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Branson will be exploring the deepest parts of the world's oceans in the Virgin Oceanic submarine

Day two of the Brainstorm GREEN conference yesterday revealed that Richard Branson will embark on an undersea venture where he will explore some of the deepest parts of the oceans around the world. 


The Brainstorm GREEN conference is where thought leaders and business leaders - such as Fortune 500 companies, government policymakers and environmental activists - come together for a three-day symposium in Laguna Niguel, California in order to exchange and discuss ideas.


Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur who is known for the Virgin brand. He first launched Virgin Records in 1972, which later became Virgin Megastores. The name then grew into over 400 companies, which make up the Virgin Group. Branson is also deeply interested in environmental endeavors, such as the Virgin Green Fund, which invests in companies that can compete with "dirty industries" like oil and make a profit in order to eliminate reliance on dirty fuels.


Now, at the Brainstorm GREEN conference, Branson told Fortune Managing Editor Andy Serwer that he would be exploring the deepest parts of the world's oceans in the Virgin Oceanic submarine. 


The sub, which was designed by Graham Hawkes, weighs 8,000 lbs and is made of carbon fiber and titanium. It has an operating depth of 37,000 ft and can operate for 24 hours "unaided." It was designed in such a way that it looks like it has fins and a unique flying wing so that can range the seas "in harmony with its environment." In addition, Branson notes that it is much less expensive to operate and manufacture than other subs that cannot achieve full ocean depth like the Virgin Oceanic can. 


"Virgin Oceanic will expand the reach of human exploration on our planet," said Branson. "By promoting and utilizing new technology, Virgin Oceanic will aid humankind's ability to explore our oceans, assist science in understanding our ecosystem and raise awareness of the challenges facing our oceans." 


He also noted that other submarines prior to the Virgin Oceanic could only dive 18,000 ft, while some of the deepest trenches in the world are around 36,000 ft. The Virgin Oceanic was designed to be the first sub to explore some of these areas. 


The Virgin Oceanic venture will consist of five dives in five different oceans. The crew will explore the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, the Diamantina Trench in the Indian, the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Atlantic, the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic and the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean. 


"Each dive will be piloted by different commanders with Chris Welsh diving to the Mariana Trench (36,201 ft) with Sir Richard as back-up pilot, and Sir Richard piloting to the Puerto Rico Trench (28,232 ft) - the deepest trench in the Atlantic, which has never been explored before - with Chris Welsh acting as back-up," said Branson. "The Virgin Oceanic sub has the ability to 'fly' underwater for 10 km at depth on each of the five dives and to fully explore this unknown environment." 


The mission is expected to take two years.

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Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/2011 10:30:57 AM , Rating: -1
Trieste had FIVE INCH THICK steel _sphere_ to go deep in Mariana Trench, and this guy wants this box shaped toy to go down there? Stupid clown. This box shaped thing will implode waaay above the Mariana Trench depth, hopefully he'll realize after the first attempt that he has to use SPHERE! And not made of plastic fiber sh1t, titanium will do but he'd probably go for quality steel since it's so much cheaper with the same results and much easier to submerge since titanium is very light - hence more ballast will be needed, that's stupid when you can use less ballast and cheaper steel instead.

Anyway, compared to Trieste this piece of dump from the picture looks like a sad joke. He will go down Mariana in this boxy thing alright, hehehe

RE: Is this a joke?
By B3an on 4/6/2011 10:42:57 AM , Rating: 1
You dont know a thing about any of this and think you know more than the guys that designed this sub? Oh pirks, you are a funny one.

RE: Is this a joke?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 4/6/2011 12:29:27 PM , Rating: 2
He is kind of acerbic, but I thought essentially the same thing about the concept picture. That front window might as well be a screen door.

RE: Is this a joke?
By mcnabney on 4/6/2011 12:56:10 PM , Rating: 2
My thoughts exactly.

I know a bit about pressure, and the design displayed in that picture isn't going to withstand any of it.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/2011 3:17:41 PM , Rating: 1
Thanks for helping me fighting clueless clowns like B3an

RE: Is this a joke?
By beerhound on 4/6/2011 9:58:19 PM , Rating: 2
I saw a better picture on the news this morning, that shape isn't the pressure vessel, it's just a fairing. The shots I saw look like there is a sphere inside that cockpit shape. That would certainly be better for handling the immense pressure.

RE: Is this a joke?
By BioHazardous on 4/6/2011 10:48:26 AM , Rating: 2
Right, let's not take the word of the guy who's putting people into space among many other endeavors that require a lot of high-tech engineering.

Do you think he dreamt this up over night and didn't put any research behind it or something? Sometimes I think you're just here to troll, other times I just feel sorry for you.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Skott on 4/6/2011 10:56:06 AM , Rating: 3
Most explorers and inventors are considered crazy or stupid by people until they succeed. Then they suddenly become brilliant and visionaries. They must have a idea of what they're doing or they wouldn't put so much money and time into it. I'm guessing the picture is more of an artist's rendering at this point. It will be interesting to see how the venture turns out.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Schrag4 on 4/6/2011 11:16:36 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure he understands the risks (meaning he's not stupid) but, yeah, I'd consider him crazy. I'll admit I don't know much about underwater travel, but this kind of mission sounds extremely unforgiving. If there's a design flaw, a flaw with how the craft is built, if the pilot makes a mental mistake, if any one of several systems fail, he's a goner. That being said, I'm sure that just adds to the thrill for him ('cause again, he's crazy).

