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Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the flinging-thunderbolts dept.

Transportation 884

niktemadur writes "In light of an Air Comet pilot's report to Air France, Airbus, and the Spanish civil aviation authority that, during a Monday flight from Lima to Lisbon, 'Suddenly, we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds,' the Cosmic Variance blog team on the Discover Magazine website muses on the question 'What is the probability that, for all flights in history, one or more could have been downed by a meteor?' Taking into account total flight hours and the rate of meteoric activity with the requisite mass to impact on Earth (approximately 3,000 a day), some quick math suggests there may be one in twenty odds of a plane being brought down in the period from 1989 to 2009. Intriguingly, in the aftermath of TWA flight 800's crash in 1996, the New York Times published a letter by Columbia professors Charles Hailey (physics) and David Helfand (astronomy), in which they stated the odds of a meteor-airplane collision for aviation history up to that point: one in ten."

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Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447? (1, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222247)

Yes.

EMP Testing (1, Troll)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222307)

Just as likely.

Re:EMP Testing (4, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222501)

I read somewhere that statistically, airplanes are safer than cars, you're more likely to die in a car accident.

I also read a quote somewhere else of somebody saying "Airplanes might be safer than cars, but I'd rather arrive at my destination with a false sense of security than feel like I've narrowly escaped death."

Also- I personally believe statistics aren't all they're cracked up to be. When I'm in control of a situation VS when I'm not. I think I can personally change my chances of survival in a car by not speeding... Maybe only a few percentage points, but still- statistics are cold hard ideas, but don't account for personal decisions.

Statistically, 1 in X number of men will have a heart attack- but eating healthy and excersizing changes your odds. You're not just a sitting duck, y'know?

Sorry for the rant.

Re:EMP Testing (5, Interesting)

mftb (1522365) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222719)

I enjoy flying simply because the idea is so absurd. I often try to imagine what it would be like to show someone from the 1700s or so around the world as it is today and modern flight is one of the more ridiculous things - you have these massive hunks of metal held in the air by the air itself that carry people at high speeds and high altitudes all over the world. In flying, I feel I have experienced something amazing the human race has achieved. Car travel, by contrast, is largely mundane.

Re:EMP Testing (4, Interesting)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222775)

The thing to remember is that statistics speak to populations, not individuals. As you noted, the odds of an accident for a typical driver may be X, but if you drive safely, or very rarely, or only in optimal conditions, etc., then your personal risk will be less than X.

It should also be remembered, though, that people tend to underestimate the extent to which they match the statistics. Like that Garrison Keillor joke about Lake Wobegone, "where all the children are above average." I think I read once (no citation, sorry) that something like 80% of drivers believe they're above average in driving skill. They can't all be right!

Re:EMP Testing (5, Funny)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222815)

Well, living in the Boston area, I can say that locally I am better than 80% of the drivers - due to the fact that, at the very least, I use my signal when turning/changing lanes. That's gotta count for something...

Re:EMP Testing (2, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222807)

Actually, you can change your chances of survival in a plane as well. Not choosing the ultra-cheap airline that's known for skipping maintainance every now and then, for example.

The rest is, sadly, intuition not fitting to facts if numbers are very large or small. Rationally, you would always choose a 0.1% to die in a situation with no control over a situation where, depending on your behaviour, your chance is between 0.1% and 0.2% - but if you'd set that experiment up, I'm pretty sure that a lot of people would choose the "I'm in control" situation, even though even if they play it perfect, they're no better off. But our intuitive feeling doesn't say "no matter what I do, there's still a risk". Our intuition of control is "if I do everything right, nothing bad will happen".

Re:EMP Testing (5, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222809)

What you want (and what you are getting with your thought process) is the illusion of control.

We want to feel as if we are in control of our destiny, not handing it over to some faceless being behind a locked cabin door. It doesn't matter if you are the sort of driver that spends more time on the sidewalk racking up points for hitting old ladies; you believe in your heart that you would be better at saving your skin than some highly trained but anonymous professional.

