Google's Doodle On Boole Is Geeky But Not Mystifying

02/11/2015 3:23 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Mathematician and logician, George Boole, may turn in his grave at this epithet, but he was--like Shah Rukh Khan with whom he shares a birthday-- a sort of Baadshah. The mathematician's Boolywood, however was a revolutionary strand of algebra that underlies the digital circuits powering computers. Google's iconic doodles are as much a marker of a geek aesthetic, as a broadcaster to a wider population of the significance of lesser-known but iconic individuals and events from history. The Boolean doodle, on the logician's 200th birth anniversary, is a smart synopsis of the mathematician's contribution. Boole, when he set out his ideas in 1847 wasn't anticipating planning digital circuits and several others contributed to make his ideas, which fell more in the realms of abstract math, practicable and applicable to computers.

The pattern of colours that pop up, when you click on the doodle's play, isn't random but meant to illustrate what happens when you input 'x' and 'y' into the small 'g' represented by the two black circles. The other alphabets, 'G' 'O' 'O' 'L' and 'E' each correspond to the elementary logic operations, AND, OR, NOT and XOR (Exclusive OR). From calculators to Mars-landers, the underlying circuitry rests on gargantuan permutations and combinations of these logic operations and those super-fast processors, at their deep hidden core, are just these circuits buzzing repeatedly to pre-fixed (or programmed) arrangements of these circuits.

Coming back to the doodle, AND, for instance is a function. Think of this function as a box you can't open but only has two buttons: a '1' and a '0' and a flashing bulb on top. Pressing either of the buttons doesn't light it up, but press both and it lights up.

Similarly an OR function, or box, would be a box that lights up when either of the buttons are pressed but doesn't when both are simultaneously. There are intriguing questions that belie this simplistic explanation and often can only be better understood or worked out using so called 'truth tables.' Pressing the buttons--in logic circuits-- is akin to giving an 'input' and the lights--on or off state--indicate the 'truth' value. Thus a lone 'x' as an input in the doodle only lights up 'o,' 'o' and 'l' because x is 'true' only for the functions xXORy, xORy and NOT y.

Look at the doodle again and try imagining the sequence of colours without all those labels. They only look like a pretty pattern of colours but once you are aware of the logic gates that underlie them it is a logical consequence of how the alphabets are lighting up in response to inputs. In Google search too, typing 'Fan' AND 'Shah Rukh' would throw up links to his forthcoming movies but Fan Or Shah Rukh would enlarge the available returns. But for Boolean, Google wouldn't exist.

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