SkyTruth followed the ship Shin Jyi Chyuu 33 during one week last month. Planes are connected to a satellite network just like ships, but the information is only collected if the airline pays for it. Courtesy of SkyTruth via Exact Earth ShipView hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of SkyTruth via Exact Earth ShipView

Science

Listeners To NPR: Why Don't We Track Planes Like We Do Ships?

Geoff Brumfiel, the physics guy on our science desk, helps us land on the right answer.

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Sarah Bajc's partner, Philip Wood, disappeared along with Flight MH370. "The issuance of the death certificate is an emotional thing," she says, "because we're not convinced that they're dead." Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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A Malaysia Airlines crew member inspects an airplane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Thursday. The carrier announced it was laying off a third of its workforce amid steep financial losses. Azhar Rahim/EPA/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Azhar Rahim/EPA/Landov

Malaysia Airlines had been struggling even before two of its flights were lost this year. Analysts say the national carrier faces either bankruptcy or privatization. Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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People walk amid debris Thursday at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. Dmitry Lovetsky/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

This screen grab from Flightradar24.com shows the pocket of open airspace above Ukraine after a Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in the eastern part of the country. Flightradar24.com hide caption

itoggle caption Flightradar24.com

The Australian ship Ocean Shield, seen here earlier this month, has been ordered back to its dock, after a search for the black boxes of a missing Malaysian airliner ended without finding anything. Paul Kane/Getty Images hide caption

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Ships continued to search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Wednesday. They were looking in an area about 1,000 miles northwest of Perth. Ocean Shield is an Australian ship that has been looking for the jet's black boxes. Australian Maritime Safety Authority hide caption

itoggle caption Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Sgt. Trent Wyatt looks out an observation window on Friday from aboard a Royal New Zealand air force P-3 Orion maritime search aircraft as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean. So far there's been no sign of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. But officials are hoping that sounds detected below the surface are coming from one or both of the plane's black boxes. Richard Wainwright/Reuters/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Richard Wainwright/Reuters/Landov

A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion flew past the Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield on Wednesday as the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continued in the southern Indian Ocean. LSIS Bradley Darvill/Australian Defense Force/AP hide caption

itoggle caption LSIS Bradley Darvill/Australian Defense Force/AP

A crewman on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion searches for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, in the southern Indian Ocean earlier this month. Kim Christian/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Kim Christian/AP

Angus Houston displays a map of the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 Monday. Houston says an Australian navy ship has detected underwater signals consistent with aircraft black boxes, calling it the "most promising lead" so far in the month-old search. AFP/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Center leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, says ships are being sent to investigate reports of a signal being detected on a frequency used by black box equipment. Tony Ashby/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Tony Ashby/AFP/Getty Images

A map shows the location of a pulse signal that was reportedly detected by a Chinese patrol ship searching for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. China's state-run media says the signal is being investigated as a possible clue to the missing airliner's final location. Google Maps hide caption

itoggle caption Google Maps

One of the objects searchers have spotted floating in the southern Indian Ocean as they look for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Nothing they've seen so far has been connected to the missing jet. Jason Reed/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jason Reed/AP