This is also why there is such a huge push against automated driving, not because it isn't safer than letting the average driver control things, but because we as a species have a difficult time trusting in a 'higher power' to save us.

(Incidentally, you probably don't want me to get into my ideas on what the implications this has on our 'need' for religion.)

Re:EMP Testing (3, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222849)

I read somewhere that statistically, airplanes are safer than cars, you're more likely to die in a car accident. I also read a quote somewhere else of somebody saying "Airplanes might be safer than cars, but I'd rather arrive at my destination with a false sense of security than feel like I've narrowly escaped death." Also- I personally believe statistics aren't all they're cracked up to be. When I'm in control of a situation VS when I'm not. I think I can personally change my chances of survival in a car by not speeding... Maybe only a few percentage points, but still- statistics are cold hard ideas, but don't account for personal decisions.

Your confusing your personal risk assessment (I'm in control vs when I'm not) with actual risks. Yes you can raise your chances of avoiding or surviving a car accident by taking precautions - but the overall risk levels are still vastly in favor of airplanes. People generally feel more comfortable when tehy are "in control" and discount risks (won't happen to me" yet fear much safer things that they feel are out of their direct control. Add to that the rarity of airplane fatalities and so they make the news, heighten people's apprehension.

Bottom line - people are very bad at assess risks realistically; and even worse at probability and statistics.

Dick Cheney (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222743)

Even more likely.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (3, Informative)

paazin (719486) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222317)

As one of the commenters in TFA said...

I am also an astronomer. On any given day, many tens of thousands of meteors enter our atmosphere. These were extensively studied using radio scatter off of meteor trains, and they have been used for meteor burst communications. Nearly all of these burn up in the atmosphere before hitting the earth. Common sense tells you that if thousands of these fell to earth each hour, then we'd all have holes in our roofs.

I agree that a meteor could have hit flight 447, but it is extremely unlikely. What much more likely event could have caused the 6 second burst of light? The same thing that brought down Flight 800: an explosion. The two most likely sources of an explosion? The fuel tank (as in flight 800), or a bomb.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (1, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222525)

Or that Jumbo Jet the US military equipped with a missile-killing laser system.

Military test gone bad?

Or just an unfortunate and sad accident that happens every so often. There's a good chance it was very large hail stones that can crack aircraft windows, that would explain the decompression if a couple hit the same window and smashed it out, plus extreme turbulence and lightning - none of which on their own would even worry a pilot.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (3, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222831)

Some pilots on PPRuNe suggested that it is very unlikely to find any hail of significant size at FL350 (35,000 feet), and that if you find any at all, it was blown up there from a lower altitude (i.e. relatively low speed). Besides, there's no reason to believe a hail ding is going to bring down something the size of an A330.... That said, anything is possible, I suppose, particularly given the amount of composite material involved.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (-1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222685)

...or a bomb.

The obvious question is were there any Muslims on board. That would make the chance of a bomb much more likely than a meteor strike. I am not saying that it is very likely that an individual Muslim is a bomber, just that the probability of a lightning strike is minuscule.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (1, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222805)

The probability of a lightning strike is quite high. It happens all the time. This article is about meteors, not about lightning or your personal prejudices. The odds of it having been a terrorist bomb are practically nil at this point, given that no one has been able to convincingly claim credit.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (2, Insightful)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222335)

No.

Let P1 = the probability of a human pilot, mechanic, or inspector screwing up.
Let P2 = the probability of a meteor intersecting an airplane midflight

P1 is much, much, much, much, much, much greater than P2.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (1)

shadow349 (1034412) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222373)

It's an Airbus. You have to add "engineer" and "programmer" to your P1 list.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (1)

mmclean (29486) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222579)

It's an Airbus, if you add "engineer" and "programmer" to the list than P1 approaches 100%

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (2)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222439)

P1 is much, much, much, much, much, much greater than P2.

