After more than a year of unsuccessful searching, authorities called in an elite group of statisticians. Working on their recommendations, the next search found the wreckage just a week later.Lawrence Stone and colleagues from Metron Scientific Solutions in Reston, Virginia,... are statisticians who were brought in to re-examine the evidence after four intensive searches had failed to find the aircraft. What’s interesting about this story is that their analysis pointed to a location not far from the last known position, in an area that had almost certainly been searched soon after the disaster. The wreckage was found almost exactly where they predicted at a depth of 14,000 feet after only one week’s additional search.
Today, Stone and co explain how they did it. Their approach was to use a technique known as Bayesian inference which takes into account all the prior information known about the crash location as well as the evidence from the unsuccessful search efforts. The result is a probability distribution for the location of the wreckage.