Adam Minter points out that the pollution in the South China Sea is complicating the search for the missing plane:
On Saturday, hours after the first news of the plane’s disappearance, the Vietnamese navy reported finding 6 mile (9.7 kilometers) and 9 mile oil slicks (reports about the size vary), raising hopes. On Monday, lab tests revealed that they were diesel fuel characteristic of the ships that ply, and pollute, the South China Sea. In the days since, fishermen and rescue workers have found life rafts, life jackets, a jet’s door and plastic oil barrels each initially suspected as originating from Flight 370, vetted in the news media, and then — perhaps literally — tossed overboard as trash.
The Colorado-based company Digital Globe sells high-resolution satellite imagery and aerial photography. Last year, the company acquired the crowdsourcing application known as Tomnod (“big eye” in Mongolian), boosting the application’s capabilities with stunningly detailed images from its six sophisticated satellites. Anyone can create an account and begin searching through the tiles of imagery. After a brief tutorial, you’re unleashed upon images of the open ocean, where you can tag objects as airplane wreckage, a life raft, or an oil slick. …
You have to worry if this will help or hinder efforts: Will all these amateur eyes just be creating more work for the rescue teams? After several people called a Malaysian paper to say they had “found” bits of the airplane in on Google Maps, Google had to issue a statement reminding users that their satellite imagery is a few months old.
While much has been made of the plane’s two passengers with fake passports, Josephine Wolff explains that most countries don’t check for them:
How two Iranian passengers managed to board a plane using stolen European passports is far from the biggest mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370—in fact, it turns out to be one of the least surprising pieces of the otherwise perplexing and tragic story. Last year, airplane passengers boarded planes more than 1 billion times without their passports being checked against Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, which would have flagged the MH 370 passengers’ documents as stolen, had it been consulted.
It remains unclear whether the two passengers using the stolen passports were in any way connected to the plane’s disappearance, and the ongoing investigation suggests that neither of them had ties to terrorist groups, but that has not stopped Interpol from seizing the opportunity to stress the importance and underutilization of the SLTD database.