No Over-Under Puffball

Now for the third puzzle in this three-part series introduced by The Plane of the Shadow Wedge. Here we will get a better perspective on the shadow wedge with the help of the two "puffballs". This puzzle is called "The Over-Under Puffball" and is shown below.

The puzzle is fairly obvious: how is it that the left puffball in the Fairbanks video appears to be behind or above the wing? Could the shadow wedge be responsible for this anomaly as well? Is the shadow hiding part of the left puffball so it only appears to be behind the wing? To cut to the chase, yes, it's the shadow wedge again and this will be explained below in some detail.

In addition to the shadow effect, there is another contributing factor in this illusion. If you look closely, you'll notice that the CNN Ghostplane video is slightly ahead of the Fairbanks video, which you can tell by comparing the last frame of both. Notice that only a small tip of the right wing is visible in the CNN Ghostplane video. This time delay makes it appear that the Fairbanks puffball is covered and thus not visible when it is really just a little later in becoming visible.

To better understand this shadow wedge, and how it explains the puffball illusion, I have put together a visualization of the shadow wedge. We will use this visual of the wedge to see how it affects each frame of the video.

Here is the shadow wedge overlaid on the first frame where the left puffball is partially visible.

There are two planes represented in the shadow wedge. The darker plane is on the surface of the wall, and the lighter plane is the outer edge of the shadow. The dark triangle is a cross-section of the wedge in the area where the plane passes through the wedge.

This image also shows an outline of the airplane. The nose cone is actually too short because the first frame of the animation sequence starts with part of the nose cone already in the wall.

It is difficult to make out all of the details in this composite image, so I will decompose it into its parts. I am also starting with a better quality video, from the History Channel program, "102 Minutes that Changed America". This video unfortunately chops off the top of the full size video a bit, but the essential details are still visible.

This first frame is just after impact, and I have drawn a line through the shadow of the fuselage on the tower wall that is just barely visible in this video.

Some people claim this shadow of the fuselage on the wall is physically impossible, but there is a reasonable explanation for it, though I won't go into great detail here. The shadow of the fuselage on the wall is due to the brighter sky in the area around the sun as compared to the rest of the sky.
The angle of the shadow is not parallel to the floors, but it is about the same as the sun angle of 27 degrees. The whitish area just below where the plane impacts is from the mechanical floors of the tower.
I extended this line through the shadow up to the corner of the tower, and then drew another line back through the plane at the point where the edge of the shadow is visible on the fuselage. This upper line is in the direction of the sunlight. The next image is the same frame with an overlay plane showing where the edge of the shadow wedge would lay.

Having shown this angle of the shadow wedge parallel to the sunlight, this is not the same angle we will want to examine in other frames because we really want to see the roll angle of the plane impacting with the wall which is slightly different.

So next we will jump forward to the puffball frame to draw that intersection angle and return to see where it lines up on this frame.
(under construction)

No Magical Healing Columns

This is the second of the puzzles addressed in a three-part series introduced by The Plane of the Shadow Wedge.   The first part was No Obvious Mask, in which we identify the shadow mask on the South side of the WTC2 tower at the time UA175 impacts the building.

So then I wondered if this same shadow wedge would explain what we see in other videos, other perspectives of the same plane-tower collision, and in particular, the "Magically Healing Columns" sequence, shown on the left.

The puzzle here is similar to the "One Obvious Mask" puzzle: why does it appear that the plane slips into the building with barely a hint of any damage to the steel columns while the final frame shows so much more damage?

In this view, the South wall is a little lighter than in the "One Obvious Mask", but again we see no visible distinction between windows and columns; the South wall is a fairly uniform dark gray color, giving the impression that it is fairly solid. The East side on the right is even brighter, though the angle is so sharp that we cannot see windows or columns.

Why is the South side lighter than it was in the "One Obvious Mask"? Primarily, it appears that the camera taking this shot was set to pick up more of the light, and hence the East side is too bright. Although the South side of the tower did not receive direct sunlight at that time, there is a lot of ambient light reflecting off of other buildings and from the sky itself, especially in the direction of the sun. This ambient light provides enough dim lighting of the South side to see a uniform dark gray color, but not enough to distinguish small details of similar color.

Since the shadow wedge is across the entire South wall, then the plane must be passing through that same shadow here before it hits the wall. In frames 7 and 8 (the last two before the final frame), you can see that the right wing has a sharp edge between the sun-lit side and the shaded side, just like in the "One Obvious Mask" only in a different place due to the difference in timing. The following sequence of four frames is also copied from Michael Hezarkhani Video / CNN Best Angle "The Money Shot Files For Bankruptcy" and the red arrows are pointing a puffball emerging where the author suggests a pod caused damage as it passed through the wall.

