he felt were consistent only with explosives coming up through her seat, injuring her feet and backside. First, it's unfortunately gruesome and sad as a "smoking gun," and for obvious reasons unverifiable. Second, I'm not convinced Parkes knows what to look for in such an unusual case, and could just be confusing a tree impact after the fall with shrapnel tears from before.
We could check by looking at damage to the floor panels this shrapnel would have to tear through. I had imagined most of this would have been found, perhaps warpedby he overpressure, but not torn up. But according to the AAIB report, many floor beams were fractured and none of the panels in the immediate blast area were recovered (that they admit!). So we can't say one way or the other.
The cabin floor structure was badly disrupted, particularly in the general area above the explosion, where the floor beams had suffered localised upward loading sufficient to fracture them, and the floor panels were missing. Elsewhere, floor beam damage was mainly limited to fractures at the outer ends of the beams and at the centreline, leaving sections of separated floor structure comprising a number of half beams joined together by the Nomex honeycomb floor panels.Admittedly, that sounds worse than I'd expect, but then again, those beams can't be too solid. Planes rely on lightness, and simple gas over pressure might break up some beams and tear some flooring loose, without ripping through it with shrapnel. To send material tearing up through several filled suitcases, the container top. bay liner, cabin floor, and the seat structure to just stop at injuring this girl - rather than slicing through her - would require a truly massive explosion with supreme control. The focused 20-inch fuselage hole just two feet from the explosion cannot be consistent with such a blast, nor the luggage container or anything in it. I can't buy that's all faked.
Different bomb location
The above theory may also imply a different location even than the missing panels, depending where the girl was seated. I don't think this was ever sorted out, as she was to my knowledge never identified to Parkes.
Then there's temper tantrum Blogger Charles Norrie and his CIA bomb on top of an Iranian one. He cites a statement from Parkes, perhaps reflecting the seating issue above, that "a minimum of two high explosive events took place inboard Pan Am 103." Norrie also points to the twin debris fields, north and south, which could have many explanations in a complex breakup like that of Flight 103,even without another bomb.
But more prominently, a number of experty people have made themselves quite sure that mathematics prove the bomb was just a foot away from where it was reported, just outside container AVE4041, rather than inside it. These include onetime AAIB investigator named Protheroe, who now says the "mach stem" effect was calculated wrongly, suggesting 25 inches was between the bomb and the airplane skin. This distance, which fits with the physical evidence of the luggage container, is supposedly trumped by his new numbers saying 12 inches. This would mean the container evidence must be faked to appear the bomb was inside it. It also suggests someone planted the device directly in the plane, rather than remotely in luggage, as generally accepted. No explanation, Just math.
Edwin Bollier started trying to sell Libyan clues to the CIA within days of the bombing, was listed as one of the three important witnesses at Camp Zeist against Megrahi. Now he champions Libya and Megrahi as "wrongly accused," with mostly bogus claims, and he supports Protheroe's 12" revisionism.
I had thought further support could be found from Canadian researcher Ludwig de Breackeleer, but thankfully not, on closer look. Most of his other work on the issue is great, and as a science guy at heart (physics), the contribution he's most qualified for questions the official blast size, which is valid. He concludes, based on actual shown math and presumptions I haven't double-checked:
As the explosion of one pound of SEMTEX H inside the luggage container does not generate a blast wave sufficiently powerful to fracture the skin of the fuselage, we have little choice but to conclude that the verdict appears scientifically implausible.One pound being about 450 grams, that's the upper edge of what's officially accepted. Dr. Ludwig's science fits with what I already observed at the top - something significantly over that seems a better fit with the most believable physical clues. (though I'd wager not enormously higher - perhaps 150-200% of that). I'm heartened to learn this.
No One Did It
The accident theory has two variations. The first proposes an unintended detonation of military munitions being carried secretly on the plane. This is advanced by one "Robbie the Pict" in the UK.
