Two Google Doodles: one for a holiday, one for science

November 2, 2015 • 11:00 am

Today’s doodle in the U.S., and probably Mexico, features the Day of the Dead (click screenshot below), but I find the one in Ireland, sent by reader Grania, much more interesting, as it’s science-related.

First, Dia de Muertos (yesterday and today), which I was lucky to see first-hand a few years ago in Mexico City:

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 7.58.44 AM

But in Ireland, the Google page gives an animated graphic, which is a gif I’ve embedded below. First have a look at it, and figure out a. what’s going on here, and b. whom it’s celebrating:


That’s right, it’s showing Boolean logic: in the second “g”, when the x or y or neither or both light up, the corresponding letter or letters also light up.

And that means it’s celebrating the life of George Boole (1815-1864; today’s his 200th birthday), mathematician, polymath, and creator of Boolean algebra and Boolean logic, the binary decision system that’s become the basis for all computers (see here). Grania informed me that Boole was the first professor of mathematics at University College Cork (then known as Queen’s College) in Ireland, in the town where she lives. Boole died at only 49; Wikipedia tells the tale:

In 1864, Boole walked two miles in the drenching rain and lectured wearing his wet clothes. He soon became ill, developing a severe cold and high fever. As his wife believed that remedies should resemble their cause, she put her husband to bed and poured buckets of water over him – the wet having brought on his illness. Boole’s condition worsened and on 8 December 1864, he died of fever-induced pleural effusion.

In honor of Boole’s bicentennial, University College Cork has set up a George Boole 200 Page, where you can find information about his life  and about walking tours, videos, and information about celebratory events.  Here’s a short video showing the contributions he made to modern life:

Boole (I’m glad I live in an era when academics don’t have to wear coats and ties!):




21 thoughts on “Two Google Doodles: one for a holiday, one for science

    1. But, had it been homeopathy, would she not have needed to dilute the water till there was no water molecules remaining? Sounds like quite a challenge to do that.

        1. I refer the honourable member to my previous comments about low-concentration (e.g. homeopathic) solutions of water in, for example, molten silicate solvents.

          1. I has assumed that homeopathic water (with no water molecules remaining) would in fact be air. Not lava, not (for example) selenophenol, and most definitely not, for example, chlorine trifluoride.

            (If you can think of any more awful compounds than those please feel free to experiment with them in some other continent).


          2. Chlorine trifluoride is high on the list of “Things I Won’t Work With” (Google the phrase, it will lead you to an excellent chemist’s blog), but FOOF (that’s a formula, not a sound effect) or FOOOF (ditto) have good reputations too.

          3. Without the page open to hand, there was a starring molecule in one post which was about C2N14. Straining at the leash, one could say.

          4. Azidoazide azides, I think. Sounds rather tautological to me. I expect the atomic bonds are pretty taut too.

            (Note the link I gave, Google still tends to link to which gets a 404)


          5. “Compulsory” meaning that they’re required for new vehicles, or that they have to be retroofitted to all vehicles at the annual inspection? I doubt the latter.

  1. In addition to being an innovative logician, Boole also wrote about probability theory and the philosophy of science. I have yet to fully figure out much about the latter, but it is reprinted in some of the reprints these days.

  2. “his wife believed that remedies should resemble their cause”

    One wonders if ‘ol George ever pretended to get sick from too much sex…

  3. A shout out to Claude E. Shannon (1916-2001), the father of information theory. His 1937 master’s thesis made Boole’s work significant to technology by applying it to describe switching circuits. You can draw a direct line from his work to the revolution in digital circuits and computer hardware. Some call it the most important master’s thesis in history.

    For interested readers:

    About its significance:

    1. Is there any truth to the story that Boole was deliberately attempting to describe some mathematics that had no practical application?


      PS. Yesterday we went to the pictures to see Spectre, which opens with a scene in Mexico City on Dia de Muertos!

  4. I hesitate and slightly apologize for this, but to see something of how Boole’s biggest accomplishment in logic fits in with present day logic and computation theory (mainly so-called 1st order logic and related), you could look at the following (which of course, I think is rather good and elementary, though maybe overly demanding for persons not particularly accustomed to working with symbols):

    pp. 340 to 348 of

    The reason for the “good” and the “hesitate” above are the same, namely the author’s identity.

    Note that the “and”, “or” etc. in the Google doodle are basics of so-called propositional logic (isolated within 1st order only much later than Boole of course), so that’s the connection with the 8 pages above.

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