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Transportation Technology

Richard Branson Announces Virgin Oceanic Submarine 122

Posted by samzenpus
from the 6-miles-down dept.
It's the tripnaut! writes "Richard Branson has just revealed that he intends to build a vessel capable of exploring some of the deepest parts of the oceans around the world. The article further states: '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.'"
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Richard Branson Announces Virgin Oceanic Submarine

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  • by yeshuawatso (1774190) * on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:25AM (#35741430) Journal

    Sir. Branson, is there anything in science fiction you won't waste your billions trying to make into a commercial reality?

    • by inKubus (199753)

      Sir Branson: *waving excitedly* "Next stop, the CENTER of the EARTH!"

    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:36AM (#35741470)

      Quite frankly, you may think what you want of Branson's endeavours, but at least he's trying to achieve new and exciting things. He'd make more money setting up a law firm, a hedge fund, or selling razors with 6 blades, but he pegs himself as a visionary and that's what visionaries do.

      I say the world is better off with a Branson that Yet Another Businessperson [TM]...

      • by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:55AM (#35741536) Homepage

        I agree, what he does is to keep a high profile with stunts like these, but it really improves the brand when he is involved in things that is more than just the usual TV commercial. Anyone can do a CGI with a fantasy these days using a pile of money, but putting that money into an event where you are actually achieving something real - or make a difference - then you do both your brand and the others involved a favor.

        The submarine will hopefully provide additional knowledge.

        "There are no failures, just more data".

        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          What you say is true, but I'd take a step back for a minute, say "screw the brand", and remind everyone that what he's doing is fucking cool. This is sci-fi territory, the stuff we read about and wish we could try one day. I'd say it's a much greater inspiration to see someone using his billions to do all the amazing things that he dreamed of doing as a kid (not to mention making some of them possible for people who aren't billionaires, too), rather than using his billions to make further billions, and so o

      • There are a couple of good talks about ocean exploration on TED, for instance http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/robert_ballard_on_exploring_the_oceans.html [ted.com]

        • by Kozz (7764) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:34AM (#35743358)
          Dear SLASHDOT:
          What the FUCK have you done to the layout, styles and scripting on this god-forsaken site? I've tried both FF4 and IE8, but have the same problems:
          • * hyperlinks in comments don't work, as if they've got an {onclick="return false} in them.
          • * comments frequently do NOT show their moderation scores, and I have to keep opening ancestor comments until the scores are revealed.
          • * The right-click context menu doesn't come up in FF4 unless I DOUBLE-RIGHTCLICK.
          • * Sometimes when clicking on a comment (to expand from abbreviated mode), parent comments will be opened, and my window content scrolls, causing me to lose the original comment I was trying to read.
          • * These <li> elements aren't displaying their bullet-points when previewing comments (and probably not after posting, either), so I've gotta stuff asterisks in front of each of them.

          To be honest, I'm not one of those who has been carping about the new layout and design of Slashdot. I'm actually fine with that. But it's got to fucking work. Otherwise I'm ... oh fuck it. I'll probably come back anyhow. But you should know what a shitty job you've done of QA.

          Moderators: us low-UID folks get a pass to rant once a year or so, don't we? Yeah, it's a bit vitriolic, but it's all truth.

          • by Apocros (6119)
            Spot on for at least the first four points... seems like the break happened fairly recently too (this week?).
            • Yeh, and here I just thought it was my computer refusing to click xkcd links yesterday... Glad to know it's not just me... :D
              • by coolmadsi (823103)

                Yeh, and here I just thought it was my computer refusing to click xkcd links yesterday... Glad to know it's not just me... :D

                I saw that happening and figured a workaround to just drag the link to the '+' button that creates a new tab.

                • Wow... learn something new every day... Thanks for the tip :D. I was just typing them in the address bar manually.
          • Unable to spend my moderation points due to the witchcraft present in the current layout, but please accept my respect instead.
          • by tom17 (659054)

            "* The right-click context menu doesn't come up in FF4 unless I DOUBLE-RIGHTCLICK. "
            This one annoys the HELL out of me. Took ages to discover it and, after many restarts, realise it's not my OS/Browser. Grrr

          • To add to this, list:

            * I'm not sure if this is an existing bug but there's an inconsistency between the show/hide comment slider and the actual posts shown. I have the sliders set to -1 and it clearly says that ALL comments "FULL". However, I often find that I have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Get $X more comments" to actually show all the comments. Annoying.

