Courtney Love declared she is addicted to the story (or non-story) of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The news media has been poorly attempting for a week to create news from the little factoids about the vanishing plane, disregarding the human tragedy in its wake. Jon Stewart’s parody (above) of the news is in fact the most honest reporting, sad when fake news is more accurate then the real thing.
Okay here is what we know. Physicists using the Doppler Effect have declared that the plane crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean 1,500 miles off the coast of Australia. Their theory gained so much credibility that the airline sent out text messages to the families of the survivors informing them of their loss (talk about a new low, sometimes technology is a poor replacement for a simple in person conversation). Well the big question is now, where is the black box?
The US Navy has joined the feverish search for the Black Box before its battery dies. The hero in this story (if any) might be an underwater robot, called Bluefin-21. This 16-foot, torpedo-shaped bot caries a slew of sensors that will use its side-scan sonars to investigate underwater objects at depths of 15,000 feet. Joining the BlueFin-21 is his sidekick the Towed Pinger Locator-25 (TPL-25) which has been successful in locating emergency sonar beacons on downed Navy planes and other commercial aircraft black boxes. Ships tow the system at slow speed, and TPL-25 is good to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet. Talk about a dynamic duo!
Admiral John Kirby said that an underwater robot and a towed search system had left New York and were on their way to Perth, Australia. (Recently spotted debris was seen by satellites about 1500 miles west of Perth in the Southern Indian Ocean). These assets would be used only if there were a debris field spotted and confirmed to be from MH370, and that part of the hunt relies on search aircraft, satellite images, and surface ships to find the missing airliner. These more sophisticated tools the Navy is offering then would help to locate the plane’s underwater resting place.
In today’s technological world a plane vanishing from radar and space is an amazing and unnerving occurrence that makes us feel vulnerable. In this fragile state, robots might be the only glimmer of hope for the families of flight 370 to have closure.
Image credit: CC by thierry ehrmann