First off, let's start with the obvious: I'm not a scientist, nor an explosives expert, nor anything even approximately close to the two. So take what follows with a grain of salt. In fact, probably a whole bag of salt. With that said, as one might expect, my inbox has been stuffed in the last two days with emails, videos, tweets, and so on, of that very large explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, that leveled a district of the city, sadly killed several people, and left many others -hundreds of thousands according to some reports (See https://www.zerohedge.com/health/300000-left-homeless-beirut-after-blast-collapsed-walls-1-mile-away), with devastated homes.
However, judging from the email I received the last two days, I think it safe to say that no one thinks that the explosion in Beirut was entirely "natural." Everyone, myself included, found it too "unusual," for whatever reason, and offered their own speculations, and asked me for mine. I have to admit that I've watched several videos, and while my first thought after seeing the earliest videos was "some kind of fuel air bomb," I spent much of yesterday afternoon watching other videos from different perspectives, and I am now not so inclined to take that view, though I still hold it out as a possibility. We'll get back to that. As of now, there are are two main theories:
(1) The media is now reporting that the explosion was due to massive amounts of stored ammonia nitrate, as per this article from Zero Hedge which states that the amount was some 2750 tons, and that it was stored there for six years, implying that the explosion may have been an accident, or possibly, sabotage:
That same article, however, indicates that
(2) U.S. President Trump was briefed by the military, and their conclusion was that it was some sort of bomb.
So we're left with where we began: accident, or deliberate act. The question is, if the latter, what kind?
For new readers of this website, it's important to recall our basic methodology here. We do "high octane speculation" here, that is, we assume that there may be and probably is a perfectly reasonable mundane explanation for most things. Yet, in cases such as this, where things appear to be "off" in some form or fashion, we are not afraid to speculate. Here, our speculation concerns the modality of the possibility of deliberate action. If we assume for the sake of that speculation, for example, that 2750 tons of ammonia nitrate were stored at the portside warehouse in Beirut, then such a large explosion would make some sense, particularly if some modality could be found to detonate it simultaneously.
As I said, my first thought, when viewing some of the initial videos, was that the explosion was due to some sort of fuel air bomb. There appeared to be an initial smaller detonation, followed by a much larger one with a rapidly moving shock wave, which was quite visible as a bloom of water vapor appeared to have been raised by the explosion, which rose quickly, and then revealed a smaller mushroom cloud raising in the air. That basic signature - two detonations, plus a rapidly moving shock wave - is characteristic of a fuel air bomb.
But other videos showed clearly that there were small fires inside the facility allegedly storing the ammonia nitrate, then, a sudden explosion, following by the bloom of water, the rising mushroom cloud, and so on. One individual also sent me a tweet, alleging that there was a rocket visible shortly before the main explosion, but the video was so small I could not make this out. So for now, I'm going on the "deliberate action but no rocket" template. In any case, here are some of the pictures and videos of the detonation. First, before and after satellite pictures of the dock where the explosion occurred:
Note the crater where the building used to be. One individual, R.P. sent me a comparison picture of the crater left from the explosion of the chemical plant in Tianjin China a few years ago and wondered if the Beirut explosion might have been a rod of god (and many thanks for the pictures):
Now as for the rod of god hypothesis, many people who sent me emails were wondering the same thing. I doubt it in this instance, since the crater in Beirut does not appear to be nearly as deep as that inTianjin. Again, at this point, though I rule nothing out, I give it a small probability.
This article from the U.K.'s Daily Mail includes another video, and it was this video that made me question the fuel-air explosive explanation:
Note that in the video, a fire is clearly burning in the warehouse, then there is a sudden explosion (or detonation) of the alleged ammonia nitrate, followed shortly thereafter by the bloom of water from that explosion/detonation. Viewed from a different perspective, it might look like a fuel-air explosive, but from this and other views, in my opinion now, the water bloom is clearly caused by the primary explosion/detonation. Another factor that might play into the size of the explosion is the fact that there was a large grain elevator "conveniently" next to the warehouse allegedly storing the ammonia nitrate (click on the picture for the article from the N.Y. Times):
As anyone knows, the dust in grain elevators can explode with great force, and the principle is very much like that in a fuel air bomb, with each particle of dust essentially being a mini-explosion, using the oxygen in the atmosphere just like a fuel-air bomb uses atmospheric oxygen as the oxidizer for the fuel of the explosion. Combined with an explosion of ammonia nitrate, this might account for the "look" of a fuel-air explosion from some points of view. (Consider this video of the Texas grain elevator explosion of 2013 shared by G.L.R.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1UbSYOxhjU&feature=emb_logo Incidentally, this explosion was also ammonia nitrate.)
Yet another reader, B., found this compilation of videos of the event on R.T.:
What is interesting is to compare this sad incident in Beirut, with the explosion of the Russian ammunition plant in Siberia a few years ago (video again thanks to G.L.R.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqubOf9IE4s&feature=emb_logo_ ) In both cases, there is a fire, then a sudden explosion/detonation, a massive shock wave, a bloom of water vapor(!) which rises faster than the mushroom cloud of the explosion itself. Note, however, that in this video of the ammo dump explosion, the fire appears to be burning some unknown distance away from the location of the explosion.
