Google Celebrates Bram Stoker’s 165th Birthday

Bram Stoker

Today, Google celebrates Bram Stoker with a doodle on his 165th birthday. Bram Stoker’s claim to fame is what many consider to be the first horror novel, Dracula. This imaginative and captivating novel introduced the world to the vampire, Count Dracula. Though vampire stories were nothing new, Dracula pretty much set the standard for the modern day vampire character. The story basically tells the story of Count Dracula’s intent to move from Transylvania to England. There is no telling how many sleepless nights and frightening nightmares have occurred as a result of reading Stoker’s great novel.

Oddly enough, Stoker wasn’t known as much as a writer in his day as was known for being an assistant to the Actor, Henry Irving, and for running the affairs of the Lyceum Theater which Irving owned. Through this association with Irving, Stoker quickly attained status as a member of London’s high society. He forged many friendships and ran the most successful theater of his day. He also traveled abroad, even visiting the United States. Another odd fact however, is that he never visited Eastern Europe during these travels which is the setting for his famous novel Dracula.

Stoker’s life is pretty interesting and inspirational. He was born in a small town near Dublin, Ireland called Clontarf. According to Wikipedia, he spent most of his early childhood bedridden. It wasn’t until he was seven years old that he made a complete recovery. No one is quite sure what illness he suffered from so long. It didn’t keep him down very long, however. He eventually became an athlete and did very well. Though he was most noted for the humanities, he actually graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics from Trinity College in Dublin. He is the epitome of the well-rounded man. Take a moment today to go and click the Google doodle. Maybe you will learn something about this interesting man and his contributions to our world.

Google’s Election Day Doodle

Election Day Google Doodle

Google has gotten into the election day spirit by offering up an U.S. election day doodle. The doodle sports the U.S. colors red, white, and blue and depicts ballots being cast in a patriotic ballot box.

Today’s doodle isn’t animated but it is plenty useful. If you click the “Find your voting location and hours” link at the bottom of the doodle, you will see something similar to what is in the picture below. Notice that the voting location is conveniently listed with a map on the left hand side. Highlighted in red, you will where you can click through the ballot and see what candidates are running. If the candidate has a website, Facebook, or Twitter feed, a link to that is provided as well.

Voter Information

At this point in time, a great deal of Americans are pretty much worn out by all the political rhetoric that is filling the airwaves and Facebook news feeds. Unfortunately, this election has the possibility of being so close that it may take weeks to find out who the winner will be. As tiring as this process is however, voting is one of the most important rights we as U.S. citizens have and exercising that right is an important duty that shouldn’t be taken lightly. No nation is perfect and the U.S. has seen its fair share of wrongs, but there have been many good people who have stood up to the injustices of our country and our world. I think about the citizen soldiers who stood up to an oppressive tyrant and began a great experiment. I think about the many men who died at the hands of their brothers while fighting to set slaves free in this country. I think about men and women who risked their lives to make voting a right for blacks and for women. You see, if you’re a U.S. citizen, your right to vote came at a heavy price no matter what your race, creed, color, or sex. Take a moment today to make your voice known if for no other reason than to honor the many who died giving you the right to do so.

Google’s 2012 Halloween Doodle

Haunted House

Halloween is usually a fun time at Google and this year is no exception. If you arrive at the search giant’s website today, you will notice a really cool Halloween doodle. The doodle is animated and if you look to the lower right corner of the image, you will see a little button where you can add sound. To me, the scene is reminiscent of Sesame Street except a little spookier. This would be a really good doodle to get your kids and let them enjoy the animation. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises, but I will let you know that you need to click around the different elements as they do special things.

Last year, I wrote about Google’s massive undertaking when they used 1000 pound pumpkins to carve out the letters for Google. I thought it might be a good time to show the behind the scenes video they produced from last year. It is pretty neat if you didn’t get to see it.

Halloween in the U.S. has become a major holiday. I’m amazed at how much it has grown even since I was a kid. One of the major differences I have seen is the outdoor decorations and lighting that is available now. I am also amazed by how many adults dress up now and have costume parties. I guess Halloween is one of those holidays that brings out the kids in all of us. Speaking of kids, if you’re taking out your little trick-or-treaters, make sure that they have something reflective on their clothing to make them more visible to cars. A lot of costumes are dark colored and with the days being shorter this time of year, visibility during trick-or-treat time is hindered. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween!

Google Honors Bob Ross with Doodle

Bob Ross Doodle

Google is honoring the 70th birthday of Bob Ross with a beautiful doodle on its search page. The doodle truly reflects what so many appreciated about Ross. His gentle nature is represented by the squirrel’s confidence in sitting on his shoulder. His appreciation for nature is portrayed on the canvas with his signature “happy trees”. His amazing eye for color is represented by the wet pallet that he so masterfully used to recreate the living colors of nature.