The other proposes no explosives at all, but a failure-induced decompression, and is advocated by a John Barry Smith in the US and also I believe this was the thesis of Carl Davies, proprietor of the Plane Truth website.
Further commentary for and against these theories can be submitted in the comments form below. Any highlights I feel worthy I may pull up and include in the post.
(more text, links, etc. forthcoming)
Update 2/13/11: I have some gripes from Robbie the Pict, which I still need to address re: the above and see if he's got a point. Otherwise, I have to revise my above take on deBraeckeleer. I hear he's been incommunicado for a couple of years now, but I didn't realize that as I tried to e-mail him recently as follows:
Dear. Dr. deBreackeleer,
Greetings. Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic of the Lockerbie Divide here. I've been appreciating your works for quite some time now, especially the interviews and original quotes. Some great work on the Khreesat and Autumn Leaves angles. I've been meaning to get in touch with you, just to see what that might yield.
I'm most interested in where your expert credential are most relevant, with your analysis of the force required to rupture the plane's hull in the first place, as explained in this article: http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/8920
I have in the apparently misunderstood that article twice now, in two different ways. I just reviewed it again prior to writing, and decided I should just ask you directly what's unclear to me here. The abstract says location is the issue, and that's an issue I have some problems with.
Unfortunately for the stated goal of reaching the masses with simplicty, I have a hard time following it. Positive impulse? Critical time, wavelength, greek letters... Perhaps I should go study up on this, but actually, cutting to the last portion seems adequate for my purposes.
The outside wall of the AVE 4041 container was located at 16 inches from the skin of the plane. At this closest possible distance in the light most favorable to the original investigators, experimental data indicate that one pound of explosive will generate a positive impulse of less than 20 psi-ms against the fuselage. So from this it seems the force on the skin would be dependent on original power and distance. Correct? The force you've taken is 450 grams, which is the upper end of the range the judges accepted: 400 grams, give or take 50. Since "at this closest possible distance" is the qualifier for the inadequacy.
As this value is well below the critical impulse calculated above, namely 50 psi-ms, we have little choice but to conclude that the Lockerbie verdict is scientifically implausible.And the AAIB decided on 25" from the hull, not 16, strengthening the point. I'd defer on what I can't verify, and concur in general. But I have a hard time seeing the blast being much closer. The luggage container appears to be blown outward in all regards, and that's one piece of evidence I tend to accept. In fact, I've never seen anyone come out and argue or allege it was faked, even as it's been implied over and over, including by an AAIB scientist himself, no less.
I'm not trying to get you endorse any theory or another, but in your scientific opinion, is it possible that the location is about as reported but the blast force was simply higher than reported? Could a wave emitted from, say, 700 grams (or maybe 900?), but from the AAIB's rough placement well inside the container, make it plausible by these same methods?
I do have some reason from other quarters to suspect the blast weight was fudged way down, in part I surmise to half-explain the manual cover and other - erm - dubious clues. The primary suitcase we've been shown might not be that at all, for one thing...
V—ADDITIONAL COMMENTS30 pounds? If I could decipher it, I'd ask to see the math on that. Investigators got it wrong by a factor of 30? I would have suspected a factor of maybe 2 or 3, so as to not appear amazingly ridiculous to other scientists like yourself. Did their models have it placed in the relevant spot, or stuffed in the middle of the container, or the upper corner?
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, researchers at the Center for Explosives Technology Research in Socorro, New Mexico, estimated that up to 30 pounds of explosive was needed to destroy a Boeing 747 if the explosion had occurred in the container.  We agree with that estimate.
Clearly your point here is to suggest that it was not in the luggage container, but isn't that a bit hyperbolic? Maybe unwarranted?
Beyond that, if you're at all inclined after that, I'd be interested in interviewing you by e-mail for my blog. It might increase your profile a bit, give you a few new viewers. I have Slovenian viewers out my ears all of a sudden. And either way, kudos on some very valuable contributions to a worthy field.