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March 14, 2014


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The F35B is brand new and already having to go to depot for modifications.....

Old (1986) news Jon, Planet continues to move towards feudal city/states ran by 5000 financial barons. Everyone and every thing else is a commodity.

Closer to AZ what will the new governor think about F-35
Arpaio groupie (Jones) to run for Jan Brewers spot as governor.
Who will Joe support?
Can Jones beat the republican LDS pick (probably Bennett).
But the big question, can the democrats field a strong candidate?

I also am not convinced about foreign buys, especially European countries still struggling economically and general trend of lower military budgets. I doubt the UK, Italy and Denmark will get even close to original buy numbers. Just saw an article where the Italian Cavour carrier has sailed twice in 5 years, how many F35Bs do they need for that?!?

Finally, let's face it Jon. Nobody cares anymore about the military and their budget, 4 comments and 3 of them are from me. What does that tell you?

...Combat will be very different against a major power.

When it comes, and it will...

Yeesh, that's quite a statement. We've been pretty stupid with our counterinsurgency "wars" (for which we are explicitly "geared up,") but are we dumb enough to take brinksmanship with Russia or China (for which we are explicitly not, outside of - gah! - nuclear) to that point?

So perhaps you mean that at a certain point in our Imperial decline someone else will smell blood in the water and bring it to us?

"Losing" a war like that could be very interesting. During the Cold War, many of us liked to point out that only trophy a victor would get was the Washington Mall, since it would be way too expensive to invade every back yard... the classic insurgency puzzle that the U.S. has never solved, even its halcyon warrior days.

The loss could even be somewhat liberating for the "go local" crowd.

There I go again, being un-American and all... Wolverines!

Excelent Petro. I saw that movie.
Nicolae, Ike told us about the Military/industrial complex a long time ago and we didn't listen.
Here' is whats really important in snotsdale AZ.

Damn. Another $trillion down the MIC rabbit hole. Think of what we could do with that money.
Do you think the rest of the world is arming up because they're scared of the US?

At some point in the development of sophisticated weaponry we were bound to get to this point. That is, things getting so complex and expensive that they would destroy not our imaginary enemies but our nation's future. Even if these jets eventually work, they'll only do so while also bankrupting us. "National security" almost seems to be a death wish we conjured from the grotesque scale of our imperial delusions. We're America! We can do anything! Except win wars.

We can game out any war we want, say with a rising oriental hegemon or a declining one in Eurasia. What we can't do is sober up enough to realize it's pretty much a pointless exercise in scary bedtime stories. The worst-case scenario, however, has already happened. It's a nation that's falling apart, from its infrastructure, its meager social capital, to its deindustrialization and unsustainable suburbs. America's coming victory over the evil du jour may well be impressive but it's already too late not to be Pyrrhic.

"Power over materials is a dream old, yet sharp in the human mind."
beginning of a Roger Bacon quote in 1260 about man and the development of machines including airplanes.

I think the USA was the first to put "limited" nuke options on the table first. Remember the Long Tom cannon? It just shot little nukes so that small parts of the north German plain would be uninhabitable. I doubt these planes will ever be used -- drones are much more efficent. We can ooh and ahh at them at the airshows tho.

I was working at Honeywell on a Boeing project when that contract was awarded. Boeing employees were devastated the day Lockheed-Martin got selected. I don't remember it ever being so cheap that everyone would want one (maybe that was a marketing point with no basis in what really happens after contract award).

Required reading:
Paul Krugman won’t save us: We need a new conversation about inequality
What really defines our time is the simultaneous soaring of inequality and the maddening inability of most progressives (there are exceptions, of course) to talk about it in a way that might actually inspire anyone to get off their ass.

A side bar: A re reading of past blogs lends me to believe that provocation has stimulated some brilliant writing.
As great stuff come from tragedy so maybe does great writing come from anger.

Now I am just saying or not saying!

With the increasing cost of every new (and usually obsolete before entering service) Calvin Coolidge probably said it best: "Why don't we just buy one airplane and let the pilots take turns flying it?"

Dont screw with the Pentagon.
A month old but good article on defense spending.

Guess Nicolae is right, no one cares about the defense budget. Tee off time is 6 AM

Ok, so that's a wrap on defense spending that we never will be able to get under control.


After the uproar over SB 1062, the AZ religious fanatics quietly passed a bill to make euthanasia more difficult in the state.

Great. At a time when we should be streamlining the process, these Neanderthals are making it tougher.

We need to take the poor souls who are just waiting to die, with zero life quality and drop them off at the homes of the governor and the legislators and say, here you go "take care of them".

These religious fanatics are great at fixing "problems" they then don't have to deal with.

soleri, how is the euthanasia thing working in Oregon?

We need to fix this problem before we have 60 million baby boomers rotting away in hallways of vacant buildings around the country.

Out of sight, out of mind. It is the way of religious fanatics.

The situation is pathetic. The focus here is on the DOD but my real fear (I have no concrete examples) that wastefulness, pointlessness (sometimes even counterproductive), and unaccountability of our Federal Government is endemic.

Az Reb: ”We need to fix this problem before we have 60 million baby boomers rotting away in hallways of vacant buildings around the country.” Nah. More likely to keel over with heart attack at golf course.

An interesting article/thread: Why I hate boomers so much?

Even better:

Why I hate retired boomers in Arizona who are retired federal workers from the department of defense. (who play golf)

Who is the bully?

An excellent article from a Reagan appointee who possesses actual experience in dealing with the Soviets and Russia.

Mad bomber John "napalm" McCain and the provincial Arizonans who contribute to this blog might attempt
to grasp the author's perspective on the matter. Alas, probably above the intellectual capacity of those indoctrinated with the Pledge of Allegiance as the centerpiece of their worldview.

@drifter: was there supposed to be a link?

wkg, the story is on the Front Page, to the right.

Mr. Talton wrote:

"This is especially troublesome considering that Russia sees "limited nuclear war" as a key element of its strategy to meet any "threat" — something that will no doubt leave Ukraine for the bear to dismember."

Excellent point. I was in fact unaware of this, but it's been Russian policy since 2000. Russia has a large number of tactical nuclear weapons. The policy invokes them when Russia faces being overrun by conventional forces against which it cannot defend itself. Ideally that applies to the motherland itself, but the very prospect of application in outside theaters of operations (e.g., Ukraine, Georgia) may be a potent deterrent in the military calculus of NATO and U.S. planners.

I think we can all agree that the U.S. military budget is terribly bloated and that the chief beneficiary of the cost-overruns built into the procurement system are the industrial contractors who provide the materiel.

From a military standpoint, it is important to remember how important technology is in securing victory in modern warfare. This was shown in Iraq when U.S. air forces achieved resounding superiority over a slightly older generation of Russian technology available to the Iraqis, and again in the tank wars on the battlefields of Iraq in two land wars.

When you can detect the enemy and fire at him before he can do the same, you have the advantage of a first shot, which is considerable when computerized air to air missiles are in use. When you can penetrate his armor from a great distance but he lacks this capacity, you can mop up in tank battles.

There can be no question that the technologies promised through the F-35 would render anything else in the skies substantially inferior, if it worked. There can be no question that this sort of technology will be incorporated into the latest round of improved aircraft eventually, whether by the U.S. or by other superpowers. When it is, whoever possesses it when their opponents do not will have considerable tactical advantages. This is the nature of modern warfare: technological improvement is central to being qualitatively superior: mere numbers may not be as important in the face of this. The Russians possessed 20,000 tanks at the start of Operation Barbarossa, vastly outnumbering the German tank forces. They also had far greater manpower, both immediately available and in reserve. It didn't do them much good.

In the post-Cold War age I suspect that conventional military superiority will prove more important than an already redundant nuclear capacity, so I cannot be too concerned if the disposition of funds shifts a bit.

The real question is whether the bugs will be worked out. Mr. Talton suggests they are fundamental rather than superficial and that the F-35 may be a pig-in-a-poke. If so, that's a sound argument against it: but this makes it extremely important to substantiate the argument.

Mr. Talton wrote:

"A few salient points: The F-35 is fatally compromised by having to meet the Marines requirement. It won't be a good air superiority fighter — the better jet is the F-22, canceled after just 187 aircraft were put into service. And Chinese hackers gained access to much of its advanced technology and it has been integrated into the newest PLA fighter."

These are highly pertinent objections.

