GEORGE FERRIS’s DAY OFF: To play today, Google Doodle marks Valentine’s Day with a heart like a wheel

STEP RIGHT UP. Today, in the name of carnal-carnival love, the Ferris wheel is an animal attraction.

To mark twin events, Google is offering an interactive animation that might as well be piping out the tune “Heart Like a Wheel.”

For Valentine’s Day, the Bay Area-based tech titan lets you toy with its heart: Press on the fun-zone button and creatures are paired and made playable in googly-eyed love scenarios. (We won’t pause long enough to ponder the physical implications.)

It’s also a Google two-fer, as the Doodle celebrates the 154th birthday of late inventor George Ferris, as well as the towering wheel that bears his name.

The Illinois-born Ferris, who studied civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, had his own passion: for railroads and bridgework. By the late 1880s, George Washington Gale Ferris founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co., specializing in trains, and how they could move mountains in terms of modern travel became his professional tunnel of love.

In this era of burgeoning industrial achievement, the grandest thing at the 1889 Paris Exhibition had been the unveiling of a cloud-scraping romantic beacon: the Eiffel Tower. Soon the mustachioed Ferris, wanting to “out-Eiffel Eiffel,” proposed his own towering dream: a massive “bicycle wheel” of a ride — a spoked marvel bespoke for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Ferris overcame initial rejections and engineering challenges, and his 260-foot-high “observation wheel” — requiring new records in forged steel dimensions (including a 71-ton main axle) — moved from riveted vision to riveting reality.

[VALENTINE’S DAY 2012: Google’s charming musical Doodle]

The Ferris wheel was a hit and a spreading sensation. For 20 minutes and 50 cents, more than a thousand riders could be thrilled at a time.

George Ferris would die just three years later in Pittsburgh, of typhoid fever at age 37. But from London to Tokyo, from Texas to Tianjin, China, his invention still turns our heads.

And Google colorfully observes the wheel and its loving father.


. (courtesy of GOOGLE /.)
Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.

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