Saturday: Hili dialogue and année bissextile stuff

February 29, 2020 • 4:52 am

by Matthew Cobb

Jerry is visiting the puces at Clignancourt, leaving Paris for the northern suburbs. Hili is similarly making a quantitative change that turns into quality. Or is she?

Hili: By walking across this treshold I’m changing habitat.
A: I notice a slight exaggeration in this statement.
In Polish:
Hili: Przekraczając próg zmieniam środowisko.
Ja: Dostrzegam w tym twierdzeniu odrobinę przesady.
The Google doodle is an animation that marks the leap year (l’année bissextile in French) (click to go and see what happens):
Or you can take a more artistic approach to the leap year. Here is a leaping hare, by one of my favourite modern artists,  the late Barry Flanagan:

Friday: Hili dialogue and Szaron monologue

February 28, 2020 • 5:40 am

by Matthew Cobb

Hili is concerned:

Hili: I’m very afraid.
A: Why?
Hili: That this picture will not be sharp enough.
In Polish:
Hili: Bardzo się boję.
Ja: Czego?
Hili: Że to zdjęcie nie będzie dość ostre.

Meanwhile, Szaron just jumped into Andrzej’s lap for the first time! And he has his first monologue:

Szaron: It’s true that it takes me some time to become tame, but who is in a hurry?
In Polish:
Szaron: To prawda, że mi to oswajanie się zabiera trochę czasu, ale komu się spieszy?.
Today in France the Google Doodle commemorates Marcel Pagnol. This much-loved French author conjured up the rural world of the Midi – the south of France, near Marseille – in the early decades of the 20th century. Some of his books were turned into very successful films, including Manon des Sources. According to Wikipedia: Pagnol is “generally regarded as one of France’s greatest 20th-century writers and is notable for the fact that he excelled in almost every medium—memoir, novel, drama and film.” Pagnol died in 1974.
Marcel Pagnol:

Google Doodle celebrates Gloria Anzaldúa

September 26, 2017 • 7:30 am

With this Doodle (click on screenshot to get there), I’ve become convinced that Google Doodles are the HuffPo of search engines. For today, with all possible birthdays to be celebrated (see previous dialogue), it’s marking the 75th birthday of Gloria E. Anzaldúa, described as “an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory.” Google definitely has an ideological agendas behind their Doodles: Here’s part of her Wikipedia entry (she died in 2004):

Anzaldúa described herself as a very spiritual person and stated that she experienced four out-of-body experiences during her lifetime. In many of her works, she referred to her devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), Nahuatl/Toltec divinities, and to the Yoruba orishás Yemayá and OshúnIn 1993, she expressed regret that scholars had largely ignored the “unsafe” spiritual aspects of Borderlands and bemoaned the resistance to such an important part of her work. In her later writings, she developed the concepts of spiritual activism and nepantleras to describe the ways contemporary social actors can combine spirituality with politics to enact revolutionary change.

Google Doodle: The “silent parade” for civil rights

July 28, 2017 • 3:00 pm

by Grania

Google Doodle today honored the Silent Parade of 1917 in New York City to protest the violence and murders of black people. It was in response to the brutal and barbaric mob attacks by white unionists now known as the East St. Louis Riots spurred on by fear-mongering rhetoric at trade union meetings. Although it is unclear how many people died in the riots – various sources put it as low as 40 or as high as 200; 6000 African-Americans were left homeless and it was clear that authorities has utterly failed to control the mobs or protect the innocent.

Parade Flyer: Show that you have not become callous to the sorrows of your race

Click on the screenshot to go to the Doodle.

Around 10,000 people joined the march, as Wikipedia notes: “They hoped to influence Democratic President Woodrow Wilson to carry through on his election promises to African American voters to implement anti-lynching legislation, and promote Black causes. Wilson did not do so and repudiated his promises. Federal discrimination against African Americans increased during Wilson’s presidency”.

