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While winds howl, frost bites and snow falls, people dream of getting away from it all. Every year around this time, we see an uptick in searches for spring and summer travel from people who have had it up to here with winter. And in the middle of one of the coldest, snowiest, iciest winters on record in the U.S., you better believe people are gearing up to grab their suntan lotion and their carry-ons, and hop on a plane. Enter Google Flights, which makes it easy to plan the trip that’s right for you. Here are a few tips to help you book this year’s dream vacation.

Flexibility is key when finding great deals
There’s a travel myth that you can always find the best deals on Tuesday. But actually, you can find good deals any day of the week—especially if you’re flexible with your travel dates. Though it’s sometimes hard to pull the trigger because you’re afraid the price will drop tomorrow (or next Tuesday, maybe?), our experience shows it’s usually best to book right away.

Regardless of which day you sit down to plan your trip, you can use the calendar in Google Flights to scroll through months and see the lowest fare highlighted for each day. If you’re planning even further out, use the lowest fares graph beneath the calendar to see how prices may fluctuate based on the season, holidays or other events. You can also set preferences (such as direct flights only) and our calendar will adjust to show you just those flights and fares that fit the bill. Finally, if you can save more by using a nearby airport or flying on a different day, we’ll show you a tip at the top of your results.
Not sure about your destination? No problem
Sometimes, you know exactly where your destination needs to be—say, when you’re taking a business trip, or headed to a wedding or family reunion. But there are times when all you know is that you want to go somewhere. Maybe you want to go somewhere with a beach, but don’t care if it’s in Greece or the Caribbean. Or you want to visit Southeast Asia, but aren’t sure which countries to visit.

Our research shows more than half of searchers don’t know where they’re going to travel when they sit down to plan. With Google Flights, you can search for regions or whole countries, like “Flights to Europe” and “Flights to Mexico." Or, expand the map to scan the entire world and see accurate prices for all the different cities you can fly to, along with filters for your flight preferences. If you’re in a particularly adventurous—or lazy—mood, select the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on the map and we’ll suggest ideas for where to go based on popular destinations and your past search history.

But… cheaper isn’t always better
We all love a good deal, but when it comes to choosing flights, cheaper doesn’t always win—and no wonder, when sometimes that means two connections instead of none. On Google Flights, the vast majority of people choose one of the Best flights—considered to be flights that are the best combination of price and convenience. Try it out next time you’re looking for something that fits your schedule, not just your budget.

So once you’ve warmed your hands on that cup of hot cocoa, put them to work on your keyboard or phone. Google Flights is ready to find the best destinations, dates, fares and flights for you to get away from it all.

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One student celebrated Martin Luther King Day. Another created a music video with a nod to a Frozen princess. A third invited a cold polar bear in for holiday cheer. All these students are participants in Google CS First, a program that teaches 9- to 14-year-olds how to use computer science (CS) to express themselves and their interests. In the process, they get a window into the world of coding and learn skills that may be useful to them in the future.

We launched CS First back in 2013, and since then more than 19,000 students have participated at one of 1,300+ CS First clubs around the country, most run by teachers, parents and volunteers. All our CS First materials are free and available online, and the curriculum is designed for everyone to work at their own pace, meaning it’s accessible even to people who are new to technology. It’s also designed to tap into students’ existing interests, showing them how CS can integrate with the rest of their lives. Inspired by fashion, art, music, politics and more, students have used code to build videos, games and stories on topics big and small, from how they met their best friends to solving global hunger.
CS First participants at Sedgefield Middle School in Goose Creek, SC look over a friend’s shoulder at her project

Now, we’re partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Corporation for National and Community Service to bring CS First to even more students across the country. A new group of 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members will spend a year helping local Boys & Girls Clubs incorporate CS First and other educational programs into their slate of activities, giving more young people, especially those who might not otherwise be exposed to coding, greater access to computer science education.

Computer science is increasingly important to building a successful career, in fields varying from medicine to architecture to music. But today, there aren’t enough computer scientists to fill the available jobs—and on top of that, many populations aren’t equally represented in the field. According to code.org, only 8 percent of people who take the Advanced Placement Computer Science Exam are students of color, and only 15 percent are women. And while women earn 57 percent of all bachelor's degrees, only 12 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to women. We want to expand the pool of technologists, and make sure that all young people, regardless of background or resources, have access to high-quality CS education from an early age.

That’s what this new effort is all about. Our partners have long been committed to supporting young people and communities. Boys & Girls Clubs of America gives young people access to opportunities to help them become productive and responsible citizens during out of school time. And AmeriCorps VISTA taps the skills and passion of more than 7,000 Americans annually to support community efforts to overcome poverty. Working together, we can empower more young people with the technical know-how they need to succeed in today’s society and economy.

