There is something uniquely terrible and uniquely fascinating about the unknown state of “missing, presumed dead” Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Airplane crashes are always dreadful and terrifying; that’s a given. But disappearance—whether it be of an aircraft, a person, or a thing—has a special horror.
That horror lies in the unknown and seemingly inexplicable, a vacuum into which rushes conspiracy theories. They are rife in the case of the Malaysian plane’s disappearance. Was it sucked into a wormhole, or abducted by aliens or merely the North Koreans? The idea that the plane is intact and its passengers alive somewhere on earth is somewhat comforting, I suppose, depending on who the kidnappers are and what they might do or want. But none of the theories I’ve heard are really all that comforting.
How could they be? A large airliner, being tracked by modern devices, simply disappears? And not over the Arctic wastes, either; in a fairly populous area of the world. The Malaysian government and airline industries have not exactly covered themselves with glory and established confidence by their seeming slowness and contradictory statements. Why, for example, did they not expand the search earlier, if they knew (as was rumored almost from the start) that the plane had gone off-course?
Looking for more than conspiracy fantasies, I read this Popular Mechanics article with the subtitle “How Can an Airliner Just Disappear?” I was hoping it would attempt to explain the science of such a “disappearance.” But it really didn’t add much to other articles, although it did mention that there are a host of technical advances being developed that could make tracking all airplanes easier, and would prevent such a lack of information in the future. But that doesn’t help us with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, whose fate so far has too much resemblance to a Twilight Zone plot.
[NOTE: This is a useful article in sorting out most of the main less-conspiracist theories and the factual pros and cons of each.]