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

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!):





  1. FloM
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    “his wife believed that remedies should resemble their cause”

    a victim of homeopathy! the irony!

    • Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Beat me to it! Yes, he was the only person ever to die of a homeopathic overdose.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Snap – I am a slow typist or I would not have accidentally repeated your comment! 😉

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 2, 2015 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      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.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 2, 2015 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        I’m perfectly happy to have a bucket of homeopathic non-water poured over my head.


        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 3, 2015 at 7:47 am | Permalink

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

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted November 3, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

            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).


            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted November 4, 2015 at 7:10 am | Permalink

              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.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 4, 2015 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

                Derek Lowe’s blog has moved from to
                (that index page is a little hard to find via Google)

                Also faves of mine are his pages on azides (azide being chemical-speak for ‘a quite excessive number of nitrogens crammed into a molecule and just waiting for an excuse to get out’)


              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 5, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

                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.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 6, 2015 at 2:20 am | Permalink

                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)


              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 7:42 am | Permalink

                “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.

  2. Dominic
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Poor Boole – his wife offered him homeopathy – which hjust goes to show what nonsense it is!

  3. Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    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.

  4. eric
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    “his wife believed that remedies should resemble their cause”

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

  5. Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Is anyone sponsoring a George Boole Icebucket Challenge?

  6. Posted November 2, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    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:

    • Posted November 2, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      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!

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    We see the Boole one in Canada as well.

  8. phoffman56
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    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.

  9. harrync
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t get Day of the Dead, had to click for explanation; got Boole instantly.

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