If you haven’t been by Google’s homepage today, you’re missing out on one of the best ones they’ve ever done. Today would have been the 61st birthday of author Douglas Adams, who passed away far too young at the age of 49 back in 2001. His Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books have been a fundamental part of the geek culture landscape for decades, and they still hold up marvelously even today.
The Google doodle is a treasure trove of Easter eggs and references to his work, from Babel fish to Marvin the Paranoid Android (the BBC version, not the inferior version from the 2005 movie). Here is a quick guide to all the references we’ve found so far, with descriptions via the HHGG Wikipedia page. (Oddly appropriate, since Wikipedia is a sort of real-world Hitchhiker’s Guide, only lacking the crucial “Don’t Panic” emblazoned on the cover…if it had a cover.)
Babel Fish – A fish which when inserted into your ear gives you the ability to understand any language. The Guide’s entry on the subject says, ‘Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could evolve purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.’
Great Green Arkleseizure – Creator of the universe as claimed by adherents of the faith on planet Viltvodle VI. The Guide says, ‘The Jatravartid People of Viltvodle Six firmly believe that the entire universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being called The Great Green Arkleseizure. They live in perpetual fear of the time they call The Coming Of The Great White Handkerchief.’
Earth – The Guide’s entry on the subject says only “Mostly harmless.”
Flying – The Hitchhiker’s Guide entry on flying reads thusly, ‘There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.’
Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster – The Guide says, ‘The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is an alcoholic beverage invented by ex-President of the Universe Zaphod Beeblebrox, largely considered to be the best in the Universe. Its effects are similar to having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.’
Infinite Improbability Drive – This was originally installed on the spaceship Heart of Gold. It’s a method of crossing vast distances in a nothingth of a second. It may also, along the way, turn some of the ship’s crewmembers into penguins. Of its development the Guide says, ‘Many respectable physicists said that they weren’t going to stand for this — partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sort of parties.’
Dolphins and Mice – Humans are not the most intelligent beings on our planet. Actually, Earth was built by super-intelligent little white mice. Of Dolphin intelligence the Guide says, ‘On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.’
Towels – A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. The Guide explains, ‘any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.’
Vogon Poetry – Depicted in the doodle as mouthy little green guys whose words kill an innocent plant, the Vogons are best known for their horrible poetry. It’s the third worst in the universe. The Guide says, ‘The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon poetry is mild by comparison.’
And here’s a video demonstrating the Google Doodle in action. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an entry for one of my favorite Adams creations: Wobagger the Infinitely Prolonged, an immortal being who sets out to insult every individual in creation, in person. For the record, he called me a right cheeky bastard.