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Category: Google | Jun 10, 2014
The fortressed city of Acre lies on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in northern Israel. An important Middle Eastern city in ancient times, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its fortified walls, citadel, mosques, synagogues, khans, baths and Crusader structures, Acre has always been a meeting place for East and West, new and old. Today, it’s a mixed Jewish-Arab city, but people from the two communities interact all too rarely. Mistrust, and sometimes outright hostility, keep the two communities apart.
We wanted to see if the Internet could help break down some of these barriers. So last September, a group of 40 students from the separate Arab and Jewish schools in the city, together with 200 Arab, Jewish, Druze and Bedouin students from other communities in Israel, took part in “Hangout Bridges: Bridges to Peace.” A partnership with ORT, Israel’s largest educational network of schools and colleges, and the Peres Center for Peace, the program uses Hangouts to help create understanding—and friendship—between these communities.
Grouped together by their teachers into multi-cultural Google+ circles, the students got to know each other online and started working on joint projects. Each circle met on average 10 times on Hangouts, then in a series of face-to-face meetings.
Last week, we hosted the finale event of the program at Campus Tel Aviv, a tech hub for developers and entrepreneurs at our Tel Aviv office. The students and their teachers enjoyed a creative session with System Ali, a multicultural rap group, and an inspirational talk with the leaders of MEET, an educational initiative that brings together young Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The students then presented the projects they’ve been working on for the last eight months, including a walking tour of Acre using Google Maps that seeks to uncover the rich Jewish-Arab history of this ancient city; educational Hebrew-Arabic websites that address racism and prejudice in sports, provide information on relevant legislation and offer quizzes on the topic; and an original song performed in Hebrew, Arabic and English, emphasizing coexistence and mutual respect.
This is the second year we’ve run “Hangout Bridges” in Israel. For our next course, starting this coming fall, we’re doubling the number of participants. We hope we can expand to other countries and help—in a small way—build bridges of mutual understanding around the world. As participant Wasim Jass put it: “I learned that we can cast off the hatred and plant love in its place.”
Posted by Doron Avni, Senior Policy Manager, Middle East, Africa, Turkey & Israel
Category: Google | Jun 9, 2014
On google.com today, you may have noticed an intricately drawn version of our logo showing an unusual water purifier, surrounded by a variety of fantastical creatures. This doodle is the result of our seventh annual Doodle 4 Google competition, where we asked kids, grades K-12, to tell us what they’d invent to help make the world a better place. Today, out of more than 100,000 submissions, 250 state finalists, 50 state winners, and five national age group winners, we’re excited to present the 2014 U.S. Doodle 4 Google winner—11-year old Audrey Zhang of New York!
In the spirit of our theme around inventiveness, we asked Audrey to spend a day with the doodlers following our awards ceremony to help animate her illustration. In her new role as animator and film director, the ever detail-oriented Audrey made sure that each light would flicker and that the water was clean enough to (virtually) drink in. She was especially passionate about the illustration’s dragons—about whom (oh, by the way) she is also writing a novel.
In addition to seeing her finished work on our homepage today, Audrey received a $30,000 college scholarship and $50,000 Google for Education technology grant for her school. And to help make Audrey’s vision of water purification a reality, we donated $20,000 in her name to charity:water, a charity that brings clean water to developing nations, to provide clean water to schools in Bangladesh.
“To make the world a better place, I invented a transformative water purifier. It takes in dirty and polluted water from rivers, lakes, and even oceans, then massively transforms the water into clean, safe and sanitary water, when humans and animals drink this water, they will live a healthier life.” – Audrey Zhang, 11
Audrey’s doodle was one of many amazing contributions to Doodle 4 Google this year. We encourage you to take a look at the outstanding national grade group winners, who we announced at an event with all 50 state winners at the Googleplex back in May.
Every year we do this, and every year we’re amazed. The thousands of young Doodlers who enter the contest are annual reminders of that special combination of curiosity and imagination that seems to come only from young people. Their ideas—like Audrey’s—inspire us to do more and be better. Congratulations to all our Doodle 4 Google winners!