Bob Ross is best known for his decade-long PBS show “The Joy of Painting”. In this series, he introduced thousands, if not millions, of people to the art of painting. In particular, he used a wet-on-wet oil technique which produced quicker results on the canvas. Ross was so easy to relate to. His calm demeanor and relaxed approach to art really drew people to his show and made art more accessible to the common man. Statements like “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents” and “happy trees” made learning from him enjoyable and seemed effortless.

Ross wasn’t always the easy going painter that many saw on TV. In fact, he had a pretty successful career in the U.S. Air Force where he retired as a Master Sargeant after 20 years of service. During his stint in the Air Force, he was stationed in Alaska which turned out to be a very inspiring force for his paintings. According to Wikipedia, once he retired he lamented having to be “mean and tough,” …”the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work”. He apparently vowed to never scream again after retirement.

Unfortunately for all of us, Ross’ life was cut short due to lymphoma in 1995. His legacy still lives on at Bob Ross, Inc. where you can still find a variety of products and tutorials bearing his image. Ross has a personal spot in my heart as I remember when I was younger, my Grandmother was inspired by his show to paint. It was amazing to see the beautiful landscapes that she painted. I have also been personally inspired by his show and have even used his wet-on-wet techniques with acrylics and loved the results. Hopefully we can all take a moment today to learn more about this brilliant and humble man. He is truly missed.

Google Celebrates Niels Bohr’s Birthday with a Doodle

The Great Dane would leave a legacy that few would even dream of rivaling. Niels Bohr was a quiet and shy man, whose contribution to 20th century physics is so fundamental that, without it, the whole edifice would only be half built. His brilliant insights into physical problems not only gave solutions, but also taught the world a new way of thinking of a physical problem – think of only what can be explained and what can be observed, leaving all your philosophical baggage behind. Bohr, the great, celebrates his birthday today and Google honours him with a doodle.


Bohr’s great insight

If you asked me to judge the doodle, I would just give it passing grades; Google could’ve easily been more imaginative. The doodle shows an atom, given by the Bohr’s atomic model (well, not quite, but more on that in a bit) and a photon (particle of light) being emitted having exactly the right frequency. This frequency times the Planck’s constant gives the energy of the photon. It turns out that the transition of an electron from a higher energy level to a lower one would involve the emission of a photon with energy equal to exactly the difference between the levels and this was Bohr’s great insight.

Niels Bohr


So what problem was I referring to about the Bohr’s Atomic Model? Well, Bohr’s Atomic Model doesn’t involve elliptic orbits*. It just involves electrons going around the nucleus in circular orbits. So just a bit mistaken there! (*See corrigendum below)

Bohr happened to be on the Manhattan Project too. His escape out of Nazi occupied Denmark is the stuff of folklore. Apparently, he received a permit letter, allowing him to leave Copenhagen when Denmark was being captured by the Nazi power in the 2nd World War. This special permit came probably from Heisenberg who was holding a high position in the department of science in Nazi establishment. Niels Bohr was then smuggled out of Denmark and given a safe haven in America.

More than just a scientist

So Bohr! More than being a brilliant physicist, he was also a pioneer. He was one of the founding fathers of CERN, 1954. Where we would be without the Great Dane. And of course, the Copenhagen Institute which housed the great minds of the 20th century at a time was co-founded by Niels Bohr.

An atom wouldn’t be the same without you! Happy Birthday Niels Bohr.


Corrigendum from the author: A good friend of mine and a regular reader of the blog, Joe Phillips Ninan, research scholar at TIFR, Mumbai, wrote to me pointing out that my conclusion of the orbits not being circular is incorrect. He says that they are circles oriented in 3D planes and thus just look like ellipses, but are not actually ellipses. This is what he wrote to me in an email:

I carefully checked the pixel position of the nucleus in the Google Doodle image. They lie exactly at the center of line connecting the diameter. Hence they are not elliptical orbits with nucleus at one of the foci. They have drawn only perfect circles, oriented in different planes in 3D.

Good point Joe and it’s gracefully accepted. The hasty error on my part is regretted.

Google Celebrates Its Official 14th Birthday

Google Birthday Cake

Happy birthday Google!! Today, when you visit the search giant’s website, you will be greeted with a huge chocolate cake glowing with 14 candles on top. You may recall I wrote an article a few weeks ago titled “Google Celebrates Its 14th Birthday“. Despite what my friends may say, I am not crazy. Google’s birthday is not today, though today is the day they chose to put the cake on their page.  I find it funny how some sources are saying Google’s birthday is September 7th, but if you go to Google and type the search query “when was Google founded”, you will get the result September 4th. Anyway, for some reason Google started putting their birthday logo on their main page on September 27th instead of their real birthday.

