Nov 8, 2010

x-ray google

The X-ray is 115 years old: latest Google Doodle

Google's latest Doodle is celebrating 115 years of X-ish technology. No, we don't mean X-Files or X-Men: we mean X-rays.

115 years ago, on Nov. 8, 1895, German physics professor Wilhelm Roentgendiscovered X-rays. As with many important discoveries, it was an accident.

Roentgen was experimenting with electron beams in a gas discharge tube when he discovered X-rays. He noticed that a fluorescent screen in his lab started to glow when the electron beam was turned on, which in and itself was surprising, as fluorescent material normally glows in reaction to electromagnetic radiation. However, the tube was surrounded by heavy black cardboard, which Roentgen assumed should have blocked most of the radiation.

Placing various objects between the tube and the fluorescent screen, it still glowed. When he placed his hand in front of the tube, not only did it continue to glow, but he saw the silhouette of his bones projected onto the fluorescent screen, thus producing the first set of skeletal X-ray images in history.

A week later, he took an X-ray photograph of his wife's hand, which clearly showed her wedding ring and her bones. Roentgen called the new radiation "X" to indicate it was an unknown type of radiation. Many of his colleagues suggested calling them Roentgen rays, but the name stuck.

In addition to celebrating 115 years of X-rays, according to Google exec Marissa Mayer, the small "g" in today's Google doodle is an homage to PigeonRank, a 2002 April Fool's joke at the company (look carefully; there's a bird skeleton in there).