Regarding the first point, my understanding is that the F-35 comes in three variations, each tailored to a particular service branch: a carrier-based version (F-35 C); a short take-off and vertical landing version (F-35 B); and a conventional version (F-35 A). So, not all versions are tailored to the special needs of one service branch.

Regarding the claim that Chinese hackers have gained access to the technology and put much of it into their newest fighter; if true, then abandoning the U.S. program now would mean using yesterday's technology against our own cutting-edge ideas but incorporated into Chinese aircraft. If not true, then the systems still offer the possibility of technical superiority against foreign competitors. We should also remember that the fighters will probably not be used against the Chinese but against lesser nations who are gradually acquiring better but more conventional air fighters. Any advantage we can maintain in face of this progress is militarily advantageous. Merely maintaining parity is a good idea, lest we encourage Chinese aggression and suffer the fate of historically inferior military technological powers.

I would also argue that for all its faults, the military-industrial complex is the last and greatest bastion of American high-tech manufacturing prowess, driving both theory and development. The jobs pay well, also. This is not a justification of misuse of public funds, but it does complicate a discussion of the issues.

@Drifter: “the provincial Arizonans who contribute to this blog might attempt
to grasp the author's perspective on the matter. Alas, probably above the intellectual capacity of those indoctrinated with the Pledge of Allegiance as the centerpiece of their worldview.”

I’m a provincial Alabamian who occasionally contributes to this blog, so I don’t know if I count. I grasp the author’s perspective and agree on every point. I see no national interest to what is happening in the Ukraine/Crimea. Every time we have gotten ourselves involved in these foreign escapades, the results were terrible. This would include every major war we have fought since the Mexican-American.

My only real beef with the USSR/Russia was when they were actively infiltrating our government and institutions to overthrow our way of life. That was worth going to war over.

I can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance is the center piece of my worldview, but being an American is the core of my being. I would have to have a lobotomy to be any other way. The phrase “citizen of the world” is ridiculous. What it really means is “I’m a citizen of nowhere.”

Dear wkg in bham. I am a 73 year old conservative republican in arizona that believes boundaries,lines in the sand, virtual fences and this is my land and you are not welcome is just an excuse to kill. I am an inhabitant of the planet earth along with you and 6 billion other menunkind. It was by accidental birth that I became a "citizen" of north america. As a citizen inhabitant of earth I believe it is my responsibility to care about the entire planet not just a piece of dirt in Iowa or Ohio. I am concerned about the Amazon, and the smog in china. Personally I try and support the spread of Cactus.

Russia trying to overthrow the US government? There is a ton of facts about our nation building and our (CIA boondoggles)inept attempts to overthrow many governments in other countries.
Putin is a guy that misses "Mother Russia Or The Soviet Union"
However despite US or Russian or Chinese attempts there is no "Technological Fix"
or "Military Solution."

As much as I believe the desert always wins I also believe that in a few hundred years scavenging food gathers and goat herders and people that know how to live in harmony with the planet (whats left of it) and not mining it will be the survivors.
And then once again the boundaries will be set by nature not man.

@cal lash: “It was by accidental birth that I became a "citizen" of north america.” Yes, it is an “accident” of birth that you were born American. But the fact is, you were born American. You could have just as “accidently” been born Japanese. If you had been born Japanese, you would be an entirely different you. Your entire being has been influenced by the society that you inhabit. You’re stuck with being American.

”I believe it is my responsibility to care about the entire planet not just a piece of dirt in Iowa or Ohio. I am concerned about the Amazon, and the smog in china. Personally I try and support the spread of Cactus.” Well that’s an awful lot to worry about; probably an American thing to have such worries. My view is that our evangelical zeal about how others are doing things has distracted us from becoming the best us we can be. Our best course of action is to be a good example. For better or worse, the Brazilians and Chinese are going to do what they’re going to do. I’m as opposed to going to war over the land practices in Brazil as the form of government in Iraq.

” There is a ton of facts about our nation building and our (CIA boondoggles)inept attempts to overthrow many governments in other countries.” Our covert wars have been about as ultimately disastrous as our overt wars. Why we persist in such things boggles the mind.

”in a few hundred years scavenging food gathers and goat herders and people that know how to live in harmony with the planet (whats left of it) and not mining it will be the survivors.” I’m a little more optimistic, but not much.

AZReb, I have no specific knowledge of Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law. I suspect it isn't as controversial in practice as it was in theory for a simple reason: doctors already knew how to advance the deaths of terminally-ill patients in subtle ways, and have been for a very long time. This reminds me, also, how abortion was a relatively common procedure in hospitals prior to Roe v Wade. If you're an Arizona old-timer, you'll remember Sherry Finkbine (Miss Sherry on Romper Room) making a cause celebre out of her demand for an abortion in the 1960s. She had taken the drug thalidomide while vacationing in Europe. She made herself the centerpiece of a national "scandal" to advance abortion rights, even being pictured on the cover of Life Magazine. She made her point, but went to go to Sweden for the abortion. She claimed afterward the fetus had significant defects. But Finkbine knew that she could get a therapeutic abortion in a non-Catholic hospital - the "life and health of the mother" proviso - but she made herself a martyr for the cause.

I started thinking about the philosophical aspects of suicide this weekend, even before I read your comment. I went to see the new movie The Royal Hotel Budapest, a philosophically comic confection based on the writings of Stefan Zweig. It's a delight although the faint perfume of melancholia lingers long after. Zweig, a Jew, escaped war-torn Europe and settled in Brazil, where in despair about Europe's collapse as a civilization, committed suicide (alongside his wife).

There are other famous suicides during this time, as well. Virginia Woolf's was probably more mental illness than anything political, but I suspect there was an analog to her despair in the destruction of London during the Blitz, including her own house.

The other suicide worth mentioning was that of the Christian mystic/Marxist Simone Weil, who essentially starved herself to death out of solidarity with her French compatriots. Weil, a secular Jew who fled her homeland, was a major figure in European political life in the 1930s. Even today, her writings still wields influence. Last fall, I saw an Italian movie at the Vancouver Film Festival, There Will Come a Day, that carried the vessel of Weil thought's in an intriguing narrative of Italian nuns working - and organizing - among the poor in Brazil. The movie has yet to gain a general release, which is a pity. It's extraordinary.

I thought the point of corporatized US medical care was to extract as much wealth as possible during the final years, months, weeks, days, minutes and seconds of life until the pot pissed in is mortgaged.

I wonder with the drums beating over the Crimea, the Russians do the unthinkable and arm their Arab/Muslim militias with ground-to-air missiles to make our discomfort complete (as the USA did to the USSR in Afghanistan).

Good points eclecticdog.
Soleri and Reb: Assisted suicide is good and should be a "Right" not a crime. Same for suicide.

The problem is organized religion: Its all bull shit and its bad for you.

WKG: I enjoy your posts and you are right maybe I am to concerned about the Galaxy we live in.

So from Tug Mcgraw.
"Ten million years from now, when then sun burns out and the Earth is just a frozen iceball hurtling through space, nobody's going to care whether or not I got this guy out."

"Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish Whiskey. The other ten percent I'll probably waste."

NASA votes for scavengers and goat herders:

@Soleri: Just stumbled across a very literate essay about Stefan Zweig


Opens with:

On February 22, 1942, two British nationals committed suicide by an overdose of barbiturates in their house in Petropolis, Brazil. The photograph of them on their deathbed is one of the most heartrending I know, the woman holding the man’s hand and resting her head gently on his shoulder. The couple received a state funeral—in Brazil, not in Britain—attended by thousands of mourners. The man was Stefan Zweig, an Austrian Jew who for many years had been one of the most famous writers in German.....

Regarding controversial recent posts to this blog: I submit this from Zweig
"Two main themes pervade Zweig’s writings. The first is the part that passion plays in human life. If reason, as Hume says, is and should be the slave of the passions"

Organized religion is to humanity as is Vald the Impaler is to living hosts.

Wow. A gold mine of posts on st. Pattys day. Thanks for the post solari.

I'm still trying to envision cal being born a geisha girl .

kinda like trying to imagine U as a spinner


Like a circus ride!!!

Speaking of planes, as an armchair detective I offer the following on the missing Malaysian airliner. First the conclusions:

* The plane crashed in a jungle area in Thailand.

* The crash resulted from electrical systems failure, not hijacking or terrorism.


12:41 AM Plane takes off

1:07 The plane's ACARS (Aircraft Communications And Reporting System) data system makes its last transmission. (This does not indicate that it stopped functioning -- much less was "switched off" -- at this time, because its transmissions are sent automatically at 30 minute intervals and its next transmission wasn't due until 1:37.)