            * for some reason, I can't click the "Post Anonymously" button anymore. I just found this when I modded your comment up and wante

          • Re:Oh, Sir. Branson (Score:4, Informative)

            by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @10:43AM (#35744726) Journal

            Mark Slashdot.org as "Untrusted" in NoScript. Set your discussion style to "classic" in your user preferences. That will fix everything but the bullet point issue.

          • I agree esp. about ol/ul.
          • by istartedi (132515)

            A better lament against the pile of poo that web design has become, I cannot find. Bravo, sir.

          • by psyclone (187154)

            All of those items affect FF 3.6 as well, except regular right-click still works.

          • by Ancantus (1926920)

            I sent a bug report to them the on the slashcode site [sourceforge.net] although I don't know if it took.

            It seems the problem (which I think started a month ago) happens when your comment is replying to a comment that is 'minimized'. To click on links (or highlight text) within these buggy comments you have to keep clicking repeatedly on the persons comment, which maximizes each of its parent comments. Only when all parent comments are maximized does the Score show, and you can click/highlight the comment text with ease.

            If y

          • but not favorably.

            Have you tried it with lynx?
            --
            You get what you settle for.

          • by coolmadsi (823103)

            * The right-click context menu doesn't come up in FF4 unless I DOUBLE-RIGHTCLICK.

            I saw that happening yesterday, right click wasn't working on the text of comments, but it worked fine in the whitespace to the left (although is mostly useless there)

      • by hodet (620484)
        Agreed. The guy just crushes the game of life.
    • by Rik Rohl (1399705)

      I hope not.

    • Producing some good Sci-Fi?
    • what he is doing is allowing science fiction to become real. I say GREAT! Seriously, Gates and his buddies saying that they want to spread their wealth could do far far more humanity if they would focus on building large things that are typically done by gov. For example:
      • 1) go in with several other billionares and develop multiple electric car companies, in which the frame, drive train, etc. are all the same, but the body is different. Once multiple car companies are established, THEN give each a copy of
    • by painehope (580569)

      Well, why are you complaining? A guy who made billions (mostly by pushing crap bands to idiotic "consumers" [aka sheep] and other socially useless endeavors, IIRC) is now spending his money on making cool tech toys (admit it - this is cool as shit; if it actually works, we're talking about a submarine that's light enough that my truck can tow it but can dive to the deepest reaches of that annoyingly unexplored [I think only something like 50% of the Earth's oceans have actually been explored, and I'm not s

  • It's really my life-long ambition to do two things: (i) Fly to the exosphere, or at least ionosphere, and (ii) Go to the greatest depths of the sea and explore lifeforms there. If this becomes a relatively cheap reality in the next 30 years, I will definitely complete at least this one item in my bucket list. :) :)
    • by subk (551165)

      If this becomes a relatively cheap reality in the next 30 years

      How rich are you? This sub weighs about 8,000lb, so it might just have room for -A- passenger. A reeaeeaaally rich passenger.

      • by Abstrackt (609015)

        If this becomes a relatively cheap reality in the next 30 years

        How rich are you? This sub weighs about 8,000lb, so it might just have room for -A- passenger. A reeaeeaaally rich passenger.

        That's the great thing about technology: prices go down. For all we know, this could be the next big thing in 30 years time.

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      Well, you can do it. Do you have the budget for it though? :)

      Fly a specially built aircraft up to 60,000 feet. Fire first stage rockets on straight and level heading to accelerate to Mach 3. Drop first stage rockets and switch to ramjet engines. Accelerate to Mach 5, and climb to 80,000 feet. Drop surplus fuel tanks. Engage rockets, and change your vector to "up". You want 0 ground speed, and max climb. If you do "up" right, you have a safe vector back down. To return

  • Really? 37,000 feet deep?

    I did a quick look with an online calculator, and that would be 16,055 psi.

