Even programmers like to have a little fun with their software from time to time. Lots of projects have little “easter eggs” hidden messages or functionality. Google combines a geeky sense of humor with some of the best software engineering minds on the planet to come up with some clever tricks.
“Do A Barrel Roll”
If these words mean nothing to you, you’ve probably never played “StarFox.” You might be familiar with these words even if you’ve never played the game. It seems to have infected internet culture, including Google. If you type the phrase into the search box, the whole page will–you guessed it–do a barrel roll if you have a modern browser, such as Google’s own Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Searching for “tilt” or “askew” also causes the page to tilt.
The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything
Google can help you find pretty much anything on the Web, but can it help you find the ultimate answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything? Yes it can. The answer, as given by the supercomputer Deep Thought in Douglas Adams’ classic comic science fiction novel, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” was simply “42.” You’re on your own figuring out what the actual question is, though.
Here’s an ultra-geeky computer science joke. Just type “recursion” into the search box and Google will ask if you meant to search for “Recursion.” Just click on it to repeat the process again. The only thing stopping it from becoming an infinite loop is you just giving up. (If you don’t get it, “recursion” means defining something in terms of itself.)
ASCII Art Logo
Google is famous for changing their logos, or “doodles” to celebrate the birthdays of famous artists or other figures. If you type “ascii art” into the search box, in addition to getting some results on ASCII Art, the doodle will change to an ASCII art rendition of Google that looks like it could have been made with something like Figlet.
Definiton of Anagram
If you search for “anagram” Google will give you “nag a ram,” which happens to be an anagram of the word “anagram.” A smart-ass answer, but an correct one, nonetheless.
Measuring in Smoots
A smoot is a measurement dreamed up by a fraternity at MIT. The smoot is named after Oliver Smoot, a Lambda Chi Alpha pledge. (Yes, even the fraternities at MIT are full of nerds.) In 1958, he laid down on the Harvard Bridge over the Charles River linking Cambridge to Boston, Massachusetts. A Smoot equals Smoot’s height, about 1.70 meters (or 5 feet, 7 inches for Americans who don’t realize that not everyone measures things in feet and inches). The fraternity brothers measured the bridge to be about 364.4 smoots long. Smoots as a unit of measurement became one of MIT’s trademark nerdy in-jokes, and since a lot of tech companies (including Google) employ MIT graduates, it’s inevitable that Smoots would make it into their products. You can measure in Smoots in Google’s calculator, as well as in Google Earth. You can also measure smoots in Wolfram Alpha.
Google Maps/Earth Directions
Some of the programmers have also decided to add some improbable directions to Google Maps and Earth searching. If you want to go from the U.S. to Australia for some reason, you’ll be directed to kayak across the Pacific, as seen in the above screen shot. If you ask for directions from Taiwan to mainland China, you’d better be a strong swimmer, because you’ll be asked to swim across the Pacifc as well.