MH370 mystery: Captain Zaharie Shah’s ‘close friend’ received heartbreaking note

The Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared on March 8, 2014, during a routine trip to Beijing, China, with 239 people on board. Mr Shah last communicated with air traffic control at 1:19am while travelling over the South China Sea, before vanishing. Countless theories have been put forward to explain the enigma, but analysis of the jet’s automated communications with an Inmarsat satellite indicates it likely crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

And investigative journalist Florence de Changy revealed a sobering story in her new book ‘The Disappearing Act,’ after she spoke to Mr Shah’s friend and fellow pilot, Peter Chong.

She detailed how he had “been told the plane had crashed in the Gulf of Thailand” – a shallow inlet in the southwestern South China Sea.

She added: “Flying business class on Malaysia Airlines on his way back from Bangkok on the evening of Monday, March 10, he asked the air hostesses to convey his condolences to the pilots of his own flight. 

“To his very great surprise, a message scribbled on a paper napkin came back to him a few minutes later. 

“In the note, which he tucked away for safekeeping, the captain reportedly thanked him and added: ‘Wreckage to your left.’”

According to Mr Chong, he had been “flying over the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand” at the time.

He told Ms de Changy that he “peered out of the window and saw a clearly lit area at sea where he said he was able to make out intensive search operations”.

On March 8, the Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) was activated at 5:30am.

Malaysia Airlines confirmed they were “working with the authorities” who had “activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft”.

A second search launched in January 2018 by the private contractor Ocean Infinity, but that also ended without success.

Relying mostly on analysis of data from the Inmarsat satellite with which the aircraft last communicated, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) proposed initially that a hypoxia event was the most likely cause given the available evidence.

But investigators have still not come to an agreement on what happened.

‘The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370’ is published by Mudlark and available to buy here.

Spinach In Your Inbox: 2016 Study On Scientists ‘Teaching’ Spinach To Send Emails Goes Viral

The internet went into a frenzy on Tuesday after Euronews resurfaced a 2016 study about scientists “teaching” spinach plants to detect explosives and send emails.

The study, titled “Nitroaromatic detection and infrared communication from wild-type plants using plant nanobionics” was originally published in the journal Nature Materials. Plant nanobionics refers to the scientific practice of altering plants with extremely small particles to give them new abilities.

In the study, researchers from MIT and the University of California, Riverside, embedded tiny sensors made of carbon nanotubes into spinach leaves so they could detect nitroaromatic compounds, which are often found in explosives. Once the roots came into contact with these compounds, the sensors in the leaves issued a fluorescent signal that was detected by an infrared camera attached to a small computer that sent researchers an email alert.

“Plants are very good analytical chemists,” MIT’s Michael Strano, one of the authors behind the study, told Euronews. “They have an extensive root network in the soil, are constantly sampling groundwater, and have a way to self-power the transport of that water up into the leaves.”

Strano added that plants could already detect oncoming droughts as well as subtle changes in soil and water, and plant nanobionic research could be extremely useful in the near future in detecting pollutants and combating environmental changes.

Although the study was conducted back in 2016, “spinach” and “email” began trending across social media on Tuesday as Euronews’ revival of the power of plants went viral.

Stay organized and save paper with a Rocketbook reusable notebook (they’re on sale)

SAVE $5: The Rocketbook reusable notebook works just like your favorite Moleskine, except you’ll never have to buy another — they’re $5 off at Amazon as of Feb. 12.

Some of us just cannot stay organized without having a notebook on hand. One for planning, one for random notes and to-do lists, one for doodles — basically, you can never have enough Moleskines. But, while we do love a good notebook, it is kind of wasteful to be buying them over and over again. That’s a lot of paper, you know?

Which brings us to the Rocketbook — it’s a reusable notebook that allows you to keep all of your notebook habits without wasting all that paper (with some high-tech extras that we’ll get to). Right now, they’re on a slight discount at Amazon, $5 off the original price

The 36-page dotted grid notebook has endlessly reusable pages — when you’re done writing, just wipe it clean with a damp microfiber cloth (cloth and pen included). But that’s not even the coolest aspect of the Rocketbook. When you download the Rocketbook app, you’ll be able to instantly beam everything you write on its pages to your cloud service of choice. Write, scan, wipe, repeat — you’ll never have to buy another notebook again. 