Yeah, but the headline didn't ask if it was likely. It asked if it was possible ;)

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (5, Interesting)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222475)

The BBC has a better explanation in their article about Airbus reissuing guidelines on what to do when speed detectors give differing results, how this may happen and why it could have caused the crash. From the article: "Meteorologists say that the Air France Flight 447 had entered an unusual storm with 100mph (160km/h) updrafts that sucked water up from the ocean. As the moisture reached the plane's high altitude it quickly froze in -40C temperatures (thus freezing the airspeed detectors). The updrafts would also have created dangerous turbulence, they say. More info here [bbc.co.uk] .

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222537)

If P2 > 0 then the answer is "yes".

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222745)

While I don't buy it, either, your reasoning is too simplified.

Let P1 be 0.1
Let P2 be 0.0001

Even though P1 is much greater than P2, P2 will still happen with a probability of 0.0001 - it is independent of P1.

So while for every individual event, the probability that P1 happened will always be 1000 times larger than P2, in a large enough sample size you are still very likely to have P2 events.

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222755)

No.
...
P1 is much, much, much, much, much, much greater than P2.

Something tells me you came to this conclusion without doing any math at all.

wrong (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222825)

The modal verb "could," indicates possibility; thus the GP is (trivially) correct.

Or are you denying that it's possible that a meteor strike could take down a commercial airliner?

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222393)

Yes.

No.

OK. Now mod every post except this one and Shakrai's "Redundant".

Re:Could a Meteor Have Brought Down Air France 447 (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222409)

I speculate that Windows downloaded some critical patches and then rebooted.
I hope they find the blackbox, with the event logs so we can be sure.

I'll leave the blue screen joke for someone else.

Laser weapon can fix this problem. (2, Funny)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222611)

The new anti-missile laser systems [spacedaily.com] (AMLS) would be ideal for dealing with meteors. These systems were recently miniaturized to such an extent that several have been attached to commercial aircraft.

Unlike a missile, a meteor has a predictable path of flight. Given the speed at which a meteor enters the earth's atmosphere, the typical meteor is white hot and should be easily detected by the infrared detector in these laser systems. An AMLS, with some slight modification for tracking a meteor, could easily blast it out of the sky.

In the absence of any evidence of any sort..... (0, Offtopic)

8127972 (73495) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222287)

... In this case, is it fair to the loved ones on the flight in question to speculate about the cause?

Re:In the absence of any evidence of any sort..... (5, Insightful)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222347)

Glad they hang out on Slashdot.

Fair?

Finding the REAL causes - through speculation and investigation - are the route to improvements that prevent this sort of thing from again happening.

I can think of no more fitting tribute to the departed ones, and their families.

Re:In the absence of any evidence of any sort..... (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222645)

[...]improvements that prevent this sort of thing from again happening.

And if it turns out that it WAS indeed hit by a meteor? Let's just say it was struck by a 10 meter diameter meteor right in the cockpick, tearing it off - how does one go about preventing that?

Re:In the absence of any evidence of any sort..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222359)

Why not?

Re:In the absence of any evidence of any sort..... (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222419)

I hate people who decide something that envokes a little (or a lot) of emotion is something that shouldn't be dealt with. You're the type who things that if an argument gets heated, it should just be swept under the rug.

Persuit of truth is a good thing- and in arguments or personal relationships, it's crucial for a healthy relationship.

Likewise- understanding the cause of their deaths is important for those greiving, but also does a service to help avoiding problems like that in the future- or at least informing people of the odds so they can make an informed decision in the future.

But there is some evidence (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222683)

Equipment on the Air France airplane transmitted a signal about an equipment failure. So, we know when the plane could have been struck.

If the Spanish pilots can nail the meteor sighting to something like a radio transmission (all of which are recorded) or a course change, we know approximately when the meteor happened.