Join us in making CS more accessible to more kids, and apply on the AmeriCorps website by March 1. If accepted, you’ll come to the Google headquarters in Mountain View for training before spending a year in one of six cities. Best of all, your year of service will make a real difference in the lives of young people.

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When we were kids, if we wanted to learn more about gorillas or how to make friendship bracelets, our parents pointed us to an encyclopedia, or took us to the library. When we wanted to watch cartoons, we eagerly awaited Saturday morning. Today’s kids have it even better—they have all of these options, plus a world of knowledge and information at their fingertips via the Internet. That opens up wonderful opportunities, but also can cause some worry for those of us who are parents.

So over the past year, teams across Google—including many passionate parents—have been looking at how families are using our products, and how we can make it easier for children and parents to explore and play together. We decided to start with YouTube.

For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on a variety of topics. And today, we’re launching YouTube Kids, a new family-friendly app that makes it easy for kids to explore a vast selection of videos on any topic.

In the new YouTube Kids app, available on Android and iOS in the U.S., videos are narrowed to focus on content that is appropriate for the whole family. You might explore DIY arts and crafts, learn how to find the circumference of a circle, or watch favorites from Mother Goose Club to Minecraft, as well as new series from National Geographic Kids and Reading Rainbow. And there are more train videos than even you can count.

We’ve designed the app to be easier for kids to use, with a brighter and bigger interface that’s perfect for small thumbs and pudgy fingers. For parents, we’ve built in options that let you decide how your family uses the app, including the ability to set viewing limits with a timer.

Head over to YouTube’s blog to learn more. This is just our first step—we’ll keep tinkering and hope to have more great products for your family soon.

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What we learned this week on search: New England’s stuck in a winter wonderland, Cindy Crawford doesn’t need makeup to look better than the rest of us and Lady Gaga’s caught in a good romance. Read on to learn the details.

Baby, it’s (still) cold outside
What better way to start your morning than with seven feet of snow? That’s what the lucky people of New England are saying (or not saying) as they endure the wrath of the aptly named Thundersnow. This type of storm occurs when a thunderstorm features snow instead of rain, and is just the latest storm in a record-breaking month of winter weather. The phenomena led to 20,000+ searches, which might have at least a little to do with The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore’s on-air celebration when the storm hit. Whatever makes you happy, Jim.

A date with destiny 
All eyes will be on the Academy Awards this Sunday, and people are prepping for their Oscar parties turning to the Internet to find out who’s up for Best Actor and Best Actress. But the highlight of the event is the Best Picture Category, which many consider to be a tight race this year. The favorites are Boyhood and Birdman, but if searches this past month determined the winner, it would be Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

And if we’re talking about a night out with the stars, does anyone know where Cindy Crawford is? This past week, unretouched photos of the American supermodel appeared online and, well—she still looked stunning. The photo went viral and drummed up a discussion on the media’s portrayal of female beauty.


Last call is in... 
The party didn’t stop at midnight this past Tuesday as people started their Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday celebrations. Searches for the holiday spiked on February 17, and there was an increase in searches for New Orleans delicacies beignets and King Cake. On the other side of the world, many people in Asia welcomed the Year of the Goat (or sheep...or ram...whichever you prefer) as they rang in the Lunar New Year with style, not to mention topping the charts with more than 2 million searches. 

Sparks are flying 
Lady Gaga electrified search this week when she announced that she’s switching her Poker Face for a wedding veil to marry boyfriend Taylor Kinney. Fans of the pop queen took to the web to find photos of her heart-shaped engagement ring and new fiancĂ©, causing searches for Kinney to hit an all-time high. Doesn’t sound like a bad romance to us.

Speaking of electricity, this past Wednesday our doodle marked the 270th birthday of the godfather of all Energizer Bunnies, Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the first electrical battery. Searches for “Who is Alessandro Volta” and the “voltaic pile” hit highs, ensuring that the great inventor will be remembered for years to come.


Tip of the week
Don’t have time to watch the three-hour-long Academy Awards this weekend? Just search for the Oscars in the Google App and you’ll find the latest info on what just happened, from acceptance speeches to behind-the-scenes moments.

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Science is about observing and experimenting. It’s about exploring unanswered questions, solving problems through curiosity, learning as you go and always trying again.

