Richard Branson: Science or thrill seeking?

Perhaps both. And his thrill seeking can maybe contribute on science.

Question:

Billionaire Richard Branson announced he wants to explore the deepest parts of the ocean floor. Would you say this kind of effort could really contribute on new scientific knowledges or would you prefer another kind of approach?

Answer:

Karla Heidelberg, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California

Branson’s  team just visited our institution last week to discuss opportunities for partnerships with the scientific community.  Branson and his colleagues’ willingness to partner with scientists has the potential to maximize the value of his planned dives to the bottom of the ocean and possibly lead to transformative discoveries that advance science, benefit society, and inspire people of all ages. We are hoping that their team will partner with a US Funded Science and Technology Center called the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI), which focuses on the sea and sub-sea floor microbial community.

Matthias Tomczak, Emeritus Professor of Oceanography, School of the Environment, Flinders University of South Australia

The idea to explore the ocean depths is a good one; less i s known about the ocean interior than about space. But Richard Branson’s plans seem to be driven more by the quest for sensationalism than by an interest in science. Most of the ocean floor is less than 5000 m deep and can be reached by existing research submersibles. If Branson were really interested in research and expend it into the ocean trenches he would not plan five dives to places in all oceans but concentrate on exploring one trench in depth, and he would use expert scientists to perform the dives and not go himself.

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