But since the wall here appears lighter, you might think we should be able to see more of the plane within the shadow wedge, before it hits the wall, and more of the damage to the wall itself. And, again, there is no clearly visible intersection with the wall. This does seem surprising, hence the puzzle.

I claim the shadow wedge is hiding a lot of details here too, and because the perspective of the camera is closer to perpendicular to the wall face, it is harder to see the parts of the plane that we are missing. In fact, we also need to see a bit more of the video after the collision with the wall, and in slower motion. So here is a conveniently generated version of the same video showing the South Tower Cropped to Impact Area First 100 Frames (For best effect, you should right-click and view it in a new window, but not in full-screen mode.)

Click on the play/pause button to step through, watching the seconds count down. When it gets to around 50, stop when you see the flash, shown in the image to the right. Notice that a small patch of the fuselage to the left of the flash is dark, almost black. The red arrow is pointing directly at it. Since it is dark, and right next to this flash, I would claim it is due to the shadow wedge. There is no other indication of the shadow's edge cutting through the plane in this frame.

This flash is, of course, the same flash that we saw above in the Spiegel video, and the dark part of the fuselage hidden in shadow is the same as well, but the contrast is better here against the lighter wall.

Notice also that the left wing is almost invisible in this frame, but it is not yet within the shadow wedge. It is being shaded by the fuselage or the wing itself, and the color of the shading almost matches the color of the shaded wall, making it almost invisible.

Keep stepping forward until around 49, when the puffballs from the engine impacts are first visible, shown on the right. Notice the dark color on the lower part of each puffball. This is a shadow that might be partly due to the shadow wedge, but it is probably darker because it is also shaded by the puffball itself. Note that the left puffball is darker than the right puffball, since I believe the left puffball and the entire left wing is in the shadow wedge at this time. You can see the edge of the shadow on the right wing just above the puffball.

The wings have just started to enter the wall since we can see that most of the right wing has not entered the wall. But notice that the left wing is darker (and more visible because of the contrast with the wall) than in the previous image - this is because it is doubly in shadow, from both the fuselage and the tower's shadow wedge.

Another small puffball is starting to be visible just to the right of the fuselage, which grows in brightness over the next several frames.

Starting around 47, the wings are probably all the way through the wall but it is still difficult to see much damage, until the next frame at 46, shown here on the right. The impact does create a fair amount of dust which obscures more of the details, but it is clear enough to make out the most important details.

The important thing to do for this puzzle is to compare the shape of the darker gray damaged area in this image with the final frame of the animation above, which is copied below (sorry, it is a slightly different scale). The two images are roughly consistent except for a couple issues. The damaged area appears to be a bit larger all around and much darker after the explosion.

Another interesting difference is that there seems to be more damage on the right side. But notice that there is a little white puff forming near the corner of the tower on the right side parallel to where the right engine entered. In the final frame, there is a large dark area in the same place. Hmm...

So the puzzle about the missing damage of the columns seems resolved. The damage is visible in these later frames, immediately after the wings enter the wall, and long before the explosion, but the area is not as dark as in the final frame. Why would that be?

My guess is that the explosion blew off some of the aluminum cladding in the damaged area, and left a carbon deposit on the columns.

And for comparison, the next image is a focused photograph of the South tower impact area that does show the aluminum cladding blown off leaving the darker colored steel columns exposed. This is the same area that appeared darker in the after-explosion video frame above. So this all seems very consistent with the video, and the video seems very consistent with reality.

Another thing to notice is that, now that we have a good focused image, we can distinguish the columns and windows. (This is also probably a little later in the day when the sun would be shining on the South side of the tower, or the photographer was able to increase the focus and contrast.) You'll just have to imagine all the details smaller than the width of a window that we missed in the video.

So the magical healing columns were not magically healing for three reasons.

  1. What we thought was the plane passing through the walls was really the plane passing through the edge of the shadow wedge.
  2. When the plane passed through the wall, we couldn't see much detail of the damage that was there because of the shadow wedge and lack of focus.
  3. The increased darkening of the impact area after the explosion made the damage seem worse than it was.

No Obvious Mask

This is the first of the puzzles addressed in a three-part series introduced by The Plane of the Shadow Wedge.

The solution to these puzzles first occurred to me as I was pondering the "One Obvious Mask", shown on the left. (This is also known as the Spiegel video.) There is, I must admit, a very obvious straight line division where the plane appears to disappear into the building. Is this just a badly done video mask added to give the illusion that the plane entered the building, with no visible damage to the wall? That is the puzzle.