1:19 Final cockpit transmission: "All right. Goodnight." to Malaysian air traffic control authorities as the plane was leaving Malaysian airspace and entering Vietnamese airspace.

1:21 The plane's transponder (giving ID and location data to other planes and to air traffic controllers) stopped functioning. The transponder transmits continuously and normally isn't turned off, so this is the first definite abnormality. By this time the cockpit should also have made contact with Vietnamese air traffic control authorities, so that is also definitely abnormal.

1:30 Civilian radar loses the plane. Military radar (much more powerful) continues contact. Subsequently, military radar detects erratic changes in altitude, from 25,000 feet to 45,000 feet (above the safe flight ceiling of the aircraft) then down to 22,000 feet again.

2:15 After flying back and crossing the width of mainland Malaysia, military radar makes final contact with the plane as it flies off the west Coast of Malaysia near the border with Thailand. The contact data isn't noticed until the next morning.

8:11 AM The 777 jet's engine sensors send their last, hourly handshake signal ("I'm still here") to the single satellite monitoring this, on schedule. Using a sychronized system, knowing the travel time and speed of the signal, allows the distance travelled by the signal to be calculated. This defines the circumference of a large circle on the surface of the earth, all points of which are of the same distance from the satellite. Thus, 7 hours after the last cockpit communication, the plane must be somewhere on that circle. Other considerations (flight range based on fuel available) reduce the circle to a much shorter circular arc.

Chain of reasoning:

Let's work backward. The last known radar sighting was at 2:15 off the east coast of Malaysia near the Thai border. The absence of subsequent radar contacts suggests that the plane stopped flying shortly after that time or else flew west out into the ocean beyond radar range; but the absence of that oceanic area on the arc of the plane's location circle determined by its last handshake signal at 8:11 AM does not include this oceanic area. The closest part of the arc to the last radar sighting passes roughly north to south through Thailand, which was "right next door" to the last radar sighting.

Thailand has jungles that might confuse visual satellite observations while allowing the engine sensor handshake signals (radio signals) to be transmitted.

I am not convinced that the sending of a handshake signal by engine sensors indicated that the plane was still flying or even in one piece. The sensor would normally be powered by the plane's own systems but an idling engine or a backup battery might also allow this simple, low-energy hourly signal to be sent until the systems finally ran down, even after a crash landing.

The erratic course and altitude changes suggest a malfunctioning and unsupervised autopilot system, not manual control. There would be no reason for anyone with the knowledge to fly the plane to make highly dangerous maneuvers such as climbing above the maximum safe flight ceiling or diving more than 20,000 feet in the course of a minute. The movements as reported are not consistent with a struggle in the cockpit, and it's actually difficult to get the plane up as high as 45,000 feet; this would require a series of deliberate acts. The erratic lateral course (e.g., flying back over the Malaysian mainland) also suggests the lack of a plan: why place the plane within civilian radar and observation if the intent was to cause it to disappear? Why fly it across the width of the nation again instead of crashing it at some target, if that was the plan?

If the autopilot was malfunctioning, a systems failure had occurred. If the autopilot was unsupervised (i.e., the plane was not returned to manual control) then the cockpit crew must be incapacitated or dead. At 30,000 feet the crew would have 15-30 seconds after a depressurization before oxygen deprivation would render them unconscious, unless they put on functioning oxygen masks. Oxygen masks would deploy automatically under such conditions unless the electrical systems controlling them had failed. Partial electrical systems failure (as from an electrical fire caused by malfunctioning lithium batteries) could also cause failure of the ACARS, transponder, and/or communications system, before burning itself out (the design of the jet encourages compartmentalization of such fires). Voltage fluctuations or other damage might easily produce erratic behavior from the computerized autopilot system, while allowing the plane to continue to fly (albeit erratically) even after everyone aboard was dead.

Alarms may fail to sound if the circuits they depend on fail. Redundancy systems are of little use if a centralized command processor whose job it is to detect systems failure and switch to back-up systems is itself damaged, or if shared wiring conduits or other basic electrical infrastructure necessary for the implementation of such systems has itself failed.

The brevity and informality of the last cockpit transmission may mean nothing at that time of night in that part of the world, but combined with the timing of the transponder failure along with the failure to contact Vietnamese ATC authorities on entering their airspace, all within minutes of one another, suggests the possibility that even at the time of the last cockpit communication the crew was suffering the effects of hypoxia ( sleepiness and confusion). In any case, systems failures were already imminent at that time, occuring two minutes or less later. Even if the crew remained conscious, communication may have become impossible due to electrical failure. At cruising altitudes, cellphone connections with land-based cell-towers are unlikely to be made or kept. If the crew was dead, likely the passengers were also.

One puzzling aspect are the circles defined by the hourly engine sensor handshake signal. If the plane were moving then each of these circles would be different from the other, though they will closely overlap. By starting with the last known location of the aircraft, using maximum airspeed as a restriction, and connecting the center-points of each such circle, these center-points would define a second arc which would provide critical information about the plane's trajectory. So why is the plane's trajectory such a broad mystery? If the plane was not moving the circles would not move; but this is such an elementary deduction, if true, that it seems as though it would have been reported.

Your move Watson!

Incidentally, a 727 jet was once stolen, in Africa, in 2003, and has never been recovered.


eclecticdog wrote:

"What really defines our time is the simultaneous soaring of inequality and the maddening inability of most progressives (there are exceptions, of course) to talk about it in a way that might actually inspire anyone to get off their ass."

It is the eternal struggle between two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says: "You toil and work and earn bread -- and I'll eat it". No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle. As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and so we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.

Though by nature a quiet and melancholy man, I feel compelled to say: Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. This Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of themselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. We, even we here, hold the power and the responsibility. We must take increased devotion to that cause for which the honored dead gave their last full measure of devotion. We must highly resolve that those dead shall not have died in vain; and that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

P.S. 'Like' me on Facebook.

Incidentally, I got the idea for that little jape while listening to Copeland's "Lincoln Portrait". Copeland has a talent for grand sounding music that simultaneously manages to have a distinctly "American" feel, though musically this is not his best work and, in the version I own, Katherine Hepburn's quavery old-lady voice (albeit distinguished and with excellent feeling and diction), while lending an earnestness unrivaled by the best Hollywood picture, requires a bit of beer to relax the inhibitions before it can be properly appreciated. The instrumental finale following the last spoken word portion (within the last minute of the 15 minute work) is amazing.

Oh, geez, boomer-bashing again. Look, there is a constellation of reasons why a generation has a certain character, and it is an aspect of the same humanity that we all share that we are helpless before them. When you are born, the character of your parents' generation, the economic and cultural milieu... this is why I interpret such insults as coming from ignorance.

Hail cal, Citizen of the World. I'm with you on that one - this Empire is becoming embarrassing anyway.

soleri, thanks for those movie titles.

Petro, did U catch the Movie Amour?
considering I am in that old senile withering away crowd I am in a quandary as to whether I should watch High Plains Drifter or the Wild Things, tonite. Both have a lot of death, but the good guy and gal win.

PS,Emil,your thoughts are as good as any.
Amazing that the NSA, CIA, Mossad, the Russians and the Chinese havent got a clue about what happen to a huge airliner.

@petro: ”Oh, geez, boomer-bashing again.” Hey. I’m a boomer myself so I feel like I can get away with it. Also it’s a refreshing break from the Millennial bashing that’s so common.

Seriously though, there is a lot of Boomer loathing out there and I’d like to know a lot more about it. I working hypothesis is that basically we’re “slow traffic that needs to pull over into the slow lane, or better yet just die.”

Re: “When you are born, the character of your parents' generation, the economic and cultural milieu…”. I couldn’t agree with you more. I am hopelessly Boomer and American. I couldn’t change if I wanted to (and I don’t). It’s a lot like your family. Good or bad, you’re stuck with them. Why do Rouge, Cal and Soleri rant the way they do? Here’s why: they care about what’s happening and it pisses them off.

gee wkg I rant because I enjoy it not cause Im pissed off. I havent been pissed off since I left my last wife, years ago.
I really enjoy this blog where some of us "Rant"
And I dont agree with you and petro
on I cant change from those environmental stimuli that "shaped" me. I am a shift shaper, adapting to my ever changing environment. Besides 22 plus years as a cop I have lived in 37 different places and had 66 jobs. And I m still working at 73.
Look up, you are on camera.

