July 22, 2011 at 10:58 AM ET
The Google doodle of the day honors the birthday of Alexander Calder, the American sculptor best known for his mesmerizing and colorful giant mobiles. If you use Google Chrome, it moves.
Google software engineer Jered Wierzbicki posted on the official Google blog that he was inspired by a recent visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where he was taken in by a room of Calder's work: "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."
The engineer was part of a team that then took that muse and created "Google’s first doodle made entirely using HTML5 canvas." That means 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."
This video shows the mobile in action:
Mashable also found it works on the Chrome 12 browser, but not on Firefox 5.0 or Internet Explorer 9, according to some who have reported problems, such as Firefox on Linux crashing due to the animation.
You can use your mouse to click and move the doodle, or you can observe it the way Calder would have designed: let it alone and watch it go, imagining a gentle air current giving it movement.
Calder died at the age of 78 in 1976, and unlike many modern artists, was able to enjoy the benefits of fame and adulation in his lifetime.
In Seattle, we have a Calder that is anything but mobile: Eagle.
Google has become prolific with the doodles over the years. You never know if you're going to see one the next time you pop up google.com, but they've been increasing in complexity: the dancing Martha Graham-inspired piece, the animated interpretation of John Lennon's "Imagine," and the playable/recordable Les Paul guitar come to mind.