July 22, 2011
Alexander Calder's 113th Birthday
Our homepage doodle today celebrates the birthday of Alexander Calder, an American artist best known for inventing the mobile.
Last year I wandered into a white room at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago full of Alexander Calder’s delicate “objects,” all beautifully balanced and proportioned, moving gently in the air currents like a whimsical metal forest. Calder took ordinary materials at hand—wire, scraps of sheet metal—and made them into brilliant forms, letting space and motion do the rest. As an engineer, I work with abstractions, too, so this really struck me.
But you kind of want to play with the things. They do not let you do that at museums.
So I coded up a very basic demo of a mobile and showed it to a friend, who showed it to one of our doodlers—and then this amazing thing happened: talented artists and engineers who liked the idea just started to help! What we ended up with is way cooler than anything I could have built on my own. I’m proud to work for a company where an idea like this can actually happen.
This is Google’s first doodle made entirely using HTML5 canvas, so you need to use a modern browser to interact with it. It runs a physics simulation on the mobile’s geometry, and then does realtime 3D rendering with vector graphics. Only recently have browsers advanced to the point where this is possible.
I like to think Calder would have appreciated today’s doodle, since we’re setting up shapes and abstractions and letting them act on their own. Hint: try it out on a laptop with an accelerometer!