October 16, 2012 8:16 am
First, go play all the way through this Google Doodle. Then come back. Okay, now that you’ve got your childhood adventure time in, let’s talk.
Yesterday’s Google Doodle celebrated the 107th anniversary of Little Nemo in Slumberland, a comic strip by Winsor McCay that hit the presses for nine years. McCay’s work might look familiar, even if you’ve never seen it, because it inspired people like Maurice Sendak and Alan Moore. McCay’s drawings are whimsical, colorful and, well, just go look at them.
The Los Angeles Times say that McCay’s drawings were inspired by the inner workings of his mind:
McCay, born in Canada in 1867, is best known for “Little Nemo,” the fantastical and magical Sunday comic strip that began in October 1905. Nemo was created during an eight-year period when, propelled by “inner demons,” McCay “was compelled … to draw and draw and draw.”
After Little Nemo, McCay went on to create “The Story of a Mosquito,” in which a mosquito encounters a drunk man, and to experiment with the beginnings of animation.
Here’s the full Doodle, although you have to click through it to see the animations.
August 15, 2012 8:30 am
This morning’s Google Doodle pays homage to one of America’s favorite chefs of all time, Julia Child. It’s a big honor, but the woman deserves it, it is her 100th birthday after all.
Child is probably best known for her television show The French Chef, one of the first cooking shows on television. But as she cooked her way through fame and fortune, Child had a soft spot for science as well. Here she is burning some food to make carbon in her delightful, Julia Child way.
Child helped out with another science experiment too – making primordial soup:
Julia Child, famous chef, entertains you in her kitchen by preparing a primordial soup. Her recipe demonstrates how simple inorganic chemicals on the ancient Earth may have been transformed into complex organic compounds, the building blocks of life. In this presentation our chef mixes a batch of raw primordial soup in special laboratory apparatus made to simulate conditions of ancient Earth.
Julia Child spent most of her time in the kitchen acting a lot like a good scientist – trying things to see if they work. Things like blow torches. Here she is using one on a crepe.
But what would Child have thought of today’s combination of food and science? There is something quite different between the specialized, equipment intensive molecular gastronomy of today’s chefs, or the laboratory produced meats and flavors, and Child’s playful, homey experimentation with food. Chances are, she would have hated today’s processed foods, but appreciate molecular gastronomy, says the Chicago Sun Times:
Child once commented on Cuisine Nouveau, molecular gastronomy’s 1990s precursor, “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate —- you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” So we can guess what she might think of meat glue and spherified vegetable juice.
And while she was a lover of tools like the blow-torch, and the microwave, she was also a no-fuss kind of chef. Here’s the Chicago Sun Times again:
In The Way to Cook, Child wrote, “I wouldn’t be without my microwave oven, but I rarely use it for real cooking. I like having complete control over my food — I want to turn it, smell it, poke it, stir it about and hover over its every state. …” Child used her microwave for defrosting and melting chocolate and butter and even baking potatoes (she loved baked potatoes with lots of butter).
For all she embraced labor-saving devices, she was a stickler for process. She deplored “elimination of steps, combination of processes, or skimping on ingredients such as butter, cream — and time.”
The clean, sterile laboratory atmosphere of molecular gastronomy doesn’t have lots of room for intentionally burned foods and fingers mucking about in everything. So for today, in honor of Julia, let’s torch some crepes together.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Julia Child’s Thoroughly Modern Marriage
August 10, 2012 8:36 am
You might have noticed that the Olympics are happening. Google noticed too, and it’s been releasing Google Doodles that allow you to compete in the games in your own small way. For most of us, that means about five minutes of trying to hurdle or canoe or play basketball before we start getting our real work done. For programmers that means trying to beat the Doodle with code.
And, of course, they succeeded. Here’s a video of a programmer using 22 lines of Python to shatter the Google Doodle Olympic world record.
Geek.com has a good summary of how he did it.
At first, he just got the hurdler running in Python and did the jumps manually with the spacebar, recording a time of 10.4 seconds. Then he disregarded the hurdles and managed to complete the course in just 0.4 seconds. Impressive, but that’s not playing properly and only achieved 2 of the 3 possible stars.
The final fully-automated solution is the most impressive and can’t be beaten with a manual run. Automating both the running and jumping saw a time of 1.5 seconds achieved.
And, here’s the basketball one. This one took 48 lines of Python.
No canoeing solution yet — perhaps they got distracted by the real Olympics.
More at Smithsonian.com:
July 24, 2012 5:18 pm
The internet was all aflutter celebrating Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday today, and Smithsonian was no exception. Here are a few of the highlights:
If you’re in the DC area, the Smithsonian’s “One Life” exhibition at the National Portraits Gallery documents Earhart’s accomplishments in photos and memorabilia. If you’re not around the capital, however, the website offers a detailed look at some of the featured photographs. From the exhibit, for those who need a refresher on Earhart’s life:
Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) loved to fly. How she felt about other things in her life is harder to say. After becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, she was rarely out of public view. In the many images of her after 1928, she appears as the epitome of grace and poise. During the years that America was in the grip of the Great Depression, she provided the nation with a sense of hope and optimism about its future. When she disappeared over the Pacific in 1937—seventy-five years ago—Americans were dumbstruck with grief.
She also became a fashion symbol of the time, as another Smithsonian article details:
Earhart had always been interested in clothes. Her first flight instructor, Neta Snook, recalled her showing up for lessons in “a beautifully tailored [riding] outfit.” Indeed, says Cochrane, the Smithsonian’s flight jacket seems to evoke equestrian fashions from the ’30s. (In time, Earhart would help to design and publicize a line of clothes marketed for “the woman who lives actively.”)
Earhart influenced and inspired generations, though Smithsonian is also quick to remind that dozens of brave women preceded her in flight, and thousands followed.
And Amelia’s final takeoff is a fitting but bittersweet close to the day.