@Cal: working because you have to or just like to? I’ve been retired for six weeks now and getting bored shitless.

cal, I was speaking of the character of a generation (as we like to abstract it,) certainly not of individuals, where we find our freedom. Of course the loathsome boomers have notable exceptions, like you and me and wkb. :)

(I did see "Amour" and found it riveting. There's no looking away from the human condition with that film.)

wkb - I can't speak for the luminaries you mention, but while I rant for mankind in general, my focus is indeed on myself, my family, my friends, my community, my country (America!,) and only finally on my world, because one shouldn't find fault "out there" until the fault inside is resolved.

It's shape shifter geisha girl.

A shift shaper is someone who schedules work at Home Depot.

wkg, got a few attorneys that cant seem to find someone else that can work the dark side.
I retired the first time in 91.
started biz in 96
retired again around 2004
came back
and tried to quit a year ago
but attorneys didnt quit calling even while I was in Hospital fore 3 months.
So I go along and take on some work now and then.

Update on the mystery of the missing Malaysian airliner:

Thailand now reports that its civilian radar system tracked the flight until 1:22 AM. Six minutes later, it was picked up by Thai military radar flying without a transponder (no ID information) back toward Kuala Lumpur, where the flight had originated. The same radar source says that the plane crossed Malaysia then turned toward Butterworth, a Malaysian city on the Strait of Malacca not far from the border with Thailand. As noted in my initial comment above, Malaysian military radar detected the plane in the Strait of Malacca at 2:15 AM.

The cruising speed of a 777 is about 560 mph. In 45 minutes at that speed it can travel 420 miles. If instead it was flying around the Strait of Malacca for nearly 45 minutes (or even for half an hour), that's a clear indication that the plane was flying on unsupervised autopilot, particularly in light of the additional evidence adduced (see my original comment, above).

A serious objection to my theory is that the 777 is equipped with an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) which is supposed to activate upon crashing, whose signal can be detected by satellites and search planes. Submersion in salt water might quickly disable it, but my theory holds that the plane crashed in the jungles of Thailand.

But according to air travel experts consulted by NBC news, such devices don't always work, particularly in a major crash. A 2009 report from the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association says that even the latest generation of ELTs successfully activates only 82 percent of the time. The rate of successful activation for the older type is just 25 percent. Notably, Boeing declined to comment on the type of ELT the plane was equipped with.


Another possible objection to my theory involves reports by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times that the sharp "left turn" which diverted the plane away from its flight path and back toward the Malaysian mainland, was "most likely programmed by someone in the cockpit". The report was based on leaks by anonymous U.S. intelligence officials. Malaysian Airlines' CEO could not confirm this; and the Indonesian Transport minister said that as far as the investigation is concerned, the flight was programmed to land in Beijing.

There is only one system that could transmit that data from the plane to authorities, and that is the ACARS data system. As noted above, the ACARS system made its last scheduled transmission (transmitted automatically at 30 minute intervals) at 1:07 AM. That was well before the last communication from the cockpit at 1:19, and before the plane's transponder stopped functioning at 1:21. (The failure of the transponder made the plane invisible to passive civilian radar but not to active military radar.) So, the if there was a programmed flight change it would have had to be made in advance of the final check-in from the co-pilot. If the pilot knew of problems ahead of time, enough to reprogram the flight computer with a radical and uncleared flight change, why was nothing said during the final check-in with Malaysian air traffic control authorities, or at any other time previous?

There is no indication in the reports WHEN the change was made or WHY. Mysteriously, no mention is made of when the reprogramming data was received by authorities, or what the new heading was: and if keystroke data from within the cockpit had been transmitted and detected, both the time of the change and the new heading would be known. This suggests to me that perhaps the report is based on inference rather than observation.

Was it an earlier ACARS transmission, noting an in-flight programming change? If so, why the careful hedging in the NYT report (and elsewhere), "most likely programmed by someone in the cockpit"? Could it have been made on the ground, prior to the flight? Or even earlier? Why did air traffic authorities not query the pilot about the programmed heading change during the final check-in communication or before? Could the reprogramming be consistent with old or cancelled actions that sat in the flight computer and were reverted to and activated by a malfunctioning autopilot system as the result of electrical problems?

P.S. The Malaysian airliner in question is a Boeing 777-ER, a model which was brought into service starting in 1997. So, along with Boeing's strange refusal to indicate which type of ELT the plane is equipped with, this suggests the possibility that it may be equipped with the older model, which has a successful activation rate of only 25 percent.

Abe, I'm pretty sure I didn't saw that (although I don't disagree).

I want to be perfectly clear about something: yes, airplanes are equipped with emergency locator beacons that function just fine underwater, but those are SONAR based. I've been talking about the kind of radio-transmitter ELTs which are supposed to be activated when a plane crashes on land.

Incidentally, to the extent that SONAR based avionic ELTs are more reliably activated, that might skew the statistics I quoted above: that is, land-activated ELTs might be even less reliable than the total averages given above.



In the 777 there is one of these located in the forward electronics compartment (E&E bay). Also of interest...


If that had happened in the air if would have been difficult to deal with.

From Jon's Front Pages
Ah, yes Utah the home of pyramid scams:
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Time to close down all payday loan companies.

A further prediction: the plane will be found by tourists hiking in the jungles of Thailand. (Yes, there are organized hiking tours, and unorganized trekking may also occur.) This is because the jungle canopy tends to camouflage the wreckage from visual satellites and because the search is thus far concentrated on ocean areas and to a lesser extent on landmasses much further north.

More information on the latest media disinformation regarding technical data, when I add my next comment shortly.

Network news media continue to present a terribly confused and inaccurate representation of critical data.

The latest: claims that a programmed change to the plane's flight computer was made exactly 12 minutes prior to the final cockpit communication.

This is a misinterpretation of the fact that the last automatic ACARS data transmission was made at 1:07 AM and the last cockpit communication (verbal) was made at 1:19 AM. The difference is 12 minutes. But their ACARS system does not send real-time updates, only an automated transmission every 30 minutes giving data stored previously.

Only one ACARS transmission was sent, because the plane took off at 12:41 AM; the first scheduled transmission was made at 1:07; the next transmission wasn't expected until 1:37 but it never occurred, and neither did any further ACARS transmissions.

A change to flight computers could have taken place at any time prior to the first transmission, either in the air or on the ground. Programming a change in the flight computer does not cause the plane to alter its course; the change has to be activated.

It is common for flight computers to be preprogrammed with various alternative headings, which can be quickly activated in case of emergency or other changing conditions. The "left turn" flight path seems to point back toward Kuala Lumpur or another Malaysian airport. It would not be surprising for a quick return to home to be pre-programmed.

Also note that the only source for this information is the ACARS data system, which sent only one transmission. If the ACARS had sent this, Malaysian Airlines would have it. The data transmission would contain the exact alternative flight heading, and likely the time it had been entered as well. Instead, the Malaysian Airlines CEO denies a "reprogramming". Everything hinges on vague, anonymous U.S. intelligence leaks which fail to identify the basic details which could substantiate the report.

The plane's flight deviation was likely made by the autopilot system: but the wild changes in altitude combined with the fact that the maximum safe altitude the plane was designed for was at one point exceeded by thousands of feet, suggests that the computerized autopilot system was already malfunctioning.

P.S. The final handshake arc (see my initial comment above) also passes through the Indonesian island of Java. Indonesia has thus far refused permission for overflights by search craft. Indonesia contains areas with jungle-like rainforests. Though Thailand remains my first guess, based on its proximity to the last reported radar sighting (military sighting) and reported heading north in the Strait of Malacca, it's also possible that the plane could have crashed on Java or perhaps even a much smaller Indonesian island along the arc. Again, eco-tourists or trekkers are likely to be the discoverers.

It was with interest that I read the Slate link Mr. Talton provided re the Malaysian airliner. Regarding the theory expounded therein:

Neither a climb to 45,000 feet nor a fast dive from there to 22,000 feet would be taken by a pilot, much less to extinguish an electrical fire. Electrical fires exist inside the plane and would be unaffected by air rushing outside the craft. Though the air is thin at 45,000 feet the inside of the plane (e.g., the electronics bay reachable from the cockpit) would need to be depressurized regardless, since the plane's internal atmospheric pressure and oxygen are internally generated; and it is possible for the cockpit to depressurize the cabin from a level 30,000 feet, though obviously that would kill the passengers and crew unless all were wearing functional oxygen masks already.