    According to This story [extremescience.com], the deepest spot in the ocean is about 36,000 feet deep. But hey, if you're going to take a ride down to the bottom of the Marianas trench, I'd prefer to know that the sub is rated for more than it could possibly do. Maybe he's doing some advanced planning for global warming, so people can visit the ancient underwater city previously kn

    • Re:37,000 feet deep? (Score:5, Informative)

      by vivian (156520) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:54AM (#35741530)

      Being a pressure hull, it will be at 1 atmosphere internally - there is no decompression for the occupants to worry about, which is the whole point of having a pressure hull.

      Last I checked, 37000 is > 35838 feet, which is the actual deepest point in the ocean, so the sub is already overrated for even the deepest depth - let alone the rest of the ocean which is much much shallower - with an average depth of about 13000 ft.

      The wreck of the titanic is at only 12600ft. I'd definitely pay a decent sum to go see that thing in a sub if the sub had a decent view-port you could look out of.

      • by ATMD (986401)

        It may be able to withstand static pressures at the ocean's deepest points, but as soon as you start moving you get dynamic pressure from the bow wave at the front. If it was going fast enough, it could easily experience a pressure head of more than 37000 feet at the nose. Plus, craft like this will be built with a decent safety factor, hopefully at least 2.0, so the people inside it don't die if the engineers get their maths wrong.

    • by giorgist (1208992)
      To add to that, the portholes would not be as intresting as they would have to be rediculously thick so you'd see most things through a video camera and a screen.

      Be cool to drive it and chase aroud whatever does live in those depths
      • To add to that, the portholes would not be as intresting as they would have to be rediculously thick so you'd see most things through a video camera and a screen.

        Too bad then that it has such a large viewing dome: http://www.virginoceanic.com/vehicles/submersible/ [virginoceanic.com]

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Wow, that doesn't look anything like deep sea vessels [carleton.edu] I have seen. It's... sporty.
      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        Even video cameras need to be protected from the water. :) That thick glass (or glass like substance) would be the same, regardless if it were for your eyeballs, or for a camera. At least with a video camera, it could be recorded. "I saw a giant squid monster" means nothing if you say it. If you provide authenticated video, then it's fact (although likely to be debunked by "experts" all over the Internet).

        I still have a thing against getting squished by thousands of pounds of pr

        • by delinear (991444)
          Of course, if you solve the problems of getting eyeballs safely down to that depth then you've automatically solved the problem of getting a camera down there (the reverse is not necessarily true).
        • Even video cameras need to be protected from the water.

          It's not the water that's the problem, it's the pressure.
          And the pressure is mainly a problem for things with air in them, like you and your eyeballs, CCDs, not so much.

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

                I'm pretty sure a camera would have a crush depth somewhere not as deep as the pressures they're expecting. If it weren't, you could wrap it in a ziplock bag, and drop it down on a rope. Well, a 37,000 foot long rope. Maybe that'll weigh a little bit. :)

            • by RockDoctor (15477)

              I'm pretty sure a camera would have a crush depth somewhere not as deep as the pressures they're expecting. If it weren't, you could wrap it in a ziplock bag, and drop it down on a rope.

              Actually, to a first approximation, you could. Probably. But you'd have to start with a pretty large $ziplock$ bag.

              Say that your camera, on the bottom of the Marianas, has a volume of 0.001m^3 (1 litre), at a pressure of about 1100 atmospheres (11km = 11000m ; 10m of seawater ~= 1 atmosphere) inside the $ziplock$.

              At 550 at

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Mr. Branson! James Cameron isn't doing that submarine trip to the Mariana Trench after all [flickdirect.com], since earthquake aftershocks make it too dangerous!"

    "Perfect! I'll have my own submarine built and go there myself. That smurf-lover has been in the spotlight too long, it's time to remind the world who the real crazy rich guy is! Earthquakes don't scare me."

  • Why are we pretending this hasn't already been done? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathyscaphe_Trieste [wikipedia.org]

    • Yeah, to clarify for everyone: this is notable because it's the first mobile submersible that can operate at those depths—the Trieste brought two passengers to the Challenger Deep, but it was only capable of descent and ascent, not powered lateral movement.
      • It was also, according to that linked Wikipedia article (which is strangely unclickable on FF4) only down there for twenty minutes. Not a very exciting experiment.
        • Not a very exciting experiment.