Get organized in 2021 and save paper while doing it — get a Rocketbook reusable notebook at Amazon and save $5. 

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Get a 70-inch 4K Fire TV Edition TV in your room for under $550

Save $100: The 70-inch model of Insignia’s Fire TV Edition 4K TV is on sale for $549.99 at Amazon as of Feb. 11.

Imagine sitting through a pandemic in 1995. Your entertainment options would max out at cable (if you had it) and your collection of VHS tapes. Walmart would have had a slew of new titles to buy, though all of the good ones would have likely had the same fate as toilet paper in April 2020.

Let’s all just be thankful for streaming services being a non-rivalrous good. If you’ve been doing your binge-watching on a tiny TV via your laptop’s HDMI port, it’s time to upgrade: Save $100 and snag a 70-inch Insignia Fire TV Edition TV on sale for less than $550.

This model comes equipped with the Fire TV platform, which simply requires a sign-in with your Amazon account. If you already have a Fire TV Stick or another Fire TV associated with your account, you’ll have the option to sync all the streaming apps you already have downloaded on those.

The difference in viewing quality will be apparent quickly. 4K streams at four times the resolution of normal HD, fine-tuning each scene for more accurate color and smooth stream of details that come out as pixelated blobs otherwise.

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Make your favorite fizzy drinks at home with Sodastream

These are the top deals on Sodastream bundles as of Feb. 11:

Whether you’re a constant sparkling water drinker or you want to make sodas, sparkling juices, and tonics to add to your at-home happy hour cocktails, a soda maker can make your bubbly habit a little easier. Not only will it help you save money on carbonated beverages (those sodas and flavored sparkling waters add up at the grocery store), but it’ll also give you the power to truly customize your drinks, and reduce your single-use bottle and can waste.

As of Feb 11, you can score deals on a variety of SodaStream bundles at Amazon. From a simple package with a soda maker, CO2 cylinder, and reusable bottle, to more fleshed-out bundles that come with different flavored drops and other fun extras, you’ll be sure to find the SodaStream pack that will fit seamlessly into your kitchen. 

With the OG SodaStream Fizzi, two CO2 cylinders, three carbonating bottles, and two bubly flavors, this deal gives you everything you need to master fizzy creations. The three different bottles will allow you to make and store different flavored sparkling beverages, and the two CO2 cylinders can fizz a total of 120 liters of water. Customize how bubbly you want your drink with the carbonation button, pressing more times for more bubbles, and don’t worry about plugging the Fizzi in — it’s totally powered by the CO2 cylinder. 

While the SodaStream Fizzi fizzes liquids manually, the One Touch uses electricity to make the carbonation process even more seamless. Choose from three different carbonation levels, and let your SodaStream perfect your bubbly drink. This bundle comes with the One Touch SodaStream, two CO2 cylinders, three one-liter carbonating bottles, and two bubly drops flavors to boost your drinks even further. Each bottle of bubly drops can flavor about 12 liters of sparkling water, so you’ll have plenty of tasty drinks before you need to restock. 

If you don’t need all the extra bottles and CO2 cylinders, this simple bundle is the way to go. It comes with the SodaStream Fizzi system, a single CO2 cylinder, and one reusable bottle — everything you need to get started. You’ll be able to carbonate up to 60 liters of water with one cylinder, and making your seltzer is as easy as pressing one button. Choose your desired level of bubbles by pressing the carbonation button one or multiple times, and feel good knowing you’re cutting back on single-use plastic. 

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‘Alien’ monolith in Turkey is revealed as marketing stunt for Erdogan’s space programme

Fuat Demirdil, a local farmer, said he was baffled by the monolith’s appearance and sudden disappearance.

He said: “We didn’t know if it was placed on my field for marketing purposes or as an advertisement.

“We saw that the metal block was no longer at its place.

“Residents cannot solve the mystery of the metal block either.”

