01 April 2008

VIRGLE: The First Human Colony in Mars

The Google folks took time and effort to come up with a creative (and uh, convincing) hoax today. If you check out the Google search box today, you'll surely find something like this:

And if you click on the Virgle Pioneer link, it will take you to the Virgle website ... complete with details like a 100-year plan, application form, and FAQs on how this grand and elaborate vision will come true.

There's even a press release:
Google and Virgin announce
Mars expedition and colony

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. and LONDON, England (April 1st, 2008) – Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Virgin Group today announced the launch of Virgle Inc., a jointly owned and operated venture dedicated to the establishment of a human settlement on Mars.

"Some people are calling Virgle an 'interplanetary Noah's Ark," said Virgin Group President and Founder Sir Richard Branson, who conceived the new venture. "I'm one of them. It's a potentially remarkable business, but more than that, it's a glorious adventure. For me, Virgle evokes the spirit of explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo, who set sail looking for the New World. I do hope we'll be a bit more efficient about actually finding it, though."

The Virgle 100 Year Plan's milestones will include Virgle Pioneer selection (2008-2010), the first manned journey to Mars (2016), a Virgle Inc. initial public offering to capitalize on the first manned journey to Mars (2016), the founding of the first permanent Martian municipality, Virgle City (2050), and the achievement of a truly self-sustaining Martian civilization with a population exceeding 100,000 (2108).

"Virgle is the ultimate application of a principle we’ve always believed at Google: that you can do well by doing good," said Google co-founder Larry Page, who plans to share leadership of the new Martian civilization with Branson and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

I think the real target were geeks like me. This gimmick had potential. But no, it did not fool me. The application, in the form of a questionnaire, was supposedly designed to be a psychological test for would-be Virgle pilot/pioneer crew members. It contained some questions that were teetering on the brink of incredulity:

6. If I was unexpectedly confronted with the emergence of a bewilderingly alien and frighteningly advanced Martian life form (???) which appeared bent on killing me (?!?) if I failed to quickly and effectively communicate my peaceful intentions and potential value to its civilization, I would...
    Whip out my handy universal transcorder and start schmoozing my ass off.
    Well, given that there's no such thing as a transcorder that works for a Martian language that we haven't even heard yet, I guess I'd just do my best to seem non-threatening while communicating my peaceful intentions with subtly universal hand gestures.
    Run straight toward the Martian while screaming wildly and brandishing whatever weapon happens to be handy.

11. If I were to find myself a passenger on a long-haul, multi-generational voyage to a distant solar system, and deteriorating on-ship ecological conditions, steadily weakening community stability and ever-rising number of missing backgammon pieces (???) led some colonists to revolt against the ship's government, I would....
    Join the bloodthirsty populist revolution without thinking twice
    Instinctively defend the reigning neo-fascist military regime
    Hide in the infirmary until things blow over
    Find a working Holistic Artificial Language interface and beg the on-board computers to take over the ship, and by extension the entirety of extra-solar-system humanity. For our own good, of course.

While I agree that establishing a human colony in Mars (or the Moon) is not really a far-fetched idea in the near future, I believe that there are still many missing components today to make this a real operational project. Today, this idea is still a prank in a joker's mind...but tomorrow? Who knows? Meanwhile, let's congratulate Google for a well-crafted hoax.

Happy April Fools everyone!

3 reactions:

mike belgrove said...

Even my hip hop blog Highbrid Nation had to report on project Virgle. If it is indeed real, then it is huge and is major in the area of space exploration. However I fear that it is indeed and elaborate April Fool's Day hoax. I guess we'll know for sure if announcements continue after today. Personally I'd love to see the two companies team up considering what they already have done with the Lunar X Prize and Virgin Galactic.

Tor Hershman said...

Moi 'tis most glad to read that the founders of Google ain't that nutty.

Sir Richy, well.....I thought he may be.

Thanks for the posting.

PortcullisChain said...

Here's proof.