          I'm probably going out on a limb by saying, the hell it wasn't! No sense of adventure you have, my dear.

          • by KC1P (907742)

            Exactly! The really amazing part is sending a manned vehicle some place insane. We (humans, I mean) were really good at that back in the 1960s -- an impressive number of crazy stunts worked on the first try.

            Building something with motors and a decent oxygen supply would also be very cool, but the truly awesome part is withstanding the pressure and it's already been done, *fifty-one years* ago. So why should Branson get so much credit for something which, so far, is just a painting anyway?

  • by maroberts (15852)
    It's my impression that Branson has taken over the sponsorship/ funding and involvement for a project called Deep Flight Challenger started by Steve Fossett (Rest In Pieces) I'm still trying to work out if the sub will actually have a large see through dome, or whether that will be replaced by some other material and rely on cameras for external visibility. If it is going to have a large see through area, what the hell is it made of?
  • 37 000 feet = 11 277.6 meters
    8000 pounds = 3 628.73896 kilograms
    24 hours = 8.64 × 10^12 shakes
  • by jandersen (462034) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @03:14AM (#35741858)

    Well done, mr Branson! One of the few who dare, nowadays.

    But, what is it that always tends to make American articles appear so downright stupid? Why are numbers and sizes always dumbed down to something you hope the average Joe Sixpack might get his head around? Like "8000 pounds" rather than "4t"? Or "37,000 ft"? Or, in other articles, numbers like "100,000 million billion" - is it just to make it sound impressive? If so, it doesn't work, it just sounds like toddler-talk. I would expect people who are able to understand subjects involving big numbers, are also able to understand the meaning of prefixes like "k", "M" and "G", and even (shudder) metric units.

    And, of course, I can understand feet and pounds; it's just that every time it feels like yet another example of America wanting to show everybody that they are too bloody high and mighty to follow the lead of others. No, I don't hate America, and I do know that Americans are good and decent people; but then, why not show off all those good sides you guys have?

    • by Xest (935314)

      "Well done, mr Branson! One of the few who dare, nowadays."

      Oh I think there's plenty who dare.

      Just not many who have enough money and dare. He's unique in that he has money and dares ;)

    • by icebrain (944107)

      How is saying "8000 pounds" "dumbed down"? Or "37000 feet"? I'll grant you the silly thousand-million-billion-gazillion stuff, but using standardized units is by no means dumb.

      Dumbing-down measurements happens when they start making comparisons using units like "jumbo jets", elephants, Libraries of Congress, average-sized cars, etc.

    • >I would expect people who are able to understand subjects involving big numbers, are also able to understand the meaning of prefixes like "k", "M" and "G", and even (shudder) metric units.

      While I feel the same way, and so do a lot of my friends, telling people that I rode 5 megameters on my bicycle last year, or that I'm going to drive 2 megameters to Canada next week, makes them frown. I can't imagine that anyone would find it smooth or intuitive to talk about megamiles. It's much easier to understan

  • To boldly go where no man has gone before...
  • I would love to ride a large submarine across the Atlantic if it was like a Royal Caribbean cruise or like a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight. This would be all kinds of awesome, especially if it had large windows and cool lights to see Ocean life. He is already making Virgin Atlantic. Why not make Virgin Oceanic for passengers?
  • I wonder who holds the record for largest vertical excursion on earth (not space) over a lifetime?
    • I know an architect who would like to do this: an 8 month trip "starting" at the sea floor and ending at the top of Everest. He's looking for sponsors and maybe a reality TV segment to fund it. I think he has an early-20s son who he wants to do it with. The most expensive part is the beginning, as getting a ticket on a research sub is (iirc) in the $250k range. It'd be a cool trip to say the least.

  • by coinreturn (617535) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:39AM (#35743398)
    A virgin full of seamen, please!
  • by DG (989) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:51PM (#35752784) Homepage Journal

    The headline I saw in a local paper about this story was - and I'm not making this up - "Virgin Penetrates Deep".

    That, right there, makes this story full of win.

    DG

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