The fast dive (taking only about a minute) would be particularly foolhardy, since it would almost certainly cause serious structural damage to the plane's body and might conceivably rip a wing off. The 777 is not designed for high-G fighter-style maneuvering. Climbing above the designed maximum altitude is also dangerous, though less so. And both actions would be pointless as methods of extinguishing an electrical fire.

My primary online session expired and I am now on the 15-minute Express PC, so that's about all I have time for at present.

Emil, a climb past a reasonable height and a rapid decent can be the result of an auto pilot set for a specific rate of climb. Without human interruption the plane keeps on climbing as it was instructed. Once it gets too high an can't maintain speed and climb rate, it stalls and falls rapidly until there is sufficient air to allow it to continue as it was commanded by the computer.

Reb, the autopilot is designed not to take the plane outside safe flight parameters, including maximum ceiling and rate of change of altitude. So a properly functioning autopilot system would not do those things, nor would anyone else who knew enough about the plane to fly it. Hence, I believe the autopilot system was engaged, nonsupervised, and malfunctioning.

I wrote: "...it is possible for the cockpit to depressurize the cabin from a level 30,000 feet, though obviously that would kill the passengers and crew unless all were wearing functional oxygen masks already..."

Strike "were wearing functional oxygen masks already" and substitute "had functioning oxygen masks immediately available".

At cruising altitudes, full cabin depressurization would give little time to react, but provided functioning oxygen masks deployed quickly (as they are designed to during such an event) and provided the passengers and crew reacted with alacrity, they should be OK for the time being.

I'm still thinking Burma if it crashed in the jungle somewhere. A poor and politically isolated (until very recently) country, most likely with minimal and primitive air defenses, with a dodgy and secretive military government that isn't going to admit that an airliner entered their airspace without challenge. Lots and lots of remote jungle, and big parts of the country are not under control of the central government.

Mike G, I tend to discount Burma because the last handshake ping-arc at 8:11 AM doesn't pass through it and the plane was due to run out of fuel shortly thereafter.

The oceanic search off Australia is a fruitless sideshow.

What continues to baffle me is the dearth of Inmarsat data (showing the hourly handshake ping-arcs sent by the Boeing engines) combined with the seeming inaccuracy and misuse of what is available. For example, here is a map showing the arcs:


The map seems to show the arcs as concentric rings. But if the satellite is in geocentric orbit over a fixed point on the Earth's surface, and the plane was moving further away from it, then the rings should overlap.

I presume that this is an artifact of the illustrator, in attempting to show successive arcs, but it is really the overlap of the arcs, and specifically, the trajectory formed by linking the center-points of each of these circles, which would provide information about the path of the plane, especially when used in conjunction with the last known position of the plane and its maximum airspeed, both of which act as boundary conditions which break the symmetry of the circles.

Also, apparently the accuracy of this satellite data is "40-60 miles" though perhaps as much as 100 miles:


(I have not had time to read and digest the information at the latter website; just scanned it briefly.)

So it is possible that the apparent continued movement of the plane is misleading.

That said, the Thai military radar spotted the plane in the Strait of Malacca heading north toward Butterworth at shortly after 1:30 AM, and the Malaysian military radar picked it up at 2:15 AM. The 5:11 and 6:11 arcs both pass through the Strait of Malacca also, and the 7:11 and 8:11 arcs both pass through Thailand (with the 8:11 arc, as noted, passing through Java also).

I believe the plane crashed shortly after the final radar sighting at 2:15 AM. (See my initial comment on the subject, above.) Depending on the altitude (coming in low as it crashed) and the angle relative to terrain intervening between the plane and radar stations, its disappearance from the radar would be easily explained.

It's just possible that it spent a longer time flying around in circles in and near the Strait of Malacca. As noted above, it spent inordinate time there after crossing the Malaysian mainland, as indicated by Thai and Malay military radar.

P.S. We now know that the last (and first) ACARS transmission from the plane at 1:07 AM (12 minutes before the final cockpit communication with Malaysian air traffic control) showed that it was still programmed with Beijing as a heading. So, the fishy claims citing anonymous U.S. intelligence sources appear to have been discredited.

First, the map I provided recently was apparently not actually based on Inmarsat handshake-ping signal data; only the final ping arc at 8:11 AM has been released by Inmarsat, not the earlier pings. My apologies for being suckered by an amateur extrapolation which I didn't have online time to examine sufficiently closely, and for passing this along. Again: only the last ping circle has been released by Inmarsat. It would be understandable if that carelessness cast doubt on the following remarks, but they are based entirely on my own examination of the evidence.

The latest Inmarsat analysis (claiming that the plane "most likely" ended up in the southern Indian Ocean near the current oceanic search area) is based more on unwarranted assumptions than data. Specifically, it uses assumes doppler shift analysis of the signal to conclude that the pings were moving away from the satellite; to determine direction and distance, it then assumes that the plane was flying the entire time along the final handshake arc, at a high altitude on auto-pilot to reduce air-resistance and thus with enough fuel to reach the southern Indian Ocean. I draw this from comments made by Inmarsat including a CNN interview with a senior vice-president of the British satellite company.

The doppler shift analysis is simple in its basic concept: if the transmitter on the plane sending the signal was moving away from the satellite, it would appear to have less energy than a signal from a plane at rest or moving toward the satellite. However, there is more than one reason why a signal could have lower energy over time; for example, that the systems which power it are functioning at a lower than normal power level and/or are running down.

This would be the case if the plane was sitting in a jungle in Thailand or Java, not flying, its handshake-ping signals powered by an idling engine running out of fuel or by a backup battery system running out of energy; the signal generated by such a system would have lower than normal strength and might decline well slightly over time until power ran out and it stopped entirely.

If the plane was not flying, then assumptions about its distance along the arc are erroneous. I agree that its final location would be along the arc, but it will not be found in the southern Indian Ocean. It is significant that no parts of the plane have been found despite extended searching for ambiguous objects observed by visual satellites and from high altitude planes.

Damn typos. That should read: "Specifically it uses" not "Specifically it uses assumes"...

Also, I shouldn't have said that Inmarsat assumed the plane was flying "the entire time along the final handshake arc": just near or on it during the latter portions of its (assumed) flight.

Another damned typo: that should read "might well decline slightly" not "might decline well slightly"...

Here's a cleaned up version of the text with some additional information added and the prefatory paragraph deleted:

The latest Inmarsat analysis (claiming that the plane "most likely" ended up in the southern Indian Ocean near the current oceanic search area) is based more on unwarranted assumptions than data. Specifically, it uses doppler-shift analysis of the signal to conclude that the pings were moving away from the satellite; to determine direction and distance, it then assumes that the plane was flying near or on the final handshake arc during the latter portions of its (assumed) flight, at a high altitude to reduce air-resistance and at auto-pilot cruising speed for an airspeed consistent with the (assumed) flying time, and thus with enough fuel to reach the southern Indian Ocean. I draw this from comments made by Inmarsat including a CNN interview with a senior vice-president of the British satellite company.

The doppler-shift analysis is simple in its basic concept: if the transmitter on the plane sending the signal was moving away from the satellite, it would appear to have less energy than a signal from a plane at rest or moving toward the satellite. However, there is more than one reason why a signal could have lower energy over time; for example, that the systems which power it are functioning at a lower than normal power level and/or are running down.

This would be the case if the plane was sitting in a jungle in Thailand or Java, not flying, its handshake-ping signals powered by an idling engine running out of fuel or by a backup battery system running out of energy; the signal generated by such a system would have lower than normal strength and might well decline slightly over time until power ran out and it stopped entirely.

If the plane was not flying, then assumptions about its distance along the arc are erroneous. I agree that its final location would be along the arc, but it will not be found in the southern Indian Ocean. It is significant that no parts of the plane have been found despite extended searching for ambiguous objects observed by visual satellites and from high altitude planes.

P.S. Again, Inmarsat has not released any of the handshake-ping data from the Boeing engine(s) except for the circle determined by the final transmission at 8:11 AM. There is thus no way for anyone to use earlier pings to make statements about where the plane might have been between the final ground-radar sighting at 2:15 AM and the final ping transmission at 8:11 AM; furthermore, it appears that Inmarsat may have failed to release the data because it does not possess it: the satellite was never meant to plot a route and may only have kept the most recent updated ping. If so, all Inmarsat has to go on is the doppler-shift analysis of the final ping signal, which might be misleading (see above).

