As the worldwide search continues for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, both reasonable and not so reasonable theories have spread, causing confusion.
From alien abduction and Illuminati reports to misinformation by government officials, the search since Saturday has grown increasingly difficult. Even investigators have become frustrated, prompting China to threaten to scale back its aid in the search. As China's Foreign Ministry spokesman announced earlier this week, "There's too much information and confusion right now."
In the search for the missing flight, ruling out even one of the hundreds of theories surrounding what happened could mean the difference. Here are five theories that have largely been ruled out.
1. Iranian terrorists
In the hours after the flight was reported missing, rumors swarmed that two Iranian men, who had used stolen passports to board the plane, may have been linked to terrorism. But an investigation into these men's backgrounds quickly debunked this theory.
Terrorism itself cannot be ruled out, but a conspiracy plan by the two Iranian men is not likely.
2. Plane debris found in China's satellite images
On Wednesday, China released images from its satellites of what officials hoped was a clue. A gray spot in an image of the South China Sea looked like it may have been plane debris.
"Chinese satellites have found smoke and floating objects. ... At present we cannot confirm this is related to the missing aircraft," China's civil aviation chief Li Jiaxiang reported, according to BBC News.
Image Credit: The PRC via New York Daily News
After Vietnam and Malaysia sent investigators to the area, officials said the matter was not related to the missing flight. In fact, Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, told the AP, "There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing."
3. Passengers' ringing phones
Loved ones tried desperately to reach their missing family and friends aboard by calling their cellphones. On the dialing end, there was a ringing tone from many of the cellphones. Many thought this meant those phones were on and working, and the passengers themselves were safe.
In a tragic disappointment, experts have since reported this is not likely the case. Wireless analyst Jeff Kagan to NBC News explained the ringing probably indicates that the mobile network is searching for a signal, rather than the hope that a call was placed.
Image Credit: AP
Locally placed calls may connect almost instantaneously, he said, but long-distance or international calls may "ring" several times before the phone is found or the system can't find it and disconnects the call.
4. Engine or electric failure:
In the unlikely event that the modern Boeing 777, which was inspected two weeks before takeoff, had any issues with the engines or the electrical system, the pilots would have had time to report it, experts say.
But there was no distress call. If all electricty failed, the airplane would still have been able to send transmissions or distress calls via a backup communications system. Additionally, in the event that both engines gave out, the airplane's turbine system would have still been able to convert wind power into electricty, allowing the plane to glide for 20 minutes to possible safety.
While these two specific incidents have been debunked, another type of mechanical failure, such as corrosion, is possible.
5. The plane flew for hours
A report from the Wall Street Journal said U.S. investigators suspected the missing flight kept flying for hours based on evidence that the plane's engines continued to transmit data.
Malaysian officials apparently consulted with the makers of the plane and its engines, who told them that "no transmissions of any kind were received from the plane after air traffic controllers lost contact with it," according to CNN.
Officials largely peg this theory as false, although the search has since expanded in area.
Image Credit: AP
Even before officials denied this theory, experts were deeply skeptical.
"That this aircraft could have flown on for four hours after it disappeared and not have been picked up by someone's radar and not have been seen by anyone, it's almost unbelievable. I find this very, very difficult to believe," Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent for the magazine Orient Aviation, said to CNN.