Things have gotten better in the intervening century, but current tensions betray it is clearly not nearly enough.

Google Doodle celebrates visual/musical art

June 22, 2017 • 10:01 am

Reader Dom called my attention to a new animated and interactive Google Doodle celebrating the life of the German visual artist Oskar Fischinger, who was born on this day in 1900 (click on screenshot below to activate the Doodle). By clicking in various places on the screen that appears when you press the arrow, you can make your own music.  Engadget explains the Doodle further and gives an example of Fischinger’s work:

Since much of Fischinger’s work involved putting music to geometric animations, Google builds a basic synth / sequencer for you to play with. Simply select one of the instruments and begin clicking to create a pattern that’ll produce a sound that’s unique to you. As each note plays, geometric animations will jump out, although it’s worth watching one of Fischinger’s originals just to see the scope of his achievement. An Optical Poem, for instance, was produced in 1938 by hand, which makes you really appreciate the scope of human ingenuity.

As YouTube explains, this animation was “made entirely with paper in stop motion fashion”.

Now go make your own; it’s fun!

Google Doodle: The fantastic Antikythera Mechanism

May 17, 2017 • 8:30 am

Today’s Google Doodle in most of the world portrays the Antikythera Mechanism, as today is the 115th anniversary of its discovery, at least according to Google.  Wikipedia, however, says it was recovered on August 4, 1901, so figure it out yourself. It wasn’t even studied until 1951, as other artifacts from the wreck were deemed more important:

Whatever the date, this is one of the most splendid devices known from ancient times. Recovered in a wooden box in a sunken Roman shipwreck off Greece, it was in 82 fragments. These reside at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens:

Wikipedia describes its use:

Using modern computer x-raytomography and high resolution surface scanning, a team led by Mike Edmunds and Tony Freeth at Cardiff University peered inside fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest inscriptions that once covered the outer casing of the machine. Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests it dates back to 150-100 BC and had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac, predict eclipses and even recreate the irregular orbit of the moon. The motion, known as the first lunar anomaly, was developed by the astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes in the 2nd century BC, and he may have been consulted in the machine’s construction, the scientists speculate. Its remains were found as one lump later separated in three main fragments, which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation works. Four of these fragments contain gears, while inscriptions are found on many others. The largest gear is approximately 140 millimetres (5.5 in) in diameter and originally had 224 teeth.

After this was made, we have no record of such complex technology until over 1300 years later–in the astronomical clocks of medieval Europe!

Here’s “Fragment A“, front and back, the most complex piece (captions from Wikipedia):

The main fragment and contains the majority of the known mechanism. Clearly visible on the front is the large b1 gear, and under closer inspection further gears behind said gear (parts of the l, m, c, and d trains are clearly visible as gears to the naked eye). The crank mechanism socket and the side-mounted gear that meshes with b1 is on Fragment A. The back of the fragment contains the rearmost e and k gears for synthesis of the moon anomaly, noticeable also is the pin and slot mechanism of the k train. It is noticed from detailed scans of the fragment that all gears are very closely packed and have sustained damage and displacement due to their years in the sea. The fragment is approximately 30 mm thick at its thickest point.


Fragment A also contains divisions of the upper left quarter of the Saros spiral and 14 inscriptions from said spiral. The fragment also contains inscriptions for the Exeligmos dial and visible on the back surface the remnants of the dial face. Finally, this fragment contains some back door inscriptions.

Here are speculative reconstructions, first the front and then the computer-reconstructed back:

The reconstructed front in the Archaeological Museum in Athens:

The back (computer reconstructed):

Here’s an explanatory video featuring Michael Wright who made the replica:


And here is the gear scheme as reconstructed by scientists:

Finally, two (of 15) fun facts about the device from Mental Floss (quoted verbatim):

  • Since long before the invention of the digital computer you are undoubtedly reading this on, there have been analog computers. These types of computers range from mechanical aids like a slide rule to a device that can predict the tides. The Antikythera mechanism, which was designed to calculate dates and predict astronomical phenomena, has therefore been called the earliest analog computer.