The release of the final (8:11) ping-circle by Inmarsat allows the plane's final location to be determined as belonging on or near the arc of that circle, since its known available fuel supply was insufficient to sustain flight much longer. That circle passes through China and other landmasses to the north and through the southern Indian Ocean to the south. But in the middle it also passes through Thailand and Java.

P.P.S. Remember that Malaysia did not subscribe to the extended service which sends Boeing engine performance data to a satellite, which is then stored by the engine manufacturer for future reference. All it sent were simple, hourly handshake pings telling the satellite that it was still there. So it is entirely credible that neither Inmarsat nor anyone else has any of the earlier ping signals before the last one at 8:11 AM.

Here's some esoterica. It isn't necessary to understand my criticism of Inmarsat's latest claim that the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean. It pertains to some previous comments I made about the possibility of tracking the plane's path via successive ping-circles.

The Inmarsat satellite in question is apparently the Inmarsat-3 F1 which was launched in April 1996. Though nominally a geosynchronous satellite, it isn't actually. In order to maintain a constant position over an equatorial point on the Earth against the combined pull of the Sun and Moon, such a satellite must expend fuel to keep both East-West and North-South stability.

"To extend the life-time of ageing geostationary spacecraft with little fuel left one sometimes discontinues the North-South control only continuing with the East-West control. As seen from an observer on the rotating Earth the spacecraft will then move North-South with a period of 24 hours. When this North-South movement gets too large a steerable antenna is needed to track the spacecraft. An example of this is Artemis."


Artemis was launched in 2001 and is thus considerably newer in its orbit than the Inmarsat-3 F1; problems that plague the Artemis thus plague older satellites like the Inmarsat-3 F1. So, what is being called a "geosynchronous" satellite actually undergoes considerable north-south "wobble" in its orbit.

The handshake ping from the plane determines a set of points on the earth equidistant from the satellite (see initial comment).

If the satellite is in geosynchronous orbit then it points straight down toward the point on the Earth over which it is geosynchronously linked.

If the plane were sitting on a runway on that point, the ping would determine only a point, not a circle. If the plane moves away from that point, then the distance from that point to the plane forms the radius of a circle of points on the Earth which are equidistant from the satellite. (This is spherical geometry, not plane geometry; and note that the altitude of the plane is such a small deviation -- a few miles at most -- that it isn't relevant.)

As the plane continues to move away it determines a longer radius and thus a circle of greater circumference, and the two circles are concentric, with the second circle outside the first.

But that assumes the line connecting the center-point on Earth with the satellite above is perpendicular to the tangent-plane at that Earth-point; whereas if the satellite is not in true geosynchronous orbit this is not the case. Not only will the ping signal determine an oval rather than a circle as the set of equidistant points, but the oval will become more distorted the further away the plane becomes; and these ovals will overlap rather than be concentric, since they will be centered on different Earth-points.

To reiterate an important point:

The map I provided recently was apparently not actually based on Inmarsat handshake-ping signal data; only the final ping arc at 8:11 AM has been released by Inmarsat, not the earlier pings. My apologies for being suckered by an amateur extrapolation which I didn't have online time that day to examine sufficiently closely, and for passing that along. Again: only the last ping circle has been released by Inmarsat.

High speed rail: Just in case you forgot about China:

A couple of additional points on the subject of the missing Malaysian airliner.

(1) As noted earlier, the last radar sighting of the plane was on Malaysian military radar from about 2:15 AM to 2:22 AM. Apparently, the plane sent three quick and abnormal pings to the Inmarsat satellite just after it made a sharp turn and was lost to Malaysian radar.

"'The pings on the Doppler chart weren’t regularly spaced and the irregular ones appeared to coincide with the period of rapid altitude changes, after initial turn,' says Tim Farrar, an analyst with TMF Associates, a consulting firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. 'That would imply the terminal on the plane potentially tried to reacquire the signal after it lost the satellite signal during a sharp maneuver. If that supposition is correct, then the last partial ping is potentially due to the same issue (dive/stall etc). Therefore one might conclude tentatively that the plane crash was at or close to that time.'"


(2) I noted earlier that the Inmarsat satellite in question probably isn't in a true geosynchronous orbit. This could definitely throw-off their doppler-shift analysis of the pings, which they are using to determine a hypothetical direction of flight after radar contact was lost. I didn't mention this earlier because: (a) the true position of the satellite ought to be easily ascertained; (b) one would presume that satellite experts would incorporate such an elementary compensation into their calculations, if applicable. But if not, it's an additional complicating error.

(3) After changing the oceanic search area twice now, and finding (and dismissing) an embarrassment of riches of floating objects (just the trash that is ubiquitous in that and many other parts of the ocean), I expect the towed-sonar or the side-scan underwater vehicle to be used, despite the absence of debris identified as belonging to the missing plane, in an attempt to find the emergency sonar beacon ("black box") before the latter's batteries run out. The plane will not be discovered in the search grid. It might not be long before it is discovered by hikers trekking in the jungles of Thailand or perhaps the rainforests of Indonesia; most trekking routes, though infrequently used, are trails, not random bushwhacking routes; and they are used.

My money is still on your analysis, Emil.

P.S. Despite various illustrative maps, etc., appearing on the Internet purporting to give the information, I have been unable to locate the actual ping arcs (circles) for pings other than the last ping sent at 8:11 AM.

As noted in a previous comment above, this may be because the previous pings were not saved. Furthermore, here is an explicit assertion that the earlier ping-arcs were "reverse engineered":


So, at this point I have no reason to assume that the final ping arc from 8:11 AM is any different from the arcs determined by earlier pings from the plane after it disappeared from radar. True, Inmarsat claimed that the plane "continued to move away" from its satellite after the last radar contact, but this is perfectly consistent with a flight path taking it into Thailand or Java. The rest of the analysis seems based on the assumption that continuing pings mean continuing flight, and adding assumptions about likely airspeed and elevation. As for the doppler-shift analysis, it's merely correlative: by comparing the shifts with those of other planes on known flight paths that day, various probabilities are computed. They do not rule out paths other than the southerly path now settled on as the "best fit"; and doppler-shift analysis is tricky at best when the lower energy of the pings might come from a pinger operating at subnormal and/or decreasing powerlevels (and from a satellite moving along a north-south path, if that has not been properly accounted for).

As mentioned, the continuance of pings need not indicate that the plane continued flying, since an idling engine or a backup battery system could allow them to be sent hourly until the system powering them ran down.

Even after severe collisions which "total" automobiles, for example, engines sometimes continue running. In fact, emergency first-responders are trained to reach in and turn off the ignition in such cases, to avoid the possibility of fire. True, a plane crash is much more severe, but planes are also built much hardier than automobiles, since they have to withstand the stress of flying at high speed with heavy components through great air resistance at lower altitudes.

Sorry, I meant to address the issue of the partial ping received after the final full handshake-ping at 8:11 AM. My interpretation of this is a voltage fluctuation in the system powering the ping transmitter, as that system finally loses power; not a crash (which has already long since occurred, in my model). This could cause a partial ping in one of two ways:

(1) As the pinger loses power and regains it, it attempts to reestablish contact with the satellite; but by that time the voltage fluctuation has subsided into complete power loss and no further transmission is possible.

(2) As the system powering the pinger dies, a resulting voltage fluctuation causes erroneous behavior from the pinger.

Also, I meant to make it clearer in my comment above, that MY interpretation of the three abnormal pings sent in quick succession between 2:22 AM and 2:30 AM is that they were related to the plane's crash itself or to sharp maneuvers shortly before that crash. (Unlike the consultant quoted in the Aviation Week article linked to above, who suggested that the "partial ping" was related to the crash.)

Analysis of the latest developments in the mystery of the missing Malaysian airliner:

(1) The sonar detections. Both Chinese and Australian ships have detected sonar events "consistent with" the missing plane's black boxes. As reported, the underwater sounds detected have a frequency of "about" 37.5 kHz (same as the black boxes) with "about" a second between pings (same as the black boxes). This is certainly very suggestive, until you take a closer look at the evidence.

The first clue to the true nature of these "signals" is the fact that, despite the highly limited range of the black box emissions (1 to 2 miles), the Chinese and Australian ships which detected them were hundreds of miles apart at the points of detection. It's true that in the general case sound can travel very far underwater, but not the comparatively weak sounds emitted by the black boxes.

