#MH370: The Doppler Effect, the Undisputed Facts and a Theory

March 25, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777

Have remains of MH 370 been found west of Australia?

Good afternoon:

AMSA cancelled search operations today due to bad weather. They plan to resume the search tomorrow.

The cancelled search provides us with an opportunity to consider the doppler effect and why it establishes that MH370 flew south into the southern Indian Ocean as well to review the undisputed facts in an effort to propose a viable theory (i.e., evidence based) that explains what happened to MH370.

The Doppler Effect

The Doppler Effect is the difference you hear in the sound of a siren on an approaching vehicle compared to the sound you hear as the vehicle passes you and recedes in the distance. The siren continuously sounds the same to the driver and anyone in the vehicle, but it gets louder and higher as the vehicle approaches you and softer and lower as it recedes from you. The only time the siren sounds the same to you as it does to the people in the vehicle is when the vehicle reaches you.

Wikipedia describes the effect withe this analogy:

An analogy would be a pitcher throwing one ball every second in a person’s direction (a frequency of 1 ball per second). Assuming that the balls travel at a constant velocity and the pitcher is stationary, the man will catch one ball every second. However, if the pitcher is jogging towards the man, he will catch balls more frequently because the balls will be less spaced out (the frequency increases). The inverse is true if the pitcher is moving away from the man; he will catch balls less frequently because of the pitcher’s backward motion (the frequency decreases). If the pitcher were to move at an angle but with the same speed, the variation of the frequency at which the receiver would catch the ball would be less as the distance between the two would change more slowly.

From the point of view of the pitcher, the frequency remains constant (whether he’s throwing balls or transmitting microwaves). Since with electromagnetic radiation like microwaves frequency is inversely proportional to wavelength, the wavelength of the waves is also affected. Thus, the relative difference in velocity between a source and an observer is what gives rise to the doppler effect.

Inmarsat was able to use the doppler effect to figure out whether MH370 took the northern or southern route by measuring the frequency of the 8 or 9 pinging radio waves. Relative to the position of the satellite in space, they could determine if MH370 was getting closer to the satellite or farther away. Then they verified their theory by using the satellite to determine if other known flights were approaching or receding from the satellite.

Pending an independent review of the data that validates Inmarsat’s conclusions, I will conclude that MH370 took the southern route into the south Indian Ocean.

Nevertheless, I still find it difficult to believe that someone intentionally decided to kill 238 people on the aircraft and then commit suicide by flying MH370 into the southern Indian Ocean until it ran out of gas and plunged into the sea.

Undisputed Facts

Let’s take a look at the undisputed facts:

1. MH270 departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 12:41 am on Saturday, March 8 with 227 passengers and a crew of 12.

2. MH370 confirms reaching cruising altitude of 35,000 feet at 1:01 am.

3. Last ACARS data transmission received at 1:07 am; MH370 reconfirms altitude of 35,000 feet (the ACARS system was disabled sometime after 1:07 am and the next scheduled transmission at 1:37 am). To disable ACARS, a person would have to access the electrical bay beneath the floor behind the cockpit and disconnect the circuit breakers. Access to the electrical bay is through a trap door in the floor that is concealed by a carpet that must be pulled back to reveal the door. A special tool is required to open the door. Although disabled, the system continues to periodically ping the communication satellite approximately once per hour. Inmarsat, which operates the satellite, used the pings to calculate the location of MH370 and its direction of flight.

4. ATC Kuala Lumpur contacts MH370 at 1:19 am and instructs the pilots to contact ATC Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam for the next leg of the flight. The copilot responds, “All right. Good night.” That is a possibly significant variation in routine, which is to respond, “Roger and out.” Some people, including myself have speculated that the response was a veiled warning that something was amiss. MH370 did not contact ATC Ho Chi Minh City.

5. The transponder was turned off 2 minutes later at 1:21 am.

6. Shortly afterwards the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet and turned sharply to head back across the Malaysian peninsula. It later traveled some distance at 23,000 feet and even dipped down to 5,000 feet.

7. At 1:30 am a pilot on another flight attempted to contact MH370 but only heard mumbling and static.

8. The expected half-hourly ACARS data transmission at 1:37 am did not happen.

9. At 2:11 am the first of seven automated hourly pings received by the Inmarsat satellite.

10. At 2:15 am the Malaysian military lost radar contact with MH370, which was 200 miles northwest of Penang.

11. At 8:11 am, the Inmarsat satellite received the last ping from MH370.

12. Neither the crew nor the aircraft’s onboard communication systems relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before the aircraft vanished from radar screens.

A New Theory

I now suspect there was an attempted hijacking and a struggle in the cockpit that ended with the deaths of everyone on board probably due to a decompression of the aircraft.

Tell us what you think.

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