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 12:31:22 PM , Rating: 4
Sub is not a box shape.

In fact, the bulb on the bottom suggest that it contains a pill shaped pressure capsule that is installed on an angle. However, don't let reality or the absence of any real knowledge stop you from jumping to conclusions.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: Is this a joke?
By JediJeb on 4/6/2011 6:08:43 PM , Rating: 2
While I do agree that what is pictured is not a good design as it appears, Branson is listed as being on the first dive to the Mariana as the backup pilot, so he will be taking the risk too.

If you look at Alvin it does not appear spherical either, because there is a composite housing surrounding the sphere which is used only to shield the outside components, so as long as there is a sphere inside you can put any type of covering on the outside you want as long as it is flooded inside that covering. If you put a spherical crew compartment inside a hydrodynamicaly shaped cover so that it will move through the water with less resistance it should work just fine.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Dr of crap on 4/6/2011 12:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
So his sub space orbits are stupid and crazy as well??

People are paying up to be able to do it.
This is just the same only under water.

RE: Is this a joke?
By mcnabney on 4/6/2011 1:13:31 PM , Rating: 2
Not much in the way of 'science' going on with his suborbital flights. He is just catering to the needs of the wealthy in providing an 'experience of a lifetime'.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 1:24:18 PM , Rating: 2

Funny you should say that since they've already started contracting themselves out to research institutes that want to study micro-gravity, but didn't have access through NASA.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 11:00:46 AM , Rating: 4
Even poor quality carbon fiber sheet is 10 times stronger than steel. If you create a "honeycomb" of triangles you can have structures that are incredibly strong. Fill those triangles with an incompressible fluid of greater density than water and you have something that is incredibly strong, which resists compression and is neutrally buoyant. You then don't need to be trapped into the need for ballast as the craft can then use upside down "wings" to control it's ascent and descent.

What I am supremely curious about is the material used in the "cockpit glass". To my knowledge, there is no such transparent material that can withstand those pressures in such a configuration. The only other comparable design I know of is the untested DeepFlight Super Falcon.

For all the credit you love to give Apple, I am amazed you don't extend the same sort of credit to materials science and engineering advances since the 1960's.

Anyway, thanks for the entertainment and heck, maybe you'll even get to say "I told you so" when they take it out for a spin.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 12:21:38 PM , Rating: 3
Never breed. I would hate to see the way you would treat a child when you've internalized such unrealistic views of expected performance. By your definition of progress, any child of yours would be a failure if he didn't become the next Branson, Gates or Jobs.

Unfortunately there is no way to convince you that deriding progress made thus far simply because of how much further we have to go. Trust me. If the items on your wish list were easy and didn't require any foundation technologies or financial viability then we would already be there. Just because you have neither an appreciation for what has been done or what is being done now and instead focus on what we haven't yet done, doesn't mean others look at the world the same way.

Why not harp on how our current experiments in democracy are a miserable failure because we don't live in your idea of utopia?

PS: I literally love your idiocy... it makes me laugh so hard. Keep up the good work.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 12:24:02 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately there is no way to convince you that deriding progress made thus far simply because of how much further we have to go is moronic.

Missed some words.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 4:45:59 PM , Rating: 2
You must be dumb

Funny you should say that when almost ALL of the key advancements in microelectronics are directly attributable to advancements in materials science. Seriously? Do you even realize your living in an idiotic fiction of your own making?


RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/7/2011 9:30:03 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah right, as if the primary microelectronics material called silicon has drastically changed during past 50 years or so. Keep trollin' :P

RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/7/2011 10:54:02 AM , Rating: 2
Every single advancement in photon lithography required new generations of lasers that required new materials and types of photon laser to achieve each smaller and smaller step. Even photochemical properties of the silicon wafers themselves, the bath liquid and the combinations of lithography performed have all changed significantly over time. There are even other more recent forms of lithography such as SOI and electron beam lithography that have been developed, but aren't widely needed because the mentioned advancements in photon lithography has kept it competitive long beyond initial exceptions.

Even something as seemingly innocuous as a die shrink is in fact a monumental task with tens of thousands of hours of R&D to address problems like current leakage, parasitic capacitance, and even heat dissipation. You seem to think that these problems are simple and that each tiny step forward is only possible because of the millions of converging footprints behind it.

Anyway, I can't convince you against your will so if you really want to continue believing the ridiculous fiction you keep spouting then I am happy to leave you to it. :P

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/7/2011 12:49:21 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I said - baby steps in material science allowed for progress, but until you get down to atomic level you'll keep going slow. Don't expect next gen computers until we get to nanoscale assembly machines, until then you'll keep getting regurgitated Intel CPUs every year with a speedup of 5% for each new generation. Baby steps like I said.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/7/2011 4:46:28 PM , Rating: 2
I just said that it goes snail pace in most areas

If this isn't derision, then apparently I don't know what is.