Meteors generate a radio signal. Such signals are often recorded. http://www.k5kj.net/meteor.htm [k5kj.net] That would give us an exact time for the meteor.

If the meteor happened exactly when the plane sent the message about equipment failure, I would say we have a pretty good case.

The Other Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222295)

Is it likely?

Re:The Other Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222321)

"some quick math suggests there may be one in twenty odds" - TFA

Re:The Other Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222797)

1 in 20 odds that ANY plane has been struck by a meteor EVER. That doesn't mean it's likely that THIS particular plane was struck.

It's a thought process like yours that will cause some "news" organization that has no concept of math to tell everyone they have a 1 in 20 chance of being struck by a meteor when they fly in an airplane. You don't work for CNN, do you?

Re:The Other Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222845)

one in twenty odds
for a single occurrence over all the years of human flight

not one in twenty odds that this specific flight was hit by a meteor

That Depends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222297)

Was Sephiroth seen anywhere near the wreck?

Re:That Depends... (0, Flamebait)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222377)

Sephiroth?

Are you one of those nutty-Goy, Madonna-following, Kabbala kids? Or is it Bowie?

"You drive like a demon from Kether to Malkuth"...

Re:That Depends... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222529)

Sephiroth?

Are you one of those nutty-Goy, Madonna-following, Kabbala kids? Or is it Bowie?

"You drive like a demon from Kether to Malkuth"...

Wikipedia article on Final Fantasy 7 [wikipedia.org]

And I quote...Spoiler alert:

The full scope of Sephiroth's plan is eventually revealed: if the world is significantly damaged, the Lifestream within will gather in an attempt to heal the wound. Sephiroth intends to use a powerful spell called "Meteor" to fatally injure the planet, inciting a reaction in the Lifestream to safeguard the planet. Sephiroth would then merge with all of the planet's energy, allowing him to be reborn as a god and rule over the planet.

The suck! (5, Funny)

Scutter (18425) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222315)

How much does God hate you to put you in a meteor strike, a plane crash, and a lost-at-sea drowning all in the same day?

Cars (2, Insightful)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222323)

If meteors can be so dangerous to airoplanes, why we don't see them hitting cars or buildings more often?

Re:Cars (-1)

Cousarr (1117563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222425)

You don't have many cars or buildings out in the ocean. Most of the Earth is covered by ocean. Most meteoric impacts are going to be in the ocean. The better question is "why haven't we seen more boats taken out by meteors?" However the odds are still greater that any given plane will be hit by a meteor than any given boat because airplanes travel over both land and water.

Re:Cars (3, Insightful)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222485)

Doesn't make any sense, if you stand still or move, your chances to get hit by a meteor is the same.The only thing that makes the difference is the area you cover and the height.

Re:Cars (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222509)

I hope this is a joke - the obvious ratio is area of the planet covered by buildings & cars vs area of the planet covered by ships and aeroplanes. The ratio of land to sea has nothing to do with it.

Re:Cars (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222545)

You also don't have cars flying five miles up in the air, with that much less atmosphere to protect them.

Because... (4, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222429)

70% of the earth is water. I would guess 98% of the land is not covered by buildings or roads. So, a lot of things can hit the ground without us noticing.

Re:Because... (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222511)

Yes, but I'm going to bet cars cover more of the earth's surface than planes. They should be getting whacked quite a bit...

Re:Because... (3, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222669)

Put another way, being over the ocean versus over land does not significantly affect the chances of getting hit by a meteor. Being up there in less atmosphere is probably the key reason. The more atmosphere a rock has to travel thru, the more likely it is to break up.

Re:Because... (1)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222741)

You're right.

Perhaps there is some altitude where the meteors are still hot and relatively large, but by the time they reach the surface, they are broken apart and much cooler? A 2cm rock hitting the top of a flat-roofed building or dinging a car in the parking lot wouldn't be that dangerous or publicized, but if it was still thousands of degrees and in a bigger piece, that would be catastrophic for the little pressurized soda cans we call airplanes.

