Letters: Online Learning, The Myths of Sept. 11 Listeners comment on online education, personal ads and debunked Sept. 11 conspiracy theories.
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Letters: Online Learning, The Myths of Sept. 11

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Letters: Online Learning, The Myths of Sept. 11

Letters: Online Learning, The Myths of Sept. 11

Letters: Online Learning, The Myths of Sept. 11

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6061941/6061942" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Listeners comment on online education, personal ads and debunked Sept. 11 conspiracy theories.

NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your e-mails. We talked last week about the growing popularity of online education. More and more students turn to the Web to earn a degree or two. Among them, listener Scott Vaughn(ph).

I am halfway to completing my online doctorate, he wrote. Technology is finally beginning to make the online schooling scene more viable. High speed Internet allows me to view recordings of the lectures that are given to the on-campus students. These include video and audio and can be viewed at a time that suits me. The future of online schooling is becoming much more interactive as the technology allows.

Last Monday we talked with Michael Beaumier, the former editor of personal ads for a Chicago weekly who wrote a book about it called I Know You're Out There. Lindsay(ph) e-mailed us from Jacksonville, Florida to say, I met my husband ten years ago by responding to this beautifully written personal ad:

Gift certificate for two. Tall, handsome, un-run-of-the-mill, boyish 40-year-old has bookcase larger than TV, matching silverware, comfortably paced, energetically laid back, seriously flirtatious, liberally conservative. Hope to redeem this coupon for the gift of quality relationship with an attractive, slim, eclectic yet defined, wild, grounded woman of honor. To which Lindsay added, I think you'll understand why I got the best end of this deal.

And during our regular visit with David Gardner of the Motley Fool, he talked about the then-rumor - reports today seem to confirm it - that Apple plans to release downloadable full-length movies for the iPod. David felt the story, Movies on a Tiny Screen, was overblown.

I think he's missing the point, e-mailed John O'Leary(ph), a listener in San Francisco. Yes, watching a two-hour movie on the two-inch screen of an iPod may not be pleasant, but watching one on a 15-inch laptop screen can be quite enjoyable. Also, your computer of course can be connected to your TV. The arrival of video on demand is the point.

We ended last week with a conversation about some 9/11 conspiracy theories. Popular Mechanics has a book out on the topic called Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts. Jim Meigs is editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics, and he joins us again from his office in New York. Nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. JIM MEIGS (Editor-in-Chief, Popular Mechanics): Great to be here, Neal.

CONAN: We got so many e-mails after the show last week we thought we'd call you back and see if we could get some more answers. Kevin in Tallahassee, Florida e-mailed to ask: Can your guest explain why there was no wreckage of a plane at either Pennsylvania - meaning Shanksville, Pennsylvania - or at the Pentagon?

Mr. MEIGS: Well, in fact we have a photograph of the wreckage of the plane at the Pentagon and of the black box, the voice cockpit recorder, at Shanksville. In both cases, though, the planes hit at very high speeds. At the Pentagon, most the plane wound up inside the building where it was later retrieved, the bodies were recovered and identified - or what was left of them, sadly.

And at Shanksville, same thing. The plane hit the ground almost going straight down, was largely buried in a pit but was extracted and the same research was done as is done in any aircraft accident.

CONAN: Barry(ph), another listener, wrote to ask: Could Popular Mechanics have been approached by the government to write this book to debunk all the popular theories because one happened to be very close to the truth?

Mr. MEIGS: You know, it's funny that we get this a lot. And what you see in conspiracy theories is if you challenge something that is fervently believed, people, rather than reexamine their own belief, will often accuse you of being part of the conspiracy. So this conspiracy gets bigger every month.

And we got a lot of criticism for this also because one of our researchers happens to have the last name Chertoff and may even be distantly related to Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security. So of course that led a wildfire of theorizing.

The fact is no, no one from the government ever contacted us, asked us to do this. Our only contacts with the government have been in the course of being journalists and calling up the appropriate people to ask questions.

CONAN: I wonder, as you looked at some of the questions being raised by the skeptics, do they serve a function? Have they asked some interesting or some important questions?

Mr. MEIGS: Well, that was really how this whole thing started. We looked at some of these questions. Some of them, they make claims that sound very tangible. They deal with physical evidence. Let's say they claim that jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel so therefore can't explain why the towers fell down. And that's what we were looking for was that kind of nitty-gritty detail that Popular Mechanics ought to be able to get to the bottom of.

And every single time we found out that even the claims, the factual claims being made by the theorists, were just simply incorrect. So we fully support being skeptical, asking questions, demanding more information, but at the same time we also support paying attention to facts when you do find them. Not ignoring the ones that don't suit your worldview.

CONAN: Jim, thanks very much.

Mr. MEIGS: My pleasure.

CONAN: Jim Meigs, editor-in-chief at Popular Mechanics. Their book is Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts. And he joined us from his office in New York.

If you have comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach is by e-mail. The address: talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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