Posted by Liat Ben-Rafael, Doodle 4 Google Program Manager
Category: Google | Jun 6, 2014
It’s been a busy week for entertainment junkies, with the return of [oitnb] and a (yet another) huge episode of [game of thrones]. But people searched for more serious subjects, including the anniversary of [d-day] and a changing of the guard in Spain.
“Stars,” shows and sad goodbyes
Anticipation was high this week for the film adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which comes out today. It’s the top topic on Hot Trends as I write this, and people are looking for related topics such as [ed sheeran], who contributed a song to the movie, and [theo james], who is rumored to be dating the film’s star Shailene Woodley. And searches for [orange is the new black] skyrocketed as the fan favorite returns for its much-awaited second season on Netflix.
People searched for [gwendoline christie], the Game of Thrones actress, after it was confirmed she’d be a cast member in the upcoming Star Wars 7 film. The Lady of Tarth had some company in search this week from [oberyn martell]—but we won’t get too into that in case anyone still has last week’s episode awaiting them on DVR.
And finally, on a sad note, Ann B. Davis—best known as housekeeper Alice on The Brady Bunch—passed away this week at the age of 88. Many were searching for information on her life and famous Alice moments.
Marking a moment in history
Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and veterans and world leaders gathered to commemorate the storming of the beaches of Normandy that turned the tides in World War II. [D-Day] was a top topic on Google, as people searched for [d-day anniversary] and [d-day facts] to learn more about this moment in history. If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at the Normandy Landings, this week we also added a new collection of 470 documents and images showing different perspectives on D-Day to the Google Cultural Institute.
Searching for knowledge
After 40 years on the throne, this week it was announced that King Juan Carlos I would step down in favor of his son Crown Prince Felipe. People turned to Google to understand the term [abdicate]. And as the summer break approaches, math games like [brainpop], [mymathlab] and [scratch] are trending in search—a good sign that parents and students are looking to stay sharp over vacation!
Tip of the week
Ready to cry? Just ask Google Search (on iOS and Android) to “show me movie times for The Fault In Our Stars.” You’ll see nearby theaters and showtimes, and can click on the time you like to buy a ticket online. “Ok Google, remind me to bring tissues!”
Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog Editor, who searched this week for [darren aronofsky atwood] and [first city festival]
Category: Google | Jun 4, 2014
Ten days ago, voting opened for Google’s first Bay Area Impact Challenge, and now the tally is in. On the ballot? Ten amazing nonprofit proposals to make a difference in our community.
Between May 22 and June 2, nearly 200,000 votes poured in (191,504 to be exact)—adjusted for population, that makes it the highest voter turnout we’ve had in a Challenge to date. Now we’re unveiling the winners. Each will receive $500,000 in funding and support from Google:
- Hack the Hood will address digital equity by training low-income youth to build websites for local small businesses, actively supporting them to launch their own tech careers.
- Center for Employment Opportunities will develop a tech platform to prepare formerly incarcerated people for employment in a digital world.
- The Health Trust will create new distribution channels for people to get affordable produce, expanding options for street vendors, corner stores, and farmers’ markets for underserved areas.
- Bring me a book will give kids access to digital books, in multiple languages, while creating a supportive online community for parents and caregivers.
Hack the Hood celebrates their win with community advisor Reverend Cecil Williams
But everyone wins in this competition: The six remaining finalists will each receive $250,000, and we also gave an additional 15 nonprofits around the Bay Area $100,000 each.
Finally, all 25 Google Impact Challenge nonprofits will receive one year of accelerator support at our first-ever impact lab, a co-working space launched in partnership with Impact Hub SF, a shared workspace for entrepreneurs committed to positive social and environmental change.
Nonprofits will have access to networking events, meeting space, and development workshops in the Impact Hub SF, as well as membership to all U.S. Hub locations. We also plan to host community events for the Bay Area nonprofit community throughout the year—so check out our website or follow us on Google+ to stay in the loop.
Now the work really begins, and we’re excited to continue to build on our ongoing efforts to give back to the community.
Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org
Category: Google | Jun 3, 2014
When you mail a letter to your friend, you hope she’ll be the only person who reads it. But a lot could happen to that letter on its way from you to her, and prying eyes might try to take a look. That’s why we send important messages in sealed envelopes, rather than on postcards.
Email works in a similar way. Emails that are encrypted as they’re routed from sender to receiver are like sealed envelopes, and less vulnerable to snooping—whether by bad actors or through government surveillance—than postcards.
But some email is more secure than others. So to help you better understand whether your emails are protected by encryption, we’re launching a new section in the Transparency Report.
Gmail has always supported encryption in transit by using Transport Layer Security (TLS), and will automatically encrypt your incoming and outgoing emails if it can. The important thing is that both sides of an email exchange need to support encryption for it to work; Gmail can’t do it alone.
Our data show that approximately 40 to 50 percent of emails sent between Gmail and other email providers aren’t encrypted. Many providers have turned on encryption, and others have said they’re going to, which is great news. As they do, more and more emails will be shielded from snooping.
For people looking for even stronger email security, end-to-end encryption is a good option—but it’s been hard to use. So today we’re making available the source code for End-to-End, a Chrome extension. It’s currently in testing, and once it’s ready for general use it will make this technology easier for those who choose to use it.
We encourage you to find tips about choosing strong passwords and adding another layer of protection to your account in our Safety Center. And check out Reset the Net, a broad coalition of organizations, companies and individuals coming together this week to promote stronger security practices on the web; we’re happy to be a participant in that effort.
Posted by Brandon Long, Tech Lead, Gmail Delivery Team
Category: Google | May 30, 2014
This week we saw searches on everything from surprises on the court to retro reads.
Books in the news
On Wednesday, the beloved author Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86. More than 2 million searches have taken place this week as people looked for information about her life and work. Popular queries related to the author this week include [maya angelou quotes], [maya angelou poems] and [still i rise].
Take a look, it’s in a book… on the web? More than 30 years after it first premiered, the beloved PBS show “Reading Rainbow” was in the news this week when former host LaVar Burton formed a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Reading Rainbow literacy program. In less than 24 hours, Burton had met his goal of a million dollars.
The NBA and NHL playoffs continue to dominate sports fans’ minds, but this week in addition to the more expected [rangers], [blackhawks], [heat], [spurs], etc. there were a few less common sporting searches. Rapper 50 Cent threw out a first pitch for the Mets on Tuesday, and it was a little, um, off the mark. People headed to Google to look for video and GIFs of the wild pitch. Some might say 50 Cent may want to stay in da club and off the mound.
Meanwhile in tennis, French Open number-one seed Serena Williams was defeated by a lower-ranked young player, Garbine Muguruza, who grew up idolizing Serena’s game. Finally, anticipation for summer soccer is heating up. Late last week we learned that player Landon Donovan would not be included in the United States’ World Cup roster this year. Searches for Donovan immediately spiked to reach a new high for the last year, with related terms [klinsmann] and [landon donovan twitter] rising as well.
Long weekend festivities
This week marked Memorial Day in the U.S., and many Americans celebrated with [parades] and [fireworks] to honor service members, and also hit up the mall for weekend [sales]. Other celebrations took place this weekend too: amidst a host of college students walking across the dais this weekend, there was one grad who’s more known for her prowess in a fictional school. Harry Potter star Emma Watson graduated from Brown University (the Hogwarts of Rhode Island) this weekend, and searches for the actress were even higher than when she presented at the Oscars (woo, education!). But no weekend wrapup would be complete without at least a mention of… yes, Kimye. The long-anticipated and not-so-secret nuptials of Kanye West and [kim kardashian] took place in Europe over the weekend, leading hordes of curious searchers to look for dirt on the dress, the rehearsal dinner and more.
Last but—in my book—certainly not least: comedian Bill Murray showed up unexpectedly at a bachelor party in Charleston, South Carolina, where he gave a toast with some life advice on finding “the one.” Because if anyone knows how hard it can be to find the one, it’s Phil Connors.
Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog Editor, who searched this week for [yamasho] and [bee dance meaning]
Category: Google | May 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Vivek Maheshwari was heading to the airport after a business trip in Denver when he received a public alert notification on his phone telling him there was a tornado heading his way. Luckily, the storm was still a few miles off, so he was able to find an alternate route to the airport and make it home safely.
Easy and timely access to information can make a huge difference in times of crisis—whether to help people like Vivek get out of harm’s way, or to help those affected after a disaster has occurred. The web can help by providing access to official alerts from government organizations, news reports and on-the-ground updates from social media. The key is making sure that all that information can get to those who are affected—as quickly as possible.
That’s one of the things our Crisis Response Team focuses on. Since 2010, we’ve been working to make disaster-related information immediately available and useful in a crisis, through tools like Public Alerts, Crisis Map and Person Finder. And since next week marks the start of hurricane season in the North Atlantic, we thought we’d provide a few tips to help you prepare for potential summer disasters—from tropical storms to wildfires to floods.
Make sure you’ll receive Public Alerts
Google Public Alerts, launched two years ago, is a tool that sends people alerts from authoritative sources like the U.S. National Weather Service or the Japan Meteorological Agency during emergencies. They’re accessible through the Google search app on your mobile devices and Google Chrome on your computer, as well as in search results for related queries and on Google Maps when relevant.
People have used Public Alerts to get to safety before a landslide in Colombia, set up sandbags before a thunderstorm in Utah, and get off the road before an ice storm in Kentucky. To make sure you get the information you need to know when you need it, get Google Now on your Android device, iOS device, or computer.
Public Alerts are now available in seven countries (U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan) and will continue to roll out to new countries this year.
Install emergency preparedness apps
There are a number of great apps which can help you prepare for or outlast an emergency. For example, a flashlight app can be useful if the power goes out and you don’t have access to a regular flashlight (use a regular flashlight if you can to conserve your phone’s battery). The first-aid and disaster preparedness apps from the Red Cross have a lot of valuable information. And the official FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) app has information on how to stay safe during a disaster, the locations of FEMA disaster recovery stations, and more.
And remember, when bad weather is on the way, keep your phone plugged in and follow this advice to conserve battery life on Android. If you’re using an iOS device, try these tips.
Get helpful gadgets
A waterproof phone case can help protect your phone during floods or heavy rains and a portable solar-powered charger will help keep your phone’s battery alive. It may also be a good idea to invest in a cell phone signal booster which gives you a greater chance of connecting to an operational cell tower.
Of course, tech can only take you so far, so make sure you have the basics (like a disaster supplies kit and a family emergency plan) covered too—Ready.gov is a great resource.
While it’s impossible to predict the weather, we hope these tips help you and your family prepare for the possibility of things going wrong. Stay safe this summer!
Posted by Payal Patel, Google Crisis Response Team
Category: Google | May 29, 2014
We launched Google Apps for Education because we believed it would help students learn more collaboratively and help educators spend less time on administration and more time on teaching. It’s been thrilling to see how some schools take “going Google” to the next level and into their own hands—coming up with even more creative ways of incorporating technology in education. Recently we came across one of these schools: Colégio Mater Dei in Brazil.
In 2013, Mater Dei deployed Google Apps for Education as part of a move to incorporate technology into the academic environment. After they started to see early results, they came to Google with a plan: create a space on campus that’s designed from the ground up to be a technology-powered learning center for K-12 students. Last week, that idea became a reality when Mater Dei launched what we’re now calling the Google Learning Space.
Transforming a part of their campus that used to be a traditional library, the school set up a high-performance wireless network in a room full of bright, colorful cushions and chairs where students can brainstorm, meet to discuss projects and talk with their teachers. There are two smart TVs with Chromecast installed, so students can project assignments, presentations and videos easily. There’s a library of tablets and Chromebooks that students can use, all featuring Google Play and Google Apps.