Re:Cars (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222451)

Cars don't typically cruise around at 35,000 ft. Given that the closer you get to earth, the denser air gets, most Meteors burn up by time they should reach the ground.

Re:Cars (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222655)

Considering the atmosphere height of 120 km, I don't think 10% of height can make such a huge difference.

Deceit (5, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222327)

In light of an Air Comet pilot's report to Air France, Airbus, and the Spanish civil aviation authority that, during a Monday flight from Lima to Lisbon, 'Suddenly, we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds

A company called Air Comet is saying they saw a meteor do it?

Does anyone else smell some blame-shifting?

Re:Deceit (1)

krou (1027572) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222375)

Sounds more like some sort of sick, subtle branding exercise. Is nothing sacred?

Re:Deceit (5, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222471)

Sounds more like some sort of sick, subtle branding exercise. Is nothing sacred?

Yeah, Think of the (dead) children!

Oh, damn... I think that's the most tasteless joke I ever conceived.

Could Have? Sure. Did? Prove It. (1)

ausoleil (322752) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222353)

This is mere speculation and is not all that different than when the Columbia accident happening folks in the press asking repeatedly if terrorists could have caused the orbiter to break up during re-entry.

Sure, the odds look good on paper, but at the same time, how many aircraft have been damaged by or downed by meteors over land, and conclusive proof shown that being struck by something of extraterrestrial origin was the culprit?

In short, there is a huge difference between "could have" and "that's what happened." In between you will find all sorts of people with axes to grind and/or crackpots. The truth is probably fare more mundane though no less tragic for those involved.

Nobody Knows (5, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222361)

So any guess is equally likely/unlikely until there is more information. I think even a lot of the 'debris' they've found is probably not from the jet.
 
They disengaged the main flight control system because they thought it was flying too fast in the turbulence, or was causing too much passenger discomfort.

They slowed down to a very narrow margin above stall speed.

They hit a 100 mph updraft, causing the AOA to go beyond the stall angle.

They went into a high-speed dive.

Because they were on manual backup control they could not exert enough force on the controls to recover before Vne or the flutter speed of something was attained.

Something (wing, tail surface, aileron, spoiler... whatever) tore off.

The resulting asymmetric forces caused a violent departure from normal flight.

At a speed probably above Vne, that resulted in the aircraft structure being instantly destroyed.

This accounts for the fact that there was a an elapsed time of approximately a minute between the first failure messages and the last.

If it had been a bomb, or simple explosive decompression from another source, that time would have been at most a few seconds, and more likely zero.

The crew was struggling, all three physically, to pull the aircraft out of a high-speed dive and nobody had a chance to radio what the hell was happening.

That's my call.

Re:Nobody Knows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222569)

Logical if they forgot training for dealing with updrafts or downdrafts. Although this is usually stressed for landings.

Succesfully lying though an intense downdraft or updraft is counter intuitive since the airspeed indictators often indicate speed higher than actual an to keep the plane in the air thrust must actually be maintained or increased.

Re:Nobody Knows (-1, Flamebait)

alanp (179536) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222583)

You sir are an idiot.
The airbus is fly-by-wire, not mechanical controls.

People like you need to shut and stop hypothesising with bullshit.

Re:Nobody Knows (1)

Zothar42 (802414) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222649)

My understanding is that the plane is fly-by-wire, thus would the pilots still have to exert the same physical force they would need to exert if the plane's controls were mechanically connected to the flight control surfaces?

Re:Nobody Knows (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222763)

Look at the bottom of this chart [airbusdriver.net] - as I understand it there is a last level of control that is manual. I really don't know - I'm just making a wag that's as good as any, which I point out up front.

Re:Nobody Knows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222695)

The crew was struggling, all three physically, to pull the aircraft out of a high-speed dive and nobody had a chance to radio what the hell was happening.
It was a scarebus... the controls don't flight back any more than your mouse does.

