updated 9/8/2006 8:52:41 PM ET 2006-09-09T00:52:41

A professor who has suggested the World Trade Center was brought down by explosives has been placed on paid leave by Brigham Young University while the Mormon church-owned school investigates his claims.

Steven Jones, a physicist who has taught at BYU since 1985, is co-chairman of a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth.

BYU is “concerned about the increasingly speculative and accusatory nature of these statements by Dr. Jones,” the university said in Friday’s Desert Morning News in Salt Lake City. “BYU remains concerned that Dr. Jones’ work on this topic has not been published in appropriate scientific venues.”

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Jones declined to comment Friday.

The physicist published his views two weeks ago in the book “9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out.”

'This is not physics'
His work focuses on the relatively narrow question of whether molten metal present at the World Trade Center site after the attacks is evidence that a high-temperature incendiary called thermite, which can be used to weld or cut metal, was involved in the twin towers’ destruction.

He concludes thermite was present, suggesting someone might have used explosives to bring down the skyscrapers.

At the University of Utah, Physics Department Chairman Pierre Sokolsky said destruction of the towers typically would be a field within the expertise of engineers.

“This is not physics,” Sokolsky said. “I don’t want to comment on BYU’s actions. But if someone in my department was doing this, I would find it disconnected from the academic activities of the department.”

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