Photos snapped at the scene of the monolith’s eerie appearance now reveal a pile of upturned dirt and loose rocks.

Conspiracy theorists and self-titled UFO experts were quick to claim the monoliths are part of a planet-wide plot by aliens to contact us.

Life after death: Woman ‘engulfed by light and God’ in afterlife vision

Whether there is an afterlife is one of life’s greatest mysteries. However, one woman believes she has the conclusive answer after she temporarily died. A person by the name of Star was attacked in her own home and was left fighting for her life.

Before paramedics could arrive at the scene, Star temporarily died which resulted in a heavenly vision.

In her brief moment of clinical death – which is the cessation of the heart or breathing – Star believes she met God.

Star wrote on the Near Death Experience Research Foundation: “A pure, brilliant light engulfed me and I no longer had a physical body. But, I still existed?

“I had no eyes to see but I looked at everything around me. I was in the centre of a vast nothingness, but the nothingness was not empty.

“It was completely filled with the presence of the living God.

“There are no words in the English language to describe where I was. I was in the middle of the Glory.

“Then the Lord wrapped me in His Love and held me to His breast.

“I was filled to every fibre of my being with His peace that passes all understanding. I felt the love He had for me.”

READ MORE: Life after death: Man who survived gas explosion recalls harrowing NDE

“From a biomedical perspective, this hope might help the body fight illnesses, improve the chances of spontaneous remissions or allow the illness to run its course, it’s more equanimity for the person involved.

“But even if there is no biological change, a focus on the possibility of immortality can help some individuals disidentify from their bodily pain and develop a more peaceful relationship with their experience as their suffering.

“When this happens, improbable beliefs in an immortal body or soul can be seen as entirely rational and pragmatic even.

“However, when beliefs about immortality exclude attention to the biological physical body, it can have serious negative effects on health, and even cause untimely deaths.

“So, what we believe about death and our ideas of enteral life can really make a difference as to how we live, how we handle pain and suffering and experience being alive here and now.”

Life after death: Royal navy admiral recalls visions as he drowned – ‘Rapid mind activity’

Dr Koch used Sir Francis’ anecdote to explain how NDE’s are “not fancy flights of the imagination”.

He said in the Scientific American: “They share broad commonalities—becoming pain-free, seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel and other visual phenomena, detaching from one’s body and floating above it, or even flying off into space (out-of-body experiences).

“They might include meeting loved ones, living or dead, or spiritual beings such as angels; a Proustian recollection or even review of lifetime memories, both good and bad (“my life flashed in front of my eyes”); or a distorted sense of time and space.

“There are some underlying physiological explanations for these perceptions, such as progressively narrowing tunnel vision. Reduced blood flow to the visual periphery of the retina means vision loss occurs there first.”

Icy Roads Supercut Videos Show Why Some Days You Should Just Stay Home

A major storm system is hitting the northeast this week and videos from the scene show motorists already struggling on icy roads ― offering a good reminder to take it easy behind the wheel. Or better yet, stay home if you can when the roads are bad. 

Two motorists in Boston set the scene for local CBS station WBZ:

AAA has some tips for driving in winter conditions. Otherwise, you could end up like the motorists in a new supercut video from icy roads around the world compiled by YouTuber King of Road:

Politics on dating apps are thornier than ever now that Trump is gone

In our Love App-tually series, Mashable shines a light into the foggy world of online dating.

After 26-year-old Brandon Fellows stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, he told Bloomberg News he had no regrets. Instead, he boasted that his Bumble profile was “blowing up.” 

All the while, women were actively trying to locate the insurrectionists on dating apps. Bumble removed its political filter amid the chaos, only to reinstate it a day later after users complained.

Politics is personal, and that’s been true on dating apps for awhile — but as the global health crisis collided with a heated election and an attempted coup, it shifted things even further and now politics on dating apps are thornier than ever.

How did we get here?

In a study published in January 2017, Neil Malhotra, a political science professor at Stanford University, and his co-author Gregory A. Huber concluded that people sought out like-minded matches on dating apps.

