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Geeks and non-geeks alike have long recognized Google as the
undisputed king of Internet search engines. But true technophiles regard the
search authority as one of the few remaining holdouts of the all-but-extinct
dot-com culture.

Google employees are still the object of envy from their
techno-industry compatriots due to their lavish company perks, which include free
massage treatments and yoga instruction, as well as an onsite doctor and
dentist, and the realization of the mythical free lunch every day. For most,
these benefits now seem almost like relics of a bygone era.

But before you begin scanning Google’s job openings for a
spot in geek paradise, you may want to make doubly sure that a listing isn’t
just another example of the former upstart start-up’s sense of humor. After
all, Google made headlines a couple months back with a job listing for its new Copernicus
Center, scheduled to open on the surface of the moon in 2007.

It should come as no surprise that the job posting was nothing
more than a snarky public relations gimmick, but it worked. Google garnered not
only substantive media attention in both mainstream (CNN) and geek (Slashdot)
quarters, but rumor has it that several wishful thinkers actually applied for
the fictional jobs.

Indeed, Google’s developers built humor into the search
engine itself by virtue of its I’m
Feeling Lucky
button. Designers ostensibly created it to take searchers
directly to the most likely result for any given query, but on more than one
occasion they’ve used it for prankster purposes.

The most famous example of this practice was last year’s
error page,”
generated by an I’m Feeling Lucky query for the phrase “weapons of mass
destruction.” Once again, Google received extra attention and traffic
numbers simply by being a little funny and perhaps more than a little
politically savvy.

Of course, Google has needed little humor to help its Q
rating recently, thanks to its expected multibillion-dollar initial public
offering (IPO) that has financial investors salivating. However, a little
geek-centric humor has found its way into the Google IPO process, provided you
know what you’re looking for.

WHAT GEEK-CENTRIC JOKE DID GOOGLE HIDE IN ITS IPO FILING
DOCUMENTS?

What geek-centric joke did Google hide in its filings for an
initial public offering (IPO) of stock?

If one were so inclined to read the full text of Google’s
rather unorthodox IPO application as filed with the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission—and provided one were familiar with somewhat advanced
mathematics—your eye might pause upon a familiar number below the listing of Proposed
Maximum Aggregate Offering Price: 2,718,281,828. These are the first ten digits
of Euler’s number, otherwise known as Napier’s constant, the natural log base,
or e.

So while the common stock analyst would only see that Google
expects to generate more than $2.7 billion from its IPO, the math geeks of the
world can pause for a momentary chuckle at having slipped another inside joke
past the “civilians” of the business world.

For those of you too far removed from high school
mathematics to recall the natural log base (a group that includes the Trivia
Geek), mathematicians use Euler’s number to simplify the computation of certain
exponents in theoretical mathematics. In other words, the average person would
have absolutely no reason to ever use the natural log base, which is probably
why Google chose it for its little inside joke.

The press often directly attributes this practice of
embracing and cultivating practical jokes into Google’s business dealings to
the company’s cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Indeed, many have feared
that Google’s corporate culture will be lost in the wake of its IPO, as the
one-time start-up becomes just another slave to investors’ demands for
quarterly profits.

But have no fear: Besides the higher-math cameos, Google’s
IPO is a surprisingly savvy business document. The company designed the IPO
share sale and voting structure to ensure that Brin and Page maintain control
of their company, which should keep unreasonable investor interference at bay—and
keep the quirky Google humor in play.

The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of
this week’s Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article.
Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and
discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

Picking up where we left off before my hiatus, let’s revisit
the quibble regarding the April 21 edition of Geek Trivia, “Personal
success,”
which discussed the historical significance of the MITS
Altair 8800 personal computer. Legend has it that the Altair’s name is a
science fiction reference, specifically a Star
Trek
episode.

TechRepublic member T.
E. Walker
somewhat admonished me for not properly identifying the episode
as “Amok Time,” which first discusses Spock’s famous seven-year itch.
More important, the starship Enterprise changes course and travels away from
the Altair system to save Spock’s life.

The real quibble, however, comes from members Thotful and Wdunwoody, who both rightfully point out that the planet Altair IV
was the setting for the 1950s sci-fi classic film Forbidden Planet, which might also have influenced the famous PC’s
naming convention.

Alas, we may never know which answer is right, simply
because the Altair’s developers have publicly stated that they don’t remember,
but far be it from us to let such trifles stand in the way of good Geek Trivia.

The Trivia Geek, also
known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who’s
duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic
books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.