At yesterday’s CITA Wireless Trade Show, Sir Richard Branson used his keynote to announce a prank partnership with Google, whose purpose is to build a solar-powered spaceship that will take 30 passengers on a one-way trip to Mars.
At the same time, Google’s home page provided a link to the new project, called Virgle: The Adventure of Many Lifetimes, complete with an application form and video starring Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
“We’re calling it a giant Noah’s Ark […] We’re taking animals on board. We’re taking beasts on board. And the idea is to head towards Mars with the plan – in our lifetime, hopefully – to actually put people on Mars and build a city on Mars.” Branson told the CITA crowd.
But there’s a catch for the people who are going,” he admitted. “They may not come back. But I’m sure that by the time we finish the work we’re doing on Mars, it will be very beautiful for people to live there.”
According to The Reg, attendees soon started to applaud and some thirty ‘volunteers’ took the stage. Ouch.
Hats off to Branson for apparently showing an incredible ability to keep a straight face about the whole thing, even when being interviewed by CNBC immediately after. And even now, without Branson actually coming out and saying ‘hohoh, it was a trick all along’ there’s still a slight question mark lingering over the whole thing.
I feel a little sorry for those who do end up falling for the tricks, but the caution needed when trying to pick out convincing fake stories from the ‘real’ news (which is often as not spiced up with at least some rumour and speculation) really makes you realise how much trust you place in news sites and how powerfully deceptive the internet can be when it wants to be.
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