Below, you can see the result of the animated cake after everyone has scarfed down their favorite piece! You will notice that the candles are neatly arranged at the bottom of the cake to tally up to 14. Of course, what’s left of the cake spells out the name Google.Cake Eaten

Google has become such a part of our lives, I don’t think many of us realize what life was like before it. How did we ever reach our vacation destinations without Google maps? How many unanswered questions would there be if Google weren’t around to answer them instantly from our smart phones? It’s hard to believe how much has changed in 14 years. It is so easy to take for granted the genius idea the founders of Google had when they developed this search engine. Here’s to many more birthdays for Google and the hope that it will live up to its unofficial slogan, “Don’t Be Evil”.

Clara Schumann Google Doodle

Schumann Google Doodle
Screenshot of Clara Schumann Google Doodle

Today’s Google Doodle honors the 193rd birthday of Clara Schumann, a gifted virtuoso, composer, wife and mother, who overcame many adversities. Schumann is the picture of strength, passion, independence, and enduring love.

Early Life

Clara was born in Germany on September 13, 1819. Her father, Friedrich Wieck, was a theologian, but he made a living as a musician by trade. Her father and mother divorced when she was young and she was put into the custody of her father. He recognized her musical talents and built upon that throughout her childhood. By the time she was 11, she had made her first formal debut as a performer. Her father was extremely strict with her and had her tour all over Germany doing performances.

She had the rare ability to perform most piano works from memory. Her influences were Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, and most notably Robert Schumann. Schumann, who was 9 years older than Clara, left law school and took up residence with the Wieck family so he could study music with her father. A romance bloomed between she and Schumann which her father wanted no part of. In fact, he dropped Schumann as a student and sent Clara away to tour so she couldn’t see him. However, her love was strong and through messengers, she and Schumann never lost touch with each other. Without her father’s blessing, and essentially having to get permission to marry through a court order, Clara and Robert were wed one day before her 21st birthday.

Notable Woman

Schumann was a woman of notable character and strength. Shortly into their marriage, Robert had a mental breakdown and was plagued with mental illness the rest of his life. Because of these shortcomings, Clara became the main source of income and financial stability. She achieved this through teaching and performing. Robert was very supportive of her compositions, though it is only lately that her work has been recognized. In fact, Robert lamented that his mental illness, and the fact that they had 8 children, must have cut short many brilliant compositions that lived in her. Clara helped arrange many of Robert’s compositions and he was good to acknowledge such. Unfortunately, Robert’s mental illness landed him in an asylum for a couple of years. During this time Clara was not allowed to make contact with him and didn’t get to do so until shortly before his death. She was a widow at age 37.

There are many other stories that showed her strength and resolve, such as the time she defied a group of armed men, during the uprising in Dresden, to go into the city and rescue her children. She also raised many of her grandchildren because one of her daughters died and one of her sons was committed like his father. He too died in the asylum. Despite the difficulties that plagued her, Clara continued to perform and later teach until she passed away in 1896.

For more information about this incredible woman’s life, and to see a list of her compositions, visit


Google Doodle Honors 46th Anniversary of Star Trek

Star Trek Doodle

Google commemorates 46 years of Star Trek with a really cool animated doodle today. I won’t give away all the secrets, but will say take a moment to move your mouse around the doodle and look for the highlighted areas. The doodle does a great job of capturing the drama, sound affects, and some of the corniness of Star Trek.

Star Trek was the brainchild of Gene Rodenberry, an American screenwriter and producer. It is hard to believe, due to the incredible popularity Star Trek enjoys today, but its beginnings did not go quite so smooth. In a sense, Star Trek was far ahead of its time both literally and figuratively. The original series only lasted from 1966 to 1969 and enjoyed meager ratings. It wasn’t until the 1970s that they began to enjoy a cult following and the reruns gained popularity. This eventually led to a whole new enterprise of movies and shows. Oddly enough, though nominated for several, Start Trek never received an Emmy award.

I know that my appreciation for Star Trek didn’t develop until I was much older. I was much more drawn to the light sabers and shootouts of Star Wars as a child. However, as I got older and had the chance to watch Star Trek again, I realized that the characters on the show were very good. There’s no doubt that Star Trek was more cerebral than many of the other science fiction shows of the 70s and 80s. I especially loved the spin-off shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

The Star Trek series can teach us a lot today, I believe. While the theme of the show was to search space as “the final frontier”, I believe the show crossed a much more important frontier. The frontier I refer to is that of human understanding and tolerance. The crew of U.S.S. Enterprise set out to boldly explore and learn from other cultures. As they followed their prime directive, they didn’t seek to interfere with culture, but simply to learn from them. This put them in difficult predicaments at times just as it does for us here in the real life. I believe we would do well to honor the legacy of Star Trek by taking a moment to assess our view of the world around us and learn not only to tolerate people, but to respect them as well. In the words of Spock, I end with this wish for you to “live long and prosper”!


