06 June 2011

Where is the 7/7 Chemistry Discussion?

I posted this on twitter,

Does anyone else know why there aren't any discussions within the pages of Chemistry World, Nature Chemistry or similar regarding the chemistry surrounding the UK's 7/7 bombings? The silence is strange, surely there's some analysis from professional chemists somewhere?


  1. Are you perchance fishing for someone to talk about "dangerous information"? Personally, I know a couple of ways they probably did it, but I'm going to hold my tongue out of common courtesy.

    New synthetic routes to meth, on the other hand ...

  2. "Are you perchance fishing..."

    Yes, certainly. As a professional chemist I think that it is pathetic that this hasn't been discussed by other chemists to the nth degree, pulled apart, scrutnised, and put back together again with parts added or taken out as needs be.

    "dangerous information?"

    Do you say that from a perspective of section 58?

    "Personally, I know a couple of ways" but do these ways correlate with what came out at the inquest? For example, would either of your ways leave any traces in the carriages or buses post detonation? Could these ways have been done in their flat with materials that they could've accessed?

    Is there anything else in Report of the official account of the bombings in London on 7th July 2005, from the professional perspective as a chemist that you'd like to draw attention to?

  3. "For example, would either of your ways leave any traces in the carriages or buses post detonation?"

    and would either of these ways produce results consistent with the damage and injuries caused on 7/7?

  4. At least I can speak for Nature Chemistry... we just don't cover this sort of stuff (there's no particular reason we're avoiding anything). We're a monthly journal that publishes mostly research and doesn't do news. It would be like expecting JACS, Angewandte or ChemComm to cover it. If it was going to be covered anywhere, it would be somewhere with news and news features...

  5. Thanks for your note, Stuart. Throughout all of this period, of the very recent history of post cold war terrorism, the only chemistry note I've seen came from Peter Urben in the form of a letter to (I think) CEN. It discussed the feasibility (or otherwise) of preparing Sprengel explosives relating to the 'liquid bomb plot'.

    Beyond that: nothing. The apparent lack of professional interest amongst the chemistry community is staggering.

    Speaking more generally, rather than with respect to Nature Chemistry, why haven't we seen, for example, an interview with Clifford Todd the principal forensic investigator at the Forensic Explosives Laboratory (p38, line 14)? What were the difficulties in this particular case, how does this compare to other cases he's worked on, what techniques did he use etc, etc.

    Most chemists I've met have an opinion about every single aspect of chemistry, usually the opinion is a long way beyond the point of irritation; yet on this issue, silence.

  6. I don't have a lack of professional interest, I'm just afraid to end up on some list somewhere.

  7. "...I'm just afraid..."

    Believe it or not, you most probably have the most freedom now than you will for the rest of your life; or at least until you retire.

  8. Professor Hans Michels of Imperial College London served as a defence witness for those accused of the July 21st 2005 'events'. His testimony (that the July 21st devices were 'not viable') appeared to result in the 'charge of conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life' being left off the court indictment.

    However, the accused were still banged up for 'conspiracy to murder'....?

    Professor Hans Michels seems to have been given a rough time - see paragraph 25 here.

  9. "However, the accused were still banged up for 'conspiracy to murder'....?"

    From, p419 Smith & Hogan, Criminal Law, 11th ed, David Ormerod.

    "Inchoate crime and impossibility

    ...If it is impossible to commit a crime, obviously no one can be convicted of committing it. It does not follow that no one can be convicted of ... conspiring to commit the crime. ... The law has long recognized that, in some circumstances, a conviction for ..., conspiracy ... to commit an offence might be proper, although the commission of that offence was impossible."

    Thanks for the link to Ibrahim.

    I wonder what Prof Michels' opinion is of the 7/7 bombings particularly with regard to the chemistry.

  10. ^ Indeed, it would be very interesting to find out.

    Prof Hans Michels of Imperial College gave a presentation:
    'Some conclusions on the stability of improvised explosives based on hydrogen peroxide' at the United Kingdom Explosion Liaison Group (UKELG) meeting of 24th-25th June 2009, however his paper is not linked on-line.

    Perhaps someone at UKELG would provide you with a response to your very valid request, Gyg3s.

  11. Thanks Bridget. I'm still awaiting a response to Sinclair's suggestion. A few more days and I'll use an FoI request. (Unless you/J7 wish to do so?).

  12. J7 contacted Hans Michels to request a copy of his paper:

    Dear Sirs,

    I acknowledge you request for a copy of my presentation at a previous meeting of the UKExplosion Liaison Group. Unfortunately there is not such an item available.

    As it says in the margin column of all UKELG meeting announcements, we do not publish proceedings, so as not to inhibit informal presentations and discussion. Only in that way can we ensure that those who are engaged in ongoing research are prepared to talk about it, without the risk of having to commit themselves on issues which are still in a development stage. There is an option for speakers to publish material related to presentations on our Web site. Some speakers do indeed welcome this, but this is by no means universal. On the occasion that you refer to I certainly was keen to retain informality and I never produced a written text.

    Perhaps it may help you if I point out that much of what I might have discussed was reported in the 2007 Woolwich Crown Court proceedings against the defendants of the failed 2nd set of explosive incidents on London Transport of 21st July 2005. If not freely, then under the Freedom of information Act you should be able to get access to that information.

    I trust this is helpful.

    Yours sincerely,

    H. Michels

    Hans J Michels CEng,CPhys,FInstP
    Professor of Safety Engineering
    Imperial College London
    Department of Chemical Engineering
    South Kensington Campus,
    London SW72AZ

  13. ^ thanks for your note, Bridget. You've saved he, I and the Imperial College a lot of time and effort.

    I presume Prof Michels is referring to the following court case,

    "at Woolwich Crown Court, after a trial lasting several months, before Mr Justice Fulford and a jury, these men were convicted of conspiracy to murder." from paragraph 2.

    I wonder if any of the defending barristers will provide copies of Prof Michels' witness statements?

  14. ^Note: 25 Bedford Row Chambers contacted with a view to obtaining transcripts.

  15. ^...who responeded with 'phone details of the Woolwich court switchboard, explaining that transcripts were not generally available to counsel, so I would need to contact the court reporters via the court manager.

  16. ^... the court reporters are Merrell Legal Solutions, who charge,

    "You can expect to receive a written quote via fax or post shortly after submitting your form to us. The quote is based on the length of the hearing (or extract of the hearing) that you require. The final amount is based on the number of words upon completion of the transcript. Therefore, our estimates are not exact. It costs approximately £165.60 per hour of court time (inc VAT). So, a whole day's proceedings (6 hours) will cost approximately £993.60 (inc VAT)."

    ... which means I can't afford to pursue the information.