Google commemorates anniversaries and milestones with Google Doodles, customized versions of the familiar logo on its home page. Here are our favorite Doodles from 2012 honoring information technology innovators, inventions and events.
1. Jan. 18: SOPA – PIPA
On January 18, sites from Wikipedia to Craiglist to Reddit coordinated a protest against SOPA and PIPA, two bills before Congress that threatened to censor the Internet. From individual bloggers to non-profits to massive corporations, thousands of sites participated in this synchronized strike to demonstrate what the Internet might look like if SOPA or PIPA were to be passed. Google’s contribution to the revolt was to block out its search engine’s logo.
Neither bill was passed, though several alternatives continue to be considered.
2. April 1: 13th anniversary of the Very Large Telescope array
As part of the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama desert of Chile, the Very Large Telescope (VLT) array consists four individual telescopes — Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun. The four scopes, each with a lens nearly 26 feet in diameter, can be used in coordination to produce unusually high resolution.
Since its opening on April 1, 1999, the VLT has led to groundbreaking astronomical discoveries, including the first imaging of an extrasolar planet in 2011.
3. May 23: Robert Moog’s 78th birthday
In 1967, Dr. Robert Moog (rhymes with “vogue”) demonstrated his electronic analog Moog synthesizer, one of the earliest post-vacuum-tube music synthesizers.
“With his passion for high-tech toolmaking in the service of creativity, Bob Moog is something of a patron saint of the nerdy arts and a hero to many of us here,” wrote Google software engineer Joey Hurst when he launched an interactive, playable music synthesizer – complete with four-track tape recorder with which users could play back their synthetic tunes.
Moog passed away in 2005 at the age of 71.
4. June 23: Alan Turing’s 100th birthday
Mathematician Alan Turing is often considered the father of modern computing. During World War II, Turing worked as a cryptanalyst for the British government, helping crack several German ciphers. He later invented the Turing machine, which demonstrated a computer’s ability to perform computations using only binary digits.
Google marked the occasion of Turing’s 100th birthday with an interactive Doodle that offered users a dozen different programming puzzles.
5. Aug. 6: Landing of Mars rover Curiosity (plus London Olympics)
On November 26, 2011, NASA launched its latest Mars rover, Curiosity. Nine months later, it entered the Mars atmosphere, with NASA engineers back home enduring 7 minutes of terrorwhile maneuvering the spacecraft to a successful touchdown — very good news considering NASA’s historical success rate of only 50% for safely landing objects on Mars’ surface.
When NASA issued the happy news, Google surreptitiously replaced the blimp in its 2012 Summer Olympics Doodle with a descending rover.
6. Sept. 8: 46th anniversary of Star Trek‘s first broadcast
From cell phones to tablet computers, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry predicted a world of advanced technologies. Google commemorated the 46th anniversary of the show’s 1966 debut with a series of interactive Doodles that follow the episode “Arena.” Clicking on the Doodle’s bridge door will bring viewers to the transporter room, where they can beam down to planet Cestus III and fight an alien lizard known as a Gorn.
As the 50th anniversary of Star Trek‘s maiden voyage approaches, we see not only more technology inspired by science fiction, but a resurgence in Star Trek‘s popularity. May 13, 2013 will mark the release of director J.J. Abrams’ next film in Roddenberry’s universe, Star Trek Into Darkness.
7. Sept. 17: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s 155th birthday
A contemporary of America’s Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry, Russian physicist and aviation engineer Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was a leader in astronautic theory. Despite being rendered almost completely deaf by scarlet fever at the age of 10, he pursued his own education vigorously, inspired by the works of Jules Verne.
After writing his own science fiction, Tsiolkovsky turned to science fact. In his 1903 book The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices, Tsiolkovsky calculated that a multistage rocket could produce a viable orbit for a manmade satellite.
8. Sept. 28: David Unaipon’s 140th birthday
Australian inventor, author and preacher David Unaipon was born Sept. 28, 1872. Many of his ideas were mechanical in nature, earning him a reputation as Australia’s Leonardo da Vinci. He took out provisional patents on multiple inventions, such as the sheep-shearing handpiece shown in the Doodle, but was unable to afford full patents on any of them.
As an indigenous Australian, Unaipon faced rampant racism throughout his life and was a frequent spokesperson for his people. Today, he is featured on the country’s $50 currency note.
9. Oct. 7: Niels Bohr’s 127th birthday
For his contributions to the field of quantum mechanics, Bohr earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. From 1920 until his passing in 1962, Bohr served as the first chair of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen.
10.Oct. 16: Hisashige Tanaka’s 213th birthday
Josef Čapek may’ve invented the word “robot” in 1921, but actual robots date much further back. One early inventor was Hisashige Tanaka (1799-1881), sometimes known as “Japan’s Thomas Edison.” His karakuri dolls used hydraulics to serve tea, fire a bow and arrow — or, as seen in Google’s animated Doodle, paint kanji characters.
Tanaka later went on to study astronomy, design and build locomotives and warships, and work in weaponry and telegraphy design.
11.Nov. 13: 31st anniversary of the first use of the Canadarm in space
Need a lift in outer space? The Canadarm is there to help. Developed by Canadian company SPAR Aerospace, five of these mechanical arms, whose official name is the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), were deployed with NASA’s space shuttles.
Although unable to lift much in standard Earth gravity, once in outer space, the Canadarm could release satellites from the shuttle’s cargo hold, provide a tether for spacewalks or, with the Orbiter Boom Sensor System, inspect shuttles and the International Space Station for damage.
The first Canadarm was deployed aboard the Columbia in 1981. SPAR closed in 2009; the SRMS was retired along with Atlantis in 2011.
12.Dec. 10: Ada Lovelace’s 197th birthday
In the mid-19th century, Charles Babbage drafted a design for a mechanical computer that he dubbed the Analytical Engine. His designs intrigued Augusta Ada King (née Byron),Countess of Lovelace, daughter of poet Lord Byron.
In 1843, she translated from French to English a Babbage speech, to which she appended her own notes on the proposed machine’s function. Longer than the original transcript, her notes included an algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers. This algorithm is considered the first computer program, making Lovelace the world’s first programmer. In 1980, the Ada programming language was named in her honor.