“It appears as if in the contemporary period political orientations directly affect the social relationships people seek to form, which results in increased political homogeneity in formed relationships,” Malhotra and Huber wrote. “This has the potential to amplify polarization through the creation of homogenous social networks and households.”

And that was four years ago. In the time since, Malhotra believes that the country has become more polarized and attributes it to a phenomenon called sorting. In the 1970s and 80s, Malhotra explained, saying you were a Republican or Democrat meant many different things. “You could be a conservative Southern democrat, you could be a liberal northeastern Republican,” he said.

That’s certainly not the case now — but that’s not because of Trump. While he was uniquely abhorrent, he didn’t cause the riff between parties. Neither did social media. Both Malhotra and Dr. Sara Konrath, a social psychologist at the University of Indiana, cited the rise in economic inequality in the United States over the past several decades as a bigger factor in the increase in polarization. 

“Even though this year feels very bad and maybe everything is getting to a critical point, actually there’s been a concerning rise in polarization in Americans for a long time,” Konrath, author of the upcoming Culture of Burnout: American life in the age of increasing expectations, said. “It’s highly overlapped with increases in economic inequality.” Pew shows a widening gap in beliefs between Republicans and Democrats since the early 1990s — long before the Trump administration or Twitter. 

As the rich have gotten richer and the poor poorer, a wedge has been driven between Democrats and Republicans over who is “deserving” of monetary benefits, as Konrath put it, “who gets more of the pie.” This affects other debates about how the country should be run as a whole: Who gets to vote? Who gets to have healthcare? Who should pay for it all?

“Now when you say you’re a Democrat or Republican, that is associated not just with a bundle of policy views but also a lot of identity and world views that are a strong signal [of your values],” Malhotra continued. 

As University of Pennsylvania professor Yphtach Lelkes said in 2019, Trump was a symptom of polarization and not the cause. Along with social media, however, he did accelerate it.

Political polarization on Tinder, OkCupid, and beyond

We bring our real-life experiences onto dating apps, Konrath explained, and we can see this acceleration of polarization across different platforms. It’s clear from data that users want to signal their own values and care about potential matches’ values as well. 

From mid-2016 to mid-2017, the amount of women who answered the political affiliation question on eHarmony jumped from 24.6 percent to 68 percent; for men, that jump was 16.5 percent to 47 percent. Almost 3 million OkCupid users said they couldn’t date someone with strong opposing political views in 2020. According to Match’s 2020 Singles in America survey, 76 percent of signals believe it’s important for partners to share political beliefs — up 25 percent from 2017. By the end of last year, mentions of Black Lives Matter on Tinder exceeded mentions of the term “hookup.” 

“A year and a half ago, I started adding explicit references to prison abolition and Communism on my dating profiles,” an anonymous abolitionist in New York City told me. The goal, he said, wasn’t to find someone who matched his politics exactly, but rather to deter those who hate them. “I had done something similar with polyamory before — get the dealbreakers out in the open early,” he said.

“Now when you say you’re a Democrat or Republican, that is associated not just with a bundle of policy views but also a lot of identity and world views.”

If you look at dating from an economic perspective, it’s basically a complicated and costly search process, according to Malhotra. Given the cost, whether it be in money or time, users want more information about potential matches to make their search a bit easier. That’s one reason why people may be so ready to disclose their politics, he said. 

We need ways to make information flow manageable, said Debra Mashek, relationships researcher and founder of Myco Consulting. “Political identification is a quick cut that helps us. If we go, ‘Oh if I really could go out with any of these thousands of people, then maybe I should eliminate a couple thousand based on this information.'”

Carla Bevins, assistant teaching professor of business communications at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, agreed that users want something to help with the search — especially right now. “We all have so much pandemic fatigue that there’s not a lot of cognitive or emotional energy that we have to put out there when we’re looking for someone on a dating app,” she said.

Politics, Bevins said, can be an “extra filter” or shortcut to cut through hundreds of faces when we find ourselves doomswiping. Due to the politicization of COVID-19, as well, someone’s political views can also signal what measures they’re taking to protect themselves and others.