High school history students collaborate on tablets in the Google Learning Space
The school’s ultimate goal is to increase collaboration amongst students and encourage them to think more creatively instead of learning by rote memorization. And so far, the results seem to be good—the school is already experimenting with new ways to teach and learn. For example, kindergarten teachers are helping students “visit” countries around the world with Google Earth and the Cultural Institute. Electronics teacher Andre Godoy is using Google Sites and Google Glass to help his students build a formula that can move a robot with a swipe of the finger. And biology teachers have started using the Google Play app Biodigital Human to help bring anatomy to life in 3D; students can add, remove and manipulate each organ of the body using the app, gaining an understanding of various diseases and how treatments are developed. Best of all, students and teachers seem more energized and excited to participate in class.
Grade school students work with interactive biology apps from the Google Play Store
The Google Learning Space is just one example of how bringing technology into the classroom can have a real and immediate impact on both teachers and students. We’re excited to keep working on products that can help kids learn—in Brazil and around the world.
Posted by Milton Larsen Burgese, Google Head of Education, Google Brazil
Category: Google | May 28, 2014
We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts. So, here are our numbers:
There are lots of reasons why technology companies like Google struggle to recruit and retain women and minorities. For example, women earn roughly 18 percent of all computer science degrees in the United States. Blacks and Hispanics make up under 10 percent of U.S. college grads and collect fewer than 5 percent of degrees in CS majors, respectively. So we’ve invested a lot of time and energy in education.
Among other things, since 2010 we’ve given more than $40 million to organizations working to bring computer science education to women and girls. And we’ve been working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science. For example, this year Google engineer Charles Pratt was in-residence at Howard University, where he revamped the school’s Intro to CS curriculum.
But we’re the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be—and that being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution. To learn more about our work on diversity—for our our workforce, for the web and for the tech leaders of the future—visit google.com/diversity.
Posted by Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President, People Operations
Category: Google | May 28, 2014
It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with saving energy. For over a decade we’ve been designing and building data centers that use half the energy of a typical data center, and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy use even further. In our pursuit of extreme efficiency, we’ve hit upon a new tool: machine learning. Today we’re releasing a white paper (PDF) on how we’re using neural networks to optimize data center operations and drive our energy use to new lows.
It all started as a 20 percent project, a Google tradition of carving out time for work that falls outside of one’s official job description. Jim Gao, an engineer on our data center team, is well-acquainted with the operational data we gather daily in the course of running our data centers. We calculate PUE, a measure of energy efficiency, every 30 seconds, and we’re constantly tracking things like total IT load (the amount of energy our servers and networking equipment are using at any time), outside air temperature (which affects how our cooling towers work) and the levels at which we set our mechanical and cooling equipment. Being a smart guy—our affectionate nickname for him is “Boy Genius”—Jim realized that we could be doing more with this data. He studied up on machine learning and started building models to predict—and improve—data center performance.
The mechanical plant at our facility in The Dalles, Ore. The data center team is constantly tracking the performance of the heat exchangers and other mechanical equipment pictured here.
What Jim designed works a lot like other examples of machine learning, like speech recognition: a computer analyzes large amounts of data to recognize patterns and “learn” from them. In a dynamic environment like a data center, it can be difficult for humans to see how all of the variables—IT load, outside air temperature, etc.—interact with each other. One thing computers are good at is seeing the underlying story in the data, so Jim took the information we gather in the course of our daily operations and ran it through a model to help make sense of complex interactions that his team—being mere mortals—may not otherwise have noticed.
A simplified version of what the models do: take a bunch of data, find the hidden interactions, then provide recommendations that optimize for energy efficiency.
After some trial and error, Jim’s models are now 99.6 percent accurate in predicting PUE. This means he can use the models to come up with new ways to squeeze more efficiency out of our operations. For example, a couple months ago we had to take some servers offline for a few days—which would normally make that data center less energy efficient. But we were able to use Jim’s models to change our cooling setup temporarily—reducing the impact of the change on our PUE for that time period. Small tweaks like this, on an ongoing basis, add up to significant savings in both energy and money.
The models can predict PUE with 99.6 percent accuracy.
By pushing the boundaries of data center operations, Jim and his team have opened up a new world of opportunities to improve data center performance and reduce energy consumption. He lays out his approach in the white paper, so other data center operators that dabble in machine learning (or who have a resident genius around who wants to figure it out) can give it a try as well.
Posted by Joe Kava, VP, Data Centers