Jun 052009
 

A post on Discover.com asks a non-obvious question: Could a fluke meteor hit have been the cause behind the mysterious breakup of Air France Flight 447?

Obviously for any given flight the chances are very, very small that a meteor will bring down an airliner, but as Hailey and Helfand pointed out in a letter to the NYT in 1996, the correct question to ask is this: “What is the probability that, for all flights in history, one or more could have been downed by a meteor?” They concluded that there was a 1-in-10 chance that this could happen…let’s use their logic, brought up to date somewhat, for 2009, for Flight 447.

Making some assumptions and then making some calculations using simple math and some probability theory, the Discover post actually calculates that, for all the flights over the past 20 years, there is a 1 in 20 chance that one of them was brought down by a meteor.

So, if we assume that no other unexplained crash was meteor-caused, then we still have a 19 in 20 chance that it wasn’t a meteor that brought down 447. It’s not something you can rule out, but it’d be pretty rare.

Having read that the debris they found wasn’t from the plane after all, but from a ship, the immediate questions leaping to my mind were: What ship? Is there a missing ship that’s vanished, too? In the same area? Are they connected?