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An Open Letter to Google

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2008
Lynn M. Savage

Google.com frequently celebrates historic people and events on its home page, showcasing art by the company’s international Webmaster, Dennis Hwang. For example, the company annually observes major holidays and has commemorated the birthdays of such luminaries as Percival Lowell and Albert Einstein in recent years. On May 16, Google and Hwang highlighted the anniversary of the first laser demonstration with a drawing of beams shooting across an optical table. It is nice to see scientific milestones brought before a wide audience, but it’s just a good start!

Dear Mr. Hwang,

First of all, please forgive this open-letter format. I know that Google provides means to drop virtual cards into your online suggestion box, but I couldn’t resist making this communiqué more public. But onward …

Thank you for the interesting Google logo of May 16, 2008. Your illustration commemorating the first laser was quite well done, even if no actual lasing devices were depicted and the beam paths were, well, atypical. (Is it true that an animated gif version exists that shows the mirrors spinning and new words being writ in light?)

Despite this logo, and earlier ones celebrating notable scientists and scientific endeavors, you are missing a myriad of important people and events related to photonics.

For example, it would be hard to argue against Ibn al-Haytham, called Alhazen in the West, who not only is considered the “Father of Optics,” but also a pioneer of the scientific method. Not familiar enough? How about Isaac Newton who, in addition to his fairly well-known descriptions of physics, developed the reflecting telescope and the field of color theory?

You also could choose to illuminate the lives and works of Johannes Kepler, Willebrord Snellius, Christiaan Huygens, Max Planck, Ernst Abbé and David Brewster. Consider, too, John Strutt, aka Lord Rayleigh, who showed the world why the sky is blue.

It is understandable, though, that there are only so many ways to represent an O as a bust or a silhouette of a famous person. But there are also notable devices that you could illustrate on the Google front page.

For example, you could celebrate the invention of the telescope, or the introduction of any of the more famous ones, like the Hubble Space Telescope. Or, looking in the other direction, how about microscopes, which for decades have amazed children and professional researchers alike with images of the miniature world otherwise beyond our sight?

Lastly, in the spirit of the laser logo, why not commemorate the development of the other technologies that bring light into all corners of the world: Incandescent and fluorescent lights, neon lights, LCDs, LEDs, fluorescent proteins and quantum dots all have interesting stories and would be colorful additions to the pantheon of great Google Doodles.

Thank you for listening. We cheerfully look forward to your future illustrations.


GLOSSARY
telescope
An afocal optical device made up of lenses or mirrors, usually with a magnification greater than unity, that renders distant objects more distinct, by enlarging their images on the retina.
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