My point in reviewing all this here is why would anyone store tons of ammonia nitrate in a warehouse right next door to a grain elevator? That's simply asking for trouble, should either one "go." It is this one fact alone that makes me suspicious of the incident, for all it would take to create the incident is access to either the warehouse and/or the grain elevator, a detonator, and a remote control. If one is inclined to the "deliberate action" hypothesis, this, for the moment, and in the absence of other details, remains my favored hypothesis...
...there is that statement from President Trump that he was briefed by the Pentagon, and they were of the opinion it was a bomb of "some sort." The idea of a "bomb" suggests that there was more involved than just ammonia nitrate, or grain elevators, and the phrase "some sort" could imply that it was something "exotic", or that the generals briefing Trump were deliberately making it all up, and deliberately obfuscating the event with misinformation. Now come the my usual off the end of the twig high octane speculations. What if, indeed, Trump's generals are correct and it was a bomb "of some sort"? In spite of all the above arguments, the intuition still nags at me that the fuel-air bomb hypothesis might be true. After all, grain dust or even ammonia nitrate dust might act like a fuel air bomb. But what if we're looking at something quite different? Some individuals who contacted me about the incident asked me if I thought it was a nuclear weapon of some sort. Initially, I responded at length to one of these individuals that I did not think so. Another individual contacted me later and argued more persuasively for that hypothesis.
If one is familiar with the development and theory of nuclear weapons, one will be aware that there are essentially "four generations" that are talked about in the literature:
1) First Generation Nuclear Weapons are those weapons that are pure fission weapons, utilizing uranium 235 or plutonium as the fuel. In other words, a simple atomic bomb;
2) Second Generation Nuclear Weapons are those weapons that, in addition to being pure fission weapons, also utilize a "tamper" or mixture of an element such as deuterium or lithium to increase the amount for free thermal neutrons in the reaction, to increase the efficiency of the burn of the nuclear fuel, and hence, of the yield of the weapon. In other words, these are the "boosted fission" weapons that quickly took the yields of atom bombs approximately an order of magnitude of kilotons higher than first generation nuclear weapons, for example, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki a-bombs' yields were measured in tens of kilotons of yield, whereas the typical boosted fission or second generation nuclear weapons' yields are typically measured in the hundreds of kilotons;
3) Third Generation Nuclear Weapons are those that are a combination of fission and fusion weapons, in other words, hydrogen bombs, where an atom bomb is used as the "fuse" to create the radioactive pressures to cause deuterium, tritium or lithium atoms to fuse and release enormous energies. These weapons' yields are typically measured in megatons, i.e., millions of tons of TNT, rather than kilotons (mere thousands of tons of TNT).
This third generation has led to the dream of
4) Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons, which are pure fusion weapons that do not require the use of an atom bomb as the "fuse". These weapons are sought therefore because they would not leave the deadly radioactive fallout of the atom bombs used as first, or used in second, or third generation weapons, and also because they could be designed for very small to very large yields.
What if, I thought, we were looking at some sort of fourth generation nuclear weapon, one utilizing dissociated hydrogen from ordinary water vapor in the atmosphere?Now, several long and convoluted reasons would induce me to say that's ridiculous, if this were not such a long and convoluted blog already, except that two people watching this story, K.M., and another individual were also thinking more or less very same thing, and the latter sent me this link about a paper, authored in 2009, using electromagnetic means of dissociation of hydrogen in a radio-frequency plasma source on water vapor; think of it as a kind of electro-acoustic shock wave for manipulating plasmas(shades of Dr. Ronald Richter, folks):
Of course, that's a really radical idea, so far-fetched and "out there" that it boggles the imagination, but supposing someone found a way to do that in ordinary atmosphere? It would be rather like a combination fuel-air bomb (the ammonia nitrate and grain dust), and the Hindenburg disaster (the hydrogen). But what might such an exotic "bomb" look like? I suspect it would look to the untrained eye rather like a nuclear explosion, with a fast-moving pressure wave created a water vapor and torus of clouds, with a mushroom cloud from a massive fireball that quickly burns its fuel out, and leaving little traces of radioactivity, save perhaps tiny traces of nuclear events such as metal or glass that might - I stress, might - crumble in one's hands when handled. It's not exactly a full "fourth generation" nuclear weapon, but it would definitely be a step on the technology tree. One telltale signature of such a device might be the presence of unexplained local interference with electric devices, and of course, with radios or television broadcast signals and receivers. As yet, I've heard of no such details from Beirut, and admittedly, K.M.'s., the other individual's, and my speculations here are extremely high octane, as befits the concept we're entertaining.
And of course, for those really paying attention, such a concept might explain to some degree those "unexpected yields" from early thermonuclear tests as being perhaps due to the dissociation of atmospheric hydrogen by the radiation of the blast itself (remember those early fears that such tests would ignite atmospheric hydrogen? what if that was true to a small degree? For that matter, Edward Teller did a paper on this: https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2019/09/12/the_fear_that_a_nuclear_bomb_could_ignite_the_atmosphere.html Note the quotation "It is shown that, whenever the teperature to which a section of the atmosphere may be heated, no self-propagating chain of nuclear reactions is likely to be started. The energy kisses to radiation always overcompensate the gains due to the reaction." Emphasis added))
And I didn't get to talk about how theoretical conventional explosives like octanitrocubane or ionospheric heaters like HAARP or Eiscat or lots of other stuff might figure into all this.
See you on the flip side...