“That becomes a safety issue,” Bevins said, “and how much we are willing to mitigate risk.” She referenced Tinder’s Year in Swipe which revealed that mentions of masks went up by 10 times last year. People’s political affiliation, she continued, can hint at their potential behavior. 

While this is a generalization, the Pew Research Center reported last June that Democrats were more likely than Republicans to wear a mask most or all the time in stores. What’s more is that Republicans and Democrats may have different moral foundations, Konrath said, referencing the work of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. In his 2012 book The Righteous Mind, Haidt theorized that conservatives’ most sacred moral value is preserving tradition. Liberals’, on the other hand, is helping the oppressed. We’ve seen this play out almost a decade after Haidt’s book when it comes to COVID safety measures.

“I’m not going to meet up with someone during this time unless I know they believe that COVID is real and are taking precautions,” said Emma Levine, a Bumble and Hinge user in Los Angeles. “If you’re serious about trying to meet someone, for me at least, politics or at least general current event knowledge is a non-negotiable.”

For Rebecca, a Bumble and Hinge user in New York City, how someone handled the pandemic will be top of mind when it’s over. “I’ve been thinking about dating post pandemic and figuring out how to ask ‘did you go on vacation during the pandemic’ or ‘who did you vote for in 2016,'” she said. “Both answers will help me understand a person’s values and what is negotiable for me or not.”

Others, however, are willing to reach across the proverbial aisle on dating apps. Kristina, a liberal woman in the Tampa Bay Area, says she doesn’t mind dating across the political spectrum, but she swipes left if a potential match displays something on their profile she disagrees with. She swipes left on MAGA hats and Trump signs as well as people who say they don’t vote.

“If you’re serious about trying to meet someone, for me at least, politics or at least general current event knowledge is a non-negotiable.”

“Unless you aren’t allowed to vote, there’s no excuse in my book,” she said. 

Kristina isn’t alone in being turned off by non-voters. Last year, over 500,000 OkCupid users said they wouldn’t date someone who didn’t vote. Nicole*, a woman who lives outside of Washington, D.C., said she doesn’t want a connection with someone apolitical. “In my view, to put apolitical in your profile says to me you’re disengaged and don’t care about politics because you don’t have to,” she said. “I think politics, while not everything, are important. To say you’re apolitical just tells me we’re probably incompatible.”

In Rebecca’s experience, people who leave political filter blank don’t care. “This also isn’t ideal for me because …in this climate!?” she asked. “Lives are at stake and it says a lot to me about your personality (and privilege) if you don’t care.” 

Post-Trump politics on dating apps

Now that the election and inauguration are behind us — and hopefully, the pandemic’s end is in sight — there’s the question of whether polarization will subside in the upcoming years. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that it’s difficult to predict anything, but as Malhotra put it: The hope is that it can’t get worse. 

“Trump would unnecessarily inflame polarization,” he said, referring to his tweets. Biden, however, only inflames when necessary. “There’s actually a policy goal [with Biden],” Malhotra said.

While we thankfully don’t have to bear witness to Trump’s tweets anymore, Biden will have to do much more than go without all-caps tweet storms to make a dent in the polarization level. That’s because the root of the issue is much bigger than Biden or Trump. If economic inequality isn’t addressed, Konrath said, the problem of polarization will not go away. 

“As long as the rich keep getting richer — as it’s been accelerating during the pandemic — then I don’t expect polarization to go away,” she said. “If this administration puts policies in place that starts to help reduce inequality…then we’ll see. Then I think there’s some potential that people will feel more willing to collaborate.”

In the meantime, then, we’ll have to deal with this divide in our daily lives and dating apps. While Rebecca still sees politics pop up on apps in New York, Kristina said they’ve lessened in her area since inauguration. “Thankfully no more MAGA hats, Trump signs,” Kristina said, “and I definitely didn’t run across people bragging about the Capitol insurrection.”

Nicole, on the other hand, did see rioters on Bumble shortly after the insurrection. She reported one or two then snoozed her account, which hides her profile from potential matches. She couldn’t tell me when she plans on going back. 

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual. 

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