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Missing Malaysia Airlines jet: Could passenger cell phones solve mystery?

According to an experiment conducted by CNN (with the help of several chemists and computer experts), it just might be possible to discover what happened to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 from recovered cell phones. Of course, that also depends on finding the missing jet.

Missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, designated Flight MH370, that disappeared on March 8, 2014. Photo was taken in 2011.
Laurent ERRERA, Creative Commons

CNN reported April 24 that if cell phones of the passengers and crew are recovered, it could be possible to retrieve information from the memories of the devices.

Correspondent Ted Rowlands of CNN took a cell phone, loaded a video of the Chicago waterfront, took a few photos, then had the phone encased in a container of salt water at the Shedd Aquarium that mimicked conditions within the Indian Ocean, where the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is believed to have ultimately gone down. After eight days, the cell phone was pulled from the salt water. Although the salt had eaten away some of the plastic of the phone and encrusted some of the internal mechanisms of the phone, after a good scraping, the phone's memory was retrieved and accessed.

As it turns out, although there were some visual glitches, most of the information stored on the phone, including the video shot just before the phone was submerged, were not only retrievable but seemed to be in fairly good condition.

Conclusion: If the cell phones from those aboard Flight MH370 are found, it could be possible to access their memories and retrieve data.

However, as the experiment conducted by Rowlands and CNN only lasted eight days, the fact that the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 has moved past 50 days, the damage to the cell phones could be somewhat more extensive.

Still, the experts employed by CNN believe that cell phones retrieved from a submerged jet could give up valuable data, including information that could solve the mystery as to what happened on Flight MH370 that caused it to alter course (it was on its way to Beijing, China, from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). Extensive searches since the plane disappeared on March 8 have turned up nothing. It is believed that the Boeing jet went down in the Indian Ocean somewhere west of the western Australia with all 239 passengers and crew members aboard.

In the latest development, a senior U. S. defense official (wishing to remain anonymous) told Reuters that the search for the missing jet could take years to find.

April 26 marked the 50th day of the plane's disappearance.

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