  • Jones and colleagues’ new interpretation of the mechanism is based on the extant 3400 Greek characters on the device, although thousands more characters are likely missing due to the incomplete nature of the artifact. Most notably, in their thorough linguistic analysis, these scholars discovered that the mechanism refers to eclipses’ color, size, and associated winds. The Greeks believed that characteristics of an eclipse were related to good and bad omens. Because of this belief, by building in predictive eclipse technology, the creator of the mechanism was letting the user divine the future.


Today’s Google Doodle

March 31, 2017 • 3:30 pm

I’m told by reader Kevin that this is today’s Google Doodle in the US, though it’s already a day later in New Zealand (expect lots of April Fool’s jokes tomorrow in the US). It highlights diversity, and is the winner of a contest:

Google describes it this way:

Nine years in, the U.S. Doodle 4 Google Contest draws thousands of creative submissions from talented young artists across the country. Roughly 140,000 participants answered this year’s prompt, “What I see for the future.” Some imagined a future with modernized homes, others dreamed of a planet without endangered animals, while some saw a compassionate world built around communal harmony.

Five incredibly talented national finalists spent the day at Google HQ in Mountain View, California. Of those five masterpieces, Connecticut 10th grader Sarah Harrison’s Doodle, “A Peaceful Future” was chosen as the national winner! Today, millions in the U.S. can enjoy her masterpeice on the Google homepage.

Sarah says, “My future is a world where we can all learn to love each other despite our religion, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexuality. I dream of a future where everyone is safe and accepted wherever they go, whoever they are.”

Of course the diversity is only of ethnicity, religion, and whether or not you’re handicapped; what’s ignored is diversity of class and of ideas.

It’s a nice thought that we can all live in harmony, but I have mixed feelings about it, and shared Kevin’s reaction when I saw the different religions highlighted:

I think it misses the mark: religious diversity is unlikely to maintain peace, especially in the long run.  (Maybe it’s an early April Fool’s joke 🙂

And must the Muslim woman also wear the hijab of oppression when she already has a Muslim symbol on her tee shirt?

And where’s the tee shirt with a donkey for a Democrat and one with an elephant for a Republican? Now there’s a harmony greatly to be desired (and also one impossible to achieve).

I guess I’m just becoming a curmudgeon of the “get off my lawn” stripe.

p.s What does the “e =” symbol mean?

p.p.s. I just noticed that the “disabled” and “old” people are, literally, marginalized. And really, that person is supposed to be old? Shoved behind the others, he’s clearly showing ageism on the part of the artist, especially since everyone else looks to be about 18.

Other readers who sent me this had other reactions, most of them somewhat critical. Please add your take below.

Google’s quiz on Komodo dragons

March 6, 2017 • 11:15 am

Today’s Google Doodle involves a 5-question quiz about Komodo dragons. (Click on screenshot to begin the quiz.)



I won! (See below; so did Greg Mayer, who called this to my attention.) You can learn more facts by going on with the Doodle after you get your score. Why a Komodo dragon Doodle today? Because it’s the 37th anniversary of Komodo National Park. I won’t tell you where that is, because it’s the basis of one of the quiz questions. 

Report your results below, and I hope all the readers get at least 4 out of 5.

Now that you’ve taken your quiz, you can read about these big lizards ((Varanus komodoensis) here and watch this nice video:

If you want to see one attacking (and killing) a deer, go here.


Google animated Valentine’s Doodle is also a game

February 14, 2017 • 8:15 am

Today’s Google Doodle is a Valentine’s Day animation—and a game. It features a Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), an at-risk species. The object of the game, as described by Google, is to get the animal home to the Philippines to find love. It’s been a four-day Doodle, and you can see the description of today, the last day, here. You play using your keyboard.