The second clue is the fact tha the Chinese were using a crude, handheld hydrophone (essentially a microphone mounted on a pole) which was not designed for deep searches (one CNN source estimated its maximum range as perhaps 1,500 feet below the surface); whereas the depth of the ocean floor where the plane's black boxes would be resting is 14,700 at the point of detection, or about 2.8 miles. This exceeds not only the range of the hydrophone but also of the black box emissions themselves.

Similarly, the Australian Navy ship Ocean Shield, which is equipped with highly sophisticated and sensitive towed sonar, first detected this "signal" with a sonar device lowered only to 300 meters (about 900 feet), according to the Australian search-authority news briefing, whereas the ocean depth at that position is about 13,500 feet. This means the source detected must have been at least 2.4 miles away (more if the ship wasn't directly overhead the source), which again exceeds the maximum range of the black box emissions. (The media is generally ignoring this, concentrating instead on other Ocean Shield detections at 1,500 and 4,000 meters.)

The third clue is the fact that black box pingers emit continuously, whereas the "signals" thus far detected have lasted for various times ranging from a few seconds to 90 seconds to 13 minutes to 2.5 hours). True, damage to both black boxes might possibly account for this, but the fact must be considered in the context of the totality of the evidence.

The fourth clue is that is that the Ocean Shield reported the "signal" getting stronger and then weaker as it moved along, suggesting the source of their detection is localized; this is consistent with black box emissions, but also with other sources; and the ship detected this "signal" at two different locations miles apart, whereas it might be expected that the pair of black boxes are together.

The fifth clue is the fact that the Ocean Shield reported that the frequencies detected were "slightly different" from one another, whereas the black box signals should be identical; and the Chinese have reported that the time between the pings they detected were only approximately 1 second, whereas computer-chip generated pings from the black boxes should be a more uniform and exact 1 second apart.

The cause of these "signals" thus has to satisfy several criteria simultaneously: (a) it must be present at two different locations hundreds of miles apart in the Indian Ocean; (b) within each of these areas, it must be localized; (c) it must switch on and off for irregular periods; (d) it must be detectable using short-range hydrophones deployed at the water's surface and thus must originate at comparatively shallow depths much higher than the ocean floor where plane debris would rest at each of the detection locations.

A cause which is ubiquitous to the Indian Ocean but localized in its occurences within it, together with the other features, suggests to my mind natural rather than artificially generated sonar events. My specific guess: schools of jellyfish. As anyone who has ever seen sea-exploration documentaries knows, jellyfish have nervous systems which generate regular electrical pulses to cause corresponding regular pulses of light. If these pulses occur in the 30-40 kHz frequency range, they could also produce sonar emissions at this frequency. While the emissions of individual jellyfish would be extremely weak, the emissions of a school of jellyfish could be sufficiently strong to be detected. This, however, requires synchronization of signals between jellyfish. In fact, because jellyfish communicate with one another using light flashes, for mating and other purposes, they do in fact synchronize, pulsing on and off simultaneously and with nearly metronomic regularity. Maritime history is in fact replete with stories of large underwater lights in the Indian Ocean which flash on and off and/or rotate.

While it is true that the Ocean Shield picked up this "signal" from depths as great as 9,000 feet, and that jellyfish do not occur at such depths, the ship's towed sonar detector has a range of about five miles, so a sufficiently strong signal emitted by a large school of jellyfish at shallower depths could easily be detected this way.

(2) Claims by Malaysian government sources that the plane "may have" flown the long way around Indonesia to avoid radar detection before heading south into the Indian Ocean. This is simply assumption based on supposition. If the plane avoided radar the radar records cannot prove that it flew on a path capable of avoiding radar stations -- if in fact such a path exists at all, which is highly doubtful. Also questionable is whether the fuel available for this long route is consistent with the Indian Ocean location postulated by international search authorities.

The Malaysians start with the supposition that the plane flew from its last radar sighting in the Strait of Malacca, south into the Indian Ocean. To this they add the fact that the Indonesian government has said that its radar did not detect the plane crossing its airspace. Given the geography, the Malaysians simply assumed that the plane "must have" flown the long way around to avoid Indonesian radar detection. But if the plane did not fly into the Indian Ocean at all, this conclusion becomes groundless.

I have, since posting my first comments on the subject weeks ago, said that the most obvious and most likely conclusion, given that the plane was last spotted on Malaysian military radar at about 2:15 AM in the Strait of Malacca, and was never detected by civilian or military radar again, despite the fact that the Asian-Pacific flight corridor is a high-traffic area bristling with radar systems of various kinds, is that the plane crashed shortly after its last radar sighting, rather than continuing to fly on for nearly seven hours undetected by anyone, anywhere in the world, including many governments with a protectionist, sometimes paranoid attitude toward their airspace vis a vis unidentified aircraft (which is what the Malaysian airliner was once its transponder failed at 1:21 AM). (The Indonesians even refused permission to international search teams to overfly their territory.)

Typo corrections of a paragraph in the above comment:

"The second clue is the fact that the Chinese were using a crude, handheld hydrophone (essentially a microphone mounted on a pole) which was not designed for deep searches (one CNN source estimated its maximum range as perhaps 1,500 feet below the surface); whereas the depth of the ocean floor where the plane's black boxes would be resting is 14,700 feet at the point of detection, or about 2.8 miles. This exceeds not only the range of the hydrophone but also of the black box emissions themselves."

Second typo correction:

"While it is true that the Ocean Shield picked up this "signal" from depths as great as 12,000 feet, and that jellyfish do not occur at such depths, the ship's towed sonar detector has a range of about five miles, so a sufficiently strong signal emitted by a large school of jellyfish at shallower depths could easily be detected this way."

(According to the Australian search-authority news briefing I watched when this information was first announced, the Ocean Shield's towed sonar was deployed at three depths when the "signal" was detected; the first at 3oo meters, the second at 1,500 meters, and the third at 4,000 meters, so the latter should read "12,000 feet" not "9,000 feet" as typed in the comment above.

P.S. I considered the possibility of bioluminescent squid or octopods, but I preferred jellyfish because every deep-sea video I've seen shows squid flashing individually, not in group synchrony.

To see why this is important, consider the characteristics of the black box beacon emissions. They have a frequency of 37.5 kHz but this isn't emitted continuously; rather, in pulses with a period of 1 second between each pulse.

In my hypothesis, sea animals would flash about once a second, corresponding to the pulse period of the black box; each flash would be produced by electrical signals of their nervous systems having a frequency in the 30-40 kHz range, and these would indirectly produce the sonar emissions detected. (Note that the Australian ship Ocean Shield has now reported that it detected a frequency, not of 37.5 kHz, but of 33.3 kHz, and previously said they detected more than one frequency, "slightly different" from one another.)

So, if squid were involved, and their flashing is individual and unsynchronized, you might well get emissions with a frequency in the correct range, but you would not get emissions separated by a period of one second.

Jellyfish, by contrast, have nervous systems that are largely autonomic, and they are highly social (group oriented) creatures. Such autonomic nervous systems lend themself to synchronization by means of mutual feedback (as flashes from one animal are detected by the nervous systems of others). Hence my hypothesis favoring a rare breed of pulsating jellyfish inhabiting remote areas of the Indian Ocean.

Another distinct possibility, which has been documented in the scientific literature and which actually exists in the area in question, is the ponyfish:

"We record a spectacular light display in schooling Leiognathus splendens in the field at Ambon, Indonesia. The display occurred at night. Fish emitted brief flashes of light at high frequency over extended periods. All the fish in a school synchronized their flashes, the pooled light markedly increasing underwater visibility for a human observer."


The latest pair of Australian sonar detections, far from bolstering the conclusion that the missing plane's black boxes have been found, further refute such a possibility: the four Australian sonar events to date are separated by distances of as much as 17 miles, whereas the range of the black boxes is about 2 miles; and the duration of the new "signals" (5.5 and 7 minutes) continue to be both temporary and variable, whereas the black boxes should emit continuously.

The Australian military asserts that its analysis of the first two sounds shows that they were produced by an "electronic device", apparently on no basis other than their regularity and an argument from ignorance as to the possibility of natural causes; but as anyone who has ever seen an electrocardiogram knows, the heart is an "electronic device" and has a regular beat, yet is of natural origin.