Google Celebrates Its 14th Birthday

It seems hard for me to fathom that Google turns 14 today. Google was officially incorporated on September 4, 1998 and the world has never been the same since. What started out so simply, as evidenced by the picture below, is now the driving force behind much of the web.

Google 1998
Google’s Beta Page 1998 (credit: Anakin101:Wikipedia)

Google started as a research project at Stanford University. Larry Page and Sergey Brin set out to develop a new page ranking technology that analyzed back links to webpages to score their importance. According to Wikipedia, because Page and Brin wanted to show that they were serving large amounts of data, they originally wanted to call the search engine “googol”. Googol is a large number represented with a 1 followed by a hundred zeroes. Somehow, through a misspelling the company became “Google” instead.

Google sure has come a long way since those early days of the web. I remember how impressed I was when I first used Google’s search engine. I was just blown away with how accurate the results were and with how many results were presented. It is obvious that I wasn’t the only one as the word “Google” actually became a verb to represent you were searching for something. Google grew exponentially and became the search engine of choice for most of the world. In 1999, Google came up with the genius idea to sell text-based ads on its website based on keywords. It was a great idea because it contextualized ad results to the consumer, but because they were text-based, they loaded quickly on the screen. For those of you who remember dial-up, speed was everything back then.

It’s hard to imagine a world without Google anymore. Since their initial IPO in 2004, Google has branched out to find new revenue streams and innovate in other areas. Their raging success has not been met without opposition, however. It seems they have been sued by every major player in the Internet industry for some reason or another. I guess that is the price for fame. Let’s just take a second and think about some of Google’s contributions to the world:

  1. Gmail – Google got into the webmail game in 2004. One of the biggest contributions it made to email was grouping messages into conversations instead of just listing messages as they came in. They also were the first to offer contextual ads based on content in your inbox. That was met with more than a little controversy.
  2. Adwords – Google has made a killing on pay-per-click and Adwords, but let’s face it, so have a lot of web sites. People participating in Google’s ad programs have prospered quite a bit.
  3. Chrome – Here is another September birthday. In September 2008, Chrome debuted as an alternative to Internet Explorer. Tabbed browsing and being able to search directly from the address bar were a couple of new offerings that Chrome made available. Though,  Firefox probably had tabbed browsing by then too. Chrome is a fast and secure alternative to Internet Explorer.
  4. Google Apps – There are so many apps, it’s hard to list them here. However, the main draw of Google apps is that you can create and share documents and spreadsheets on the web. They don’t require expensive desktop software to run and you don’t have to be tethered to your computer to use them.
  5. Android – As of this month, Android accounts for 52% marketshare of smartphones. The Android tablets and smartphones are simply dominating the market and giving Apple all the competition it wants.
  6. Google Doodles – How can I not mention the Google doodles? Google doodles started as a result of Page and Brin attending a festival and they redesigned the logo as sort of an “out of office” greeting. Their website tells a lot about the history. I look forward to major birthdays and events when Google publishes their new doodles.

This just barely scratches the surface of all the contributions that Google has made to our world. Perhaps most notable is their commitment to their unofficial motto “Don’t Be Evil”. In a way, I believe the existence of Google has kept others in the industry honest. At the very least, they have busted up the Microsoft monopoly on the web. Hopefully, Google will continue to embrace a culture of doing good in our world and will achieve success for many years to come!

Google Doodle Honors Maria Montessori

Today, Google honors the life and work of Dr. Maria Montessori. She was an educator, humanitarian, and devout Catholic, who is best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name.
Montessori Google Doodle

Dr. Montessori was a controversial figure in her time and her philosophy remains somewhat controversial today. Mostly people are just not familiar with Montessori philosophy and often misunderstand what it’s all about. Some people believe it is very unorganized. Others think that Montessori is out of date. This is all untrue. A great resource for Dr. Montessori’s history can be found on the Montessori Foundation’s Website. Below, is a video that tells a lot about Montessori schools as well.

[video link]

I am particularly fond of this doodle because my own children have benefited from the Montessori approach to education. Montessori schools are a great way for children to explore their world and learn in a more natural and independent way. Hayfield Montessori school’s website sums up the Montessori method very well.

Montessori materials incorporate the child’s senses in the learning process. Materials in the classroom are for manipulating as we believe a child learns by doing. There is a direct hand to brain connection in the young child that is nurtured in a Montessori environment. Many Montessori materials also incorporate a control of error which enables students to correct their own mistakes without adult intervention.

I encourage everyone, especially those with young children, to take a moment and learn a little more about the life and work of Dr. Montessori. You may find that there is a real special resource to help your child just waiting to be tapped.