Malaysian Flight MH370: How British Firm Inmarsat Used 19th Century Mathematical Model of ‘Doppler Effect’ to Track Plane
By Gopi Chandra Kharel | March 25, 2014 7:58 PM EST
Malaysian authorities gave some sort of finality to the case of the missing plane MH370 on Monday, in a chilling late night announcement by Prime Minister Najib Razak and a bold SMS to the family members of the passengers onboard.
British firm Inmarsat used the 19th century mathematical model of 'Doppler Effect' to track MH370's position. (Representational Picture: Reuters)
PM Razak said in a news conference, citing data and satellite analysis from a British company called Inmarsat, that MH370's journey "ended in the southern Indian Ocean". He said that the last known position of the missing plane was in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Razak expressed "deep sadness and regret" while informing the news to the family members.
"It is with deep sadness and regret, that according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," Razak said.
Meanwhile, an SMS sent to the relatives, and was widely criticized later, read: "Malaysia airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived".
The bold statement has been slammed for the lack of clear evidence, and questions are being asked on how the Malaysian authorities have reached the conclusion in the first place.
Scientists from UK satellite firm Inmarsat are understood to have used the 19th century mathematical model of the 'Doppler effect' (or Doppler shift) to track the fate of MH370.
The Doppler effect, named after Austrian physicist Christian Doppler who proposed it in 1892 in Prague, is the change in the frequency of a wave of an observer moving relative to its source. One common example used to describe this theory is what we hear when a vehicle sounding a siren or horn approaches, passes and recedes from an observer.
So how was this model used to analyze the possible location of the MH370?
First, even if the rest of its communications systems had stopped working, Radar pings from the ill-fated flight were automatically transmitted every hour from the aircraft. This indicated that the plane continued flying for hours after it disappeared from the civilian radar an hour into its journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Analyzing the time it took for the signals to reach the satellite belonging to Inmarsat, and the angle of elevation, the British firm was able to provide two arcs, one that extended towards the north and the other to south - signifying the path that the aircraft could have taken.
Scientists then interrogated the pings using the Doppler effect. The observer in this case was the satellite, and scientists analyzed how the wave of the ping changed frequency relative to the movement of the satellite.
Razak said during the press conference on Monday that Inmarsat employed "a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort".
Speaking to the BBC, Inmarsat's senior vice president Christ McLaughlin explained how his firm was able to conclude that the plane definitely few south.
"We took Malaysian 777 airline data and modeled that against the northern and southern path and what we discovered was that the path to the south is undoubtedly the one taken."
The data revealed definitively that MH370 flew along the southern corridor based on the pings.
The Malaysian authorities confirmed, citing the data, that the last known position of the plane was in the middle of the Southern Indian Ocean. And since there is no place to land safely anywhere near the spot, it has to be rationally concluded "beyond reasonable doubt" that the plane "ended in the Southern Indian Ocean" and "none of those on board survived".
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Taylor Swift Named Forbes' Second Highest Paid Country Musician [PHOTOS]
- Forever Lost: Indescribable Anguish for Malaysia Airlines MH17 Families, Remains of Some Victims May Never Be Found (PHOTOS)
- Global Aviation Accidents: UN to Form Safety Task Force, Gov'ts Should Share Intelligence Info to Avert Future Incidents on Flying Over Warzones (PHOTOS)
- PageSix: Beyonce & Jay Z Union is Not About Love, All About Business & the Brand
Join the Conversation
- Japanese Whalers End Pacific Hunt with 115 Whales Dead and No Disruption from Sea Shepherd
- Viral Video Cyring Sadie: 5-Year-Old Little Girl Does Not Want Her Baby Brother to Grow Up [WATCH VIDEO]
- 15 Orgasms/Week, $27K/Yr Salary Not Bad for Professional Toy Tester Cara Houiellebecq (VIDEO)
- New Zealand Drafts IWC Resolution to Stop Japanese Whalers from Hunting in 2015
- Pacific Islands Forum Delegates Appeal for Changes to Climate Policies, Better Marine Life Protection
- Freshly Leaked Apple iPad Air 2 Cases Confirm Touch ID Sensor; Release Date, Limited Specs and Price Listed
- Moto X Android 4.4.4 KitKat Update Guide: Schedule and How to Install
- Top 4 Reasons Why iPhone 6 Will Hit Big Soon After its Sept 2014 Release Date
- Top Surprising Features Of iOS 8
- Twin Malaysia Airlines MH370, MH17 Aviation Disasters Create Phobia Among Travellers
- OnePlus One vs. Moto X+1 – Early Specifications, Release Date and Price Faceoff
- 2014 Ebola Outbreak: ‘Out of control… and Can Get Worse'; Asky Airline Stops Flying to Liberia, Sierra Leone; Liberia Closes Schools