The American media seems to treat the Australians like some Great White Hope: but despite greater circumspection in committing themselves than the Malaysians or Chinese have shown, their evaluation of the evidence must be judged every bit as reckless. As for the technical prowess of the search-authority based in Perth, I might have more confidence if the Australians hadn't made a habit of miking international search-update press conferences so incompetently that reporters' questions are inaudible both in audio and to closed-captioners.

The media has completely disregarded the Chinese detection, despite the fact that this involved a signal of the correct frequency, with the correct period between pulses, which was recorded for 90 seconds. The only reason for this disregard which I can determine, is that it spoils the (unwarranted) conclusion that the sounds come from the black box and that the Australians have found it; for the distance between Australian and Chinese detections is 370 miles and the black box emissions cannot travel that far; but for that matter, the Australians first detected the sound using a sonar device lowered only to 300 meters, which even they admit was too shallow to have detected a black box on the ocean floor at that point. The latter fact is also conveniently ignored by the media and the experts they use.

A reasoner attempting to fit a conclusion to the data would be compelled to admit that the sounds are not the black box emissions despite superficial similarities; those trying to fit the data to a preferred conclusion are instead forced to ignore and misinterpret inconvenient data. The methods used to accomplish this are creative but not compelling.

One irresponsible suggestion is that the Chinese faked their detection as a publicity stunt. Another is explaining away black box emissions with a range of 2 miles, detected 17 (or 370) miles away from their supposed source, with vague, handwaving remarks about underwater "reflections" (as if the sound was bouncing its way over these distances); but reflections do not augment signal strength -- quite the reverse since some of the signal energy is absorbed in the process of reflection by the reflecting body; so that reflection attenuates rather than amplifies signals. Also invoked are mysterious underwater thermal currents: but if currents could carry a signal with a range of 2 miles over a distance of 17 miles (or 370 miles to the Chinese), we should not speak of a 2 mile range at all: and the idea that such currents would preserve the frequency and pulse rate characteristics of such highly organized and particular signals while carrying them across such distances, is scarcely credible. Another idea is that the black boxes are confined in some canyon at the bottom of the ocean, so that search ships only detect them when along a line of sight nearly overhead, thus explaining their short and variable durations (e.g., 90 seconds, 5.5 minutes, 7 minutes, 13 minutes); yet this does not explain how they could be detected in positions separated by as much as 17 (or 370) miles and thus at oblique angles outside of narrow lines of sight; nor do such theories explain how both the Australians and the Chinese could have first detected these sounds from shallow depths if they issue from the bottom of the ocean, which is nearly 3 miles deep at the detection points.

Analysis of the latest news on the missing Malaysian airliner:

(1) The sonabuoy detection. A sonobuoy dropped from a P-3 Orion search plane has detected sonar signals which the Australians say they believe are "from a manmade source". The Wall Street Journal reported that the plane listening to the sonabuoy transmission has been configured to listen only for signals with approximately the same frequency as the black box locator beacon. Contrary to media reports, this is yet another reason to conclude that the mysterious "signals" detected of late are not produced by the black boxes. The reason is simple: the sonobuoy search area is hundreds of kilometers from the Ocean Shield search area. See the inset map from the Australian Maritime Search Authority (dated today) in this Bloomberg News story:


Since the range of the black box locator beacon emitter is only 1-2 miles, it cannot possibly have traveled from the Ocean Shield search area to the sonobuoy search area, or vice-versa.

There is also the fact that sonobuoys deploy to no more than 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) below the surface. They actually consist of two parts: a float on the top with an antenna above the water which transmits data to the P-3 Orion search plane cruising overhead, and a second part which sinks to about 1,000 feet and floats, detecting sonar signals which it then transmits to the float at the surface, which relays them to the plane. However, no inference can be drawn from this until the ocean depth in the sonobuoy search area is known. The Indian Ocean is generally very deep, and if depths in the sonobuoy search area compare to those in the Ocean Shield search area (nearly 3 miles deep), then signals from a black box sitting on the ocean bottom wouldn't reach the sonobuoy floating at 1,000 feet. It does seem unlikely, however, that sonobuoys would be dropped in an area that deep with a mission to listen for black box signals.

Remember, however, that this is also the depth (300 meters) at which the Ocean Shield first detected its "manmade signals"; a depth which even they admitted should have been too shallow to detect black boxes on the ocean floor three miles below them; they then lowered their towed-sonar unit to much deeper depths.

(2) CNN pundits keep misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to fit data to the preferred theory. The distance between Ocean Shield sonar detections (as much as 17 miles), which vastly exceeds the range of the black box locator beacon emissions (2 miles) is being explained as "refraction" of the signal from the bottom, up to the "thermal layer" (about the first 1,000 feet of water) and then back down to the towed sonar some additional miles away. The problem with this idea is that the indirect bounce path is even longer than a direct path (straight line) would be, and so well in excess of 17 miles. See an illustrative diagram "Refraction of Sound" showing both the direct path and the longer indirect path arced above it, here:


Also, as with reflection, in the case of refraction a signal weakens it as some of the energy is absorbed by the body it passes through (in this case the surface layer of the ocean), so the signal would be attenuated, not amplified, and would not have its maximum range increased above 2 miles. So, while it's true in the general instance that sound can take an indirect path, it is only true in a specific instance if the original signal has the strength to travel the direct path, which is manifestly not the case with the weak (2 mile range) black box locator beacon emissions.

(3) "New" information that the plane went down below 5,000 feet after crossing mainland Malaysia into the Strait of Malacca. This is actually nothing new at all: the Thai government said weeks ago that its military radar detected this, but the American media chose to dismiss it because it wasn't consistent with then-favored scenarios. Even before that and very early on indeed, Malaysian military radar had reported that the radar signal from the plane was "abnormal", appearing and disappearing; and since the plane's transponder had already failed, the obvious inference was that it was flying low but erratically at an altitude which took it below and then back above Malay military radar.

This sort of roller-coaster flight is consistent with a plane in trouble and perhaps flying on a malfunctioning autopilot, but not with a plane being deliberately flown in an attempt to avoid radar. See also my early comments above regarding Malay military radar reports about the plane's climb to approximately 45,000 feet (above the safe maximum flight altitude) and a terribly dangerous fast-dive down to 22,000 feet in the space of a minute.

P.S. Despite the fact that the Bloomberg News URL contains an April 9th date the actual story is datelined the 10th, and the inset map from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (not "Search Authority" as written above) says in the lower left-hand corner, "Map prepared 10 April 2014".

P.S. There are two "Refraction of Sound" diagrams on the same webpage. It isn't obvious at first glance that the page is longer than one screen. You have to scroll down to see the one I'm referring to.

One additional point: the "Refraction of Sound" text is a bit confusing. Refraction DOES NOT amplify the initial signal or allow it to travel further than its maximum range as determined by its strength at the source; what it DOES do is make the RECEIVED signal stronger since the listener receives both the direct and the indirect signals and they add AT THE RECEIVER. But this is ONLY true if original signal strength is sufficient to reach the listener from the source along a direct path.

Put less confusingly: in the specific case of a black box on the bottom of the ocean three miles below the surface: in order for refraction to occur, the signal must first travel upwards to the surface layer. That means travelling roughly three miles (minus the 1,000 foot depth of the surface layer), at minimum: more if the signal is traveling at an angle instead of straight upward.

So, first, the signal should not even be able to reach the surface layer at all. Second, it still has to travel through the surface layer and then all the way back down to the receiver, which in the case of the Ocean Shield is towed sonar deployed at depths ranging from 300 meters to 4,000 meters (the signal has been detected at both depths). Since the direct path between detection points is as much as 17 miles, the total distance travelled along an indirect path would be far greater. Even if the source were located at a center point between the two detection points, the distance traveled would far exceed the range of the black box locator beacon emissions (about 2 miles).

Put yet another way: No matter how much faster (or further!) sound travels in the warmer top-layer of the ocean, it still has to travel up from the bottom to reach that layer, and then down again to a sonar receiver. That means traveling up through cold water 3 miles or more and then down through cold water nearly as far again. The total distance through the cold water portion is well above the 2 mile range of the black box emissions; and there is still the miles of transmission through the intervening warm surface layer to be considered.

I hope this makes it clear once and for all that even the Ocean Shield sonar detections alone, separated as they are, cannot possibly be from a black box; and the distance from the Chinese detection point to the Ocean Shield detection area, and from the sonobuoy detection point to the Ocean Shield detection area, is much, much farther, being hundreds of miles. These cannot be signals from the missing plane's "black box".

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