Bombs in the past have ripped enough skin off to have decompression and then failure.

A plane that blows up in the air will be scattered on the ground (or water), but a plane that is intact tends to have a very small spot on the ground depending on the angle of impact. So far nothing has been found which indicates a small spot.

It looks like the pilots flew where their weather radar told them they shouldn't which resulted in severe turbulence (check how the FAA defines that one) and the computer didn't cope with the holes in the airframe and other issues which resulted in a high speed, mostly intact controlled flight into wet terrain.

No (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222387)

The Air Comet aircraft was over 2,000km away from where Air France 447 was supposed to be, and the pilots report has been discounted by everyone in the industry.

So what? (0)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222391)

The odds of a meteor strike occurring at some point in history is irrelevant.
What are the odds that this particular airplane was hit by a meteor?
Probably astronomically low.

The odds of *a* car getting hit by a meteor at some point since the invention of the automobile could also be 1/10 or similar.

But if I hear about a car wreck, I'm not going to say "hey, maybe it was a meteor!"

don't forget (1)

overcaffein8d (1101951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222395)

Don't forget that the plane crash was during a thunderstorm in a dark night. Yes, it's possible that it got hit by a meteor, but it isn't probable.

No (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222399)

Gravity Brought Down Air France 447.

We still don't fully understand it yet, but gravity is probably THE number one reason for aircraft crashes.

calculations wrong I think (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222421)

3000 meteors with sufficient mass to hit the earth. But they are forgetting that planes fly at 10km or so high. Many more meteors would be able to reach that far into the atmosphere.

Re:calculations wrong I think (-1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222523)

If 10km can make such a difference, all the ski resorts should be in danger. :)

Re:calculations wrong I think (3, Informative)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222623)

I looked it up in wikipedia. Atmospheric pressure is 1/3 at 8,376m. So it is even less at 10k (~33k ft I don't think there are many ski resorts that high).

Re:calculations wrong I think (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222803)

The earth atmosphere is 120km high. I know the friction is not linear but I doubt it would make so much difference in the last 10%.

Anyway if anyone can find a nice graph I'd love to see it.

Reduces liabilty. (1, Insightful)

BigGar' (411008) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222431)

Without reading the article it almost sounds like the 'ol insurance company trying to play this off as an act of GOD.
Much less liability if it was hit by a meteor than if it was a malfunction, poor maintenance, pilot error, any human caused reason.

Search Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222449)

Current search methods seems so old and slow,

Why we cant have a bunch of satellite photos ( from google, or yahoo, or microsoft... or anyone else ) and request the internet community to analyze them.I bet lots of people will want to help reviewing pictures. It should be faster and cheaper to find something

Re:Search Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222793)

Current search methods seems so old and slow, Why we cant have a bunch of satellite photos ( from google, or yahoo, or microsoft... or anyone else ) and request the internet community to analyze them.I bet lots of people will want to help reviewing pictures. It should be faster and cheaper to find something

Clouds.

Why complicate things? (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222467)

The plane was flying in an intense storm, and a flash of light was observed striking it.  Occam's Razor says go for the obvious explanation:  lightning.

Re:Why complicate things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222613)

The plane was flying in an intense storm, and a flash of light was observed striking it. Occam's Razor says go for the obvious explanation: lightning.

Sure, that's what they want you to think. Clearly this is the pilot for a new X-files movie where alien spacecraft start zapping all the airplanes.

Re:Why complicate things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222727)

Take it a step further. Lightning struck the cockpit, instantly killing the flight crew and taking out all of the avionics. At the same time, thanks to tight security that makes everyone so much safer, they had the door securely locked. The Airbus may then have plunged 90 degrees down into the water with most if not all components going straight to the bottom.

Re:Why complicate things? (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222787)

It cannot be that way.