Derision - to make a mockery of or scorn

Nope... that's definitely not a derisive comment... just a degrading simile... which makes a mockery of said progress in a scornful way. My mistake.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/7/2011 5:49:03 PM , Rating: 2
It's not a mockery, it's a fact, progress is always going at a snail pace, in 1960s people were predicting Moon colony on 2000 and talking AI robots and stuff and see where we got instead :P Maybe for you getting from 4 cylinder car of 50s to a modern 4 cylinder car is a marvel of progress, it's like "oh my gaaawwddd NEW CAR SHAPE NEW MATERIALS NEW PLASTICS SUCH A HUGE PROGRESS!!!" for you and more like "meh, same sh1t but in different clothes" for me since I don't see such a drastic difference between the both.

Alright smarty, here's a hard fact for you to munch on - just look at yearly car model refreshes , I dunno, like compare Civic 2010 with Civic 2011, "OH MY GAAWDD HUGE PROGRESSS!!!" you scream, and I'm like "doh a hew seat fabric and that's it?" Where's my freakin electric drive with 500 mile range? No such thing. Why? Because of this thing called snail pace. Since snail goes a long way only in 50 years and not faster - same is true for cars etc - we will see really cool electric drive and stuff in... 50 years as well. Got it now?

RE: Is this a joke?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 4/6/2011 12:27:54 PM , Rating: 2
we still fly for like 15 hours instead of 2 or 3 that we could get given the _real_ progress in your material science.

I think a bigger issue in transatlantic or long distance flight is economy. We probably COULD build this sort of craft, but what are the fuel costs to push it that fast, and what would the passengers have to pay, or be willing to pay for such a time differential? Note that modern commercial aircraft design focuses on economy almost exclusively. Speaking of which, have you ever seen any of those concept sky lounges and even sky shopping centers (Dream liner)? No, they put in more seats instead.

RE: Is this a joke?
By yomamafor1 on 4/6/2011 4:59:20 PM , Rating: 1
Actually you blamed a lot of things on material science when in fact they have nothing to do with it.

We certainly have the technology to make a supersonic airliner (Concorde). The problem is the cost. It might takes 1~2 hours less flying from LA to NYC with supersonic airliner, but you'd be paying more than triple the price due to friction and fuel consumption. That's not material science, it is laws of physics. We also can launch a low orbit carrier to get from NYC to Tokyo in less than 4 hours, but again, people would be paying more than ten fold what they're paying for now on a first class ticket.

We don't have nuclear rocket because the nature of nuclear fission. Chemical rockets are favored because they offer a lot of impulse, while nuclear fission offers low impulse. Again, law of physics, not material science.

If you want to get an idea of how far the material science have come, look no further than your lithium ion polymer battery in your Apple, or that LED screen, or the CPU. Those technologies were not even available 15 years ago, and wouldn't even exist on the blue print 30 years ago.

With all due respect, I think you should do a little more research on science in general before making laughable claims.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Black1969ta on 4/6/2011 5:02:24 PM , Rating: 1
I can think of one non-military use of Kevlar, the run-flat tires that were OEM on a Corvette.

Also, supersonic transatlantic flight was not hampered by material science it is hampered by noise pollution. Remember the Concorde SST? it was designed in the late 60s and went into service in '76. It required a long runway and restrictions due to the sonic boom limited available airports here in the states.

Another use for Kevlar in the automotive industry, are both frames and other parts, granted the use of Kevlar is limited to exotic cars due to the high cost, but it still makes for a lighter and stronger than steel part. I believe the closest to a mainstream vehicle to use Kevlar is the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, the engine cradle is sandwiched Carbon-fiber and Kevlar, but I can not find confirmation, i did find that Kevlar has been used since the mid 80s in bodies along with fiberglass.

RE: Is this a joke?
By JediJeb on 4/6/2011 6:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
Bass Boats have used Kevlar hulls since the late 80's.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Mortando on 4/6/2011 12:28:01 PM , Rating: 2
What I am supremely curious about is the material used in the "cockpit glass". To my knowledge, there is no such transparent material that can withstand those pressures in such a configuration. The only other comparable design I know of is the untested DeepFlight Super Falcon.

According to the site it's quartz (and the body is "8,000 pounds of carbon fibre and titanium").

RE: Is this a joke?
By AssBall on 4/6/2011 11:01:33 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure the end design will be a little bit different than that rofl concept art. I'd at least expect a lot more sensors, lights, cameras, and equipment.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 12:26:56 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it's already conducting swim tests.

The sub is very real and not just a concept.

RE: Is this a joke?
By StraightCashHomey on 4/6/2011 11:41:21 AM , Rating: 2
FYI - a spider's silk is stronger than steel.

RE: Is this a joke?
By ClownPuncher on 4/6/2011 12:59:15 PM , Rating: 3
So are Balls of Steel.

RE: Is this a joke?
By theapparition on 4/6/2011 4:07:02 PM , Rating: 3
So this sub is going to get down to the deepest trenches only to find out what some already know.

Chuck Norris was there first.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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