First notice a couple other things about this animation sequence. The sun-lit side of the tower on the right half of this image is facing East, and it looks relatively clear and bright with columns and windows shimmering in the morning sun. And the shady South side is on the left half where the plane is impacting, and it looks very dark with almost no visibility of any columns or windows.

So I thought to myself, hmm... If there is shade on that side of the building, where is the edge of the shadow where the plane first enters? (We might refer to this edge as the "plane" of the shadow, but that would be confusing.)

In other words, as the plane approaches the tower, first it is in full sunlight, and then it must cross into the shade of the tower at some point before disappearing into the wall. If that sharp edge we see on the right wing is not the edge of the shadow, then where is the shadow's edge? There is no other indication of a shadow's edge on the plane, so that edge we see must be it.

But where exactly does the plane pass through the wall? This intersection with the wall is not visible at all in this sequence, and that must be explained also. Why can't we see it?

First, let's figure out where the sun is and how thick the shadow must be? How much of a gap is there between the edge of the shadow and the wall? What is the angle of the sun at that time of day?

We have a good visual indicator of where the sun is by looking at the North side of the same tower shown in the two images on the right, taken moments after the impact when something rather dense popped out casting a shadow. Notice the long thin shadow stretching across the face, angling down a little. (The image on the right side doesn't seem to show this same shadow. See The Missing Shadow for that puzzle, which I am not addressing here.)

We don't need precise numbers at this point, though I would appreciate it if someone wants to look them up. (Found this: "Fortunately we do know (courtesy of NASA/JPL and Fs2004) that the sun was 27 degrees above the horizon and approximately 21 degrees in front of the UA175 aircraft's starboard wing." ) We just need a rough idea of what's going on, to guide the investigation. So it appears that the sun must be a bit North of due East, and fairly low on the horizon.

Since the sun is just barely shining on the North side of the tower, this means that the South side must have a thin shadow wedge across its entire face. This shadow wedge was very thin near the East edge and thicker toward the West edge. Is it thick enough where the plane enters the shadow to create a gap between that edge and where the plane hits the wall?

Fortunately, we can look at the earlier frames from this video, and the one shown on the right gives a very clear indication of the size of this gap. This frame shows the plane immediately after the nose cone impacts with the tower wall, resulting in a bright flash.

Notice that there is a gap between the flash where the nose cone impacts the wall and the visible leading edge of the fuselage, and the dark area in that gap is the fuselage, which is almost invisible in this light. It is still difficult to tell where the surface of the tower wall is, but it must be close to that flash.

The next image shows the same frame with an overlay indicating where the edge of this shadow intersects the fuselage. The sunlight passing just in front of the corner of the tower is just outside of the shadow on the South side, and it can therefore reflect off the plane. Between that shadow edge and the surface of the South wall, there is no direct sunlight, so that is why it is relatively dark, which makes it difficult to see any details of the impact with the wall. The flash makes its own light, which we can see.

The vertical angle of the sunlight is not exact, because I can't tell from this closeup what the angle of the camera is relative to the tower. (I used 27 degrees, the same as the angle of the sun above the horizon at that time.) But the surface or planar edge of the shadow must intersect the fuselage of the plane in the area indicated, and the surface of the wall must be somewhere below that, close to where the flash is.

More frames of this sequence from the Spiegel video are shown at WebFairy where it is suggested that this illusion is due to a hologram. While a hologram visible in all the videos from many angles is not possible, the illusion of the plane disappearing into the wall is really just a confusion about where the plane enters the shadow on the South side of the tower. No video fakery is required to add a plane to this video, and no video fakery is required to explain what we see in this video.

Here is a great visual illustration of the shadow wedge from a series of pages on suspected video fakery (i.e. several more puzzles) on a page titled Michael Hezarkhani Video / CNN Best Angle "The Money Shot Files For Bankruptcy"

The author introduces the image saying: "But the entire south wall was darkened by a 13 degree wedge of shadow cast by the tower over itself and the UA175 aircraft during its impact (the shadow cast by the starboard wing on the fuselage has not been shown in this graphic):"

I can't vouch for the precise angles depicted, and the position of the plane, but this is at least approximately correct, and should make it clear to you that there was a shadow wedge on the surface of the South wall, and that the plane must have flown through it.

Unfortunately, the author uses this shadow wedge to suggest that there should be no illumination at all of the plane as it enters the shadow. But he confuses where the plane has entered the shadow wedge and how much should be visible.

Here is a cropped and scaled photo of WTC2 from Aman Zafar's WTC gallery taken minutes after the second plane hit, looking toward the North-east. From this angle, the sun is apparently still behind the tower. Notice how the sunlight brightens the smoke that has moved out of the shadow wedge.