If the plane is properly grounded and shielded, the electrical current from lightning will just go around the plane body en route to its final destination. No current should be able to enter the interior parts.

Shark Attack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222497)

Actually this is how the plane was brought down:

Shark Attack [youtube.com]

One in twenty? (2, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222513)

I don't know what the assumptions were, but it seems to be an over estimate by orders of magnitude. Space, 3D space is really really huge, unimaginably huge. In WW-II they had to protect the lumbering bombers from the swift fighters. So they tried arming a few bombers with very high number of machine guns. Short Sudeland flying boat was actually called a "Flying Porcupine" because of the number of gun barrels sticking out of it. With guns firing at 1000 to 3000 rounds a minute, with tracer bullets, with trained gunners aiming the guns, they still could not reliably hit the fighters. Both Luftwaffe and RAF and USAF independently had to learn the same lesson with very high cost. Yes, meteors could hit an airplane. But if their calculations shows odds of 1 in 20 for the last 20 year period, I am very sure they have over estimated the odds.

The Commies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222519)

They just came up with the meteor story because they don't want us to know that North Korea has perfected their death ray.

Why cant the plane twitter? (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222589)

I mean, why do we still have to have the black box in the aircraft? Is it possible to radio the parameters continuously and record it on land? Thus even when the plane is lost, the data is safe. What kind of bandwidth is needed to transmit that level of data?

Re:Why cant the plane twitter? (1)

orngjce223 (1505655) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222677)

They *should* do that, but they probably don't because it's "too expensive" or some such nonsense. As tragic as this is, there's the definite possibility that *this* is what spurs regulators to require continuously-broadcasting black boxes.

Re:Why cant the plane twitter? (1)

sirkazuo (1446275) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222799)

The problem is what happens when the planes electronics or radios fail, causing the problem in the first place. The black boxes will record all of that information even when all the other systems have failed, where that crucial data would otherwise be lost in transmission. The flight recordings are useless, after all, until the last few minutes.

France pulls diplomats out of North Corea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222653)

AF447 is the cover up story for North Corea's long range balistic missile successful launch.
Soon France will pull its diplomats out of North Corea for some random made up story.

It is correct to look at the overall probability. (1)

cupantae (1304123) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222705)

There are a lot of people saying that the overall probability of a plane being hit is irrelevant, and that the probability of this one being hit is what's important. I disagree.

What we are dealing with here is a plane that actually crashed under unexplained circumstances. To realise the odds of this plane being hit by a meteor, we shouldn't look at the odds of ANY single plane being hit, but rather, the odds that one which went down in unexplained circumstances had been hit by a meteor.

Consider this: Over the summer holidays, some people from my college course don't return. It is most likely in each case that the student dropped out. However, there is the chance that the student died over the summer. We shouldn't look at the odds of this particular student dying, but the odds of ANYONE in the class dying, because we know that those who are present didn't die, by virtue of them being there. So in this case, for each student that didn't return, the chance that she died is:
( 1 - ([odds of no student dying over summer]^[# of students]) )/[number of students that didn't return]

My formula may be a bit off, but you get the idea.

Hmm, exceedingly unlikely - but plausible (1)

DontBlameCanada (1325547) | more than 4 years ago | (#28222715)

Meteor hits house (2003): http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news139.html [nasa.gov]

Meteor hits car (1992): http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=888&dat=19921012&id=evMNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6HoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6664,1878615 [google.com]

As aircraft fly at >30000 feet, the number of meteorites will be greater than the number that hit the ground. Atmospheric density is many times greater at sea level than at 30k+ feet, so more will penetrate the atmosphere to that height. It would only take a small rock, travelling at the speeds meteors do, to severely compromise a wing or even the cabin.

The Math : (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28222723)

is bogus.

The movement of the plane is NOT taken into account.

Yours In Communism,
Kilgore Trout.

P.S. I have taken care to not link to any URL of substance given the slow load times of www.slashdot.org

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