That’s the spirit behind the fifth annual Google Science Fair, kicking off today. Together with LEGO Education, National Geographic, Scientific American and Virgin Galactic, we’re calling on all young researchers, explorers, builders, technologists and inventors to try something ambitious. Something imaginative, or maybe even unimaginable. Something that might just change the world around us.
From now through May 18, students around the world ages 13-18 can submit projects online across all scientific fields, from biology to computer science to anthropology and everything in between. Prizes include $100,000 in scholarships and classroom grants from Scientific American and Google, a National Geographic Expedition to the Galapagos, an opportunity to visit LEGO designers at their Denmark headquarters, and the chance to tour Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship at their Mojave Air and Spaceport. This year we’re also introducing an award to recognize an Inspiring Educator, as well as a Community Impact Award honoring a project that addresses an environmental or health challenge.

It’s only through trying something that we can get somewhere. Flashlights required batteries, then Ann Makosinski tried the heat of her hand. His grandfather would wander out of bed at night, until Kenneth Shinozuka tried a wearable sensor. The power supply was constantly unstable in her Indian village, so Harine Ravichandran tried to build a different kind of regulator. Previous Science Fair winners have blown us away with their ideas. Now it’s your turn.

Big ideas that have the potential to make a big impact often start from something small. Something that makes you curious. Something you love, you’re good at, and want to try.

So, what will you try?



(Cross-posted on the Google for Education Blog)

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Happy Valentine’s Day (and long weekend!) to all you searchers out there. Here’s a look at the past week in Google Search:

Artists in the spotlight
Around The Grammy’s last week, two artists were at the front of the search pack: Beck, who took home the Album of the Year award, and Kanye West. Kanye almost pulled a Kanye (of 2009 VMA’s fame) when he appeared on the verge of interrupting Beck’s acceptance speech; West was upset that Beck won the award over Beyonce, who (according to West) had the best album of all time.

Other top artists in search include Sia—along with Kristen Wiig, who appeared in Sia’s Grammy performance, although Sia’s face did not—and Annie Lennox, who’s still got it. Finally, searchers were struck by a sober moment during the ceremony: after domestic abuse survivor Brooke Axtell shared her personal story on stage, search interest in [domestic violence] spiked 93x.
News in the news
Shock followed shock for news hounds this week. First, a week after Brian Williams admitted that he had wrongly claimed to have been on a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2003, he was suspended for six months by NBC’s Nightly News. Now he’s at an all-time high in search. Meanwhile, Jon Stewart announced he will leave The Daily Show after 16 years, devastating loyal fans everywhere and inspiring speculation over who will replace him. And finally, we said goodbye to two legends of journalism: Bob Simon, CBS News reporter and 60 Minutes correspondent for decades, and The New York Times’ media columnist David Carr are being mourned by colleagues and readers.
Jackpot
Some lucky viewers got a sneak peek at the third season of Netflix drama House of Cards when new episodes were accidentally posted online. More than 50,000 searches followed as people tried to get a glimpse before they were taken down. And speaking of lucky, this week’s $500+ million Powerball jackpot had people searching like crazy in hopes of winning the big bucks. There were 2 million searches for [Powerball] on Wednesday, and more for [mega millions] and [lottery numbers]. So far, one person has come forward to claim one of the three winning tickets, so maybe you should check your pockets...

Searching for love
Valentine’s Day has people scrambling and searching for flowers and gift ideas. Interestingly, there are three times as many searches for [gifts for a boyfriend], than [gifts for a girlfriend], but when it comes to married couples things are reversed: there are more searches for [gifts for wife] than for [gifts for husband]. (We’ll just leave that there.) People turn to search for planning all kinds of Valentine’s Day activities, from “What should I wear on a first date?” to choosing a romantic movie.
Tip of the week
Go on, tell that special someone how you feel this weekend. The Google app can help—when your own words just aren’t good enough, say “Ok Google, show me a love quote.” Pro tip: give credit where credit is due. No one likes a plagiarist.

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Technology can help us do more with less. For example, making use of natural climates has helped us make our data centers 50% more efficient than the industry average, and green building technology has helped us limit energy consumption in our offices around the world. Now, we’re doing more with less to power Google’s North Bayshore campus in Mountain View.

We’ve recently signed a long-term agreement to purchase enough local wind energy to offset the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters on an annual basis. While we’ve been committed to being a carbon-neutral company since 2007, and we purchase clean energy for our data centers, this agreement is the first of its kind when it comes to our offices.

The agreement with NextEra Energy Resources will help to repower an iconic Bay Area wind farm at California’s Altamont Pass with new turbines that will pour 43 MW of electricity onto the grid starting in 2016. This new technology is twice as efficient, and also safer—especially for wildlife.
The new turbines will generate energy that feeds into the grid that powers our North Bayshore buildings in Mountain View. While these electrons can’t be traced once they enter the grid, we can measure how many of them leave the turbines, as well as how many we use on campus on an annual basis (tracked through a system of renewable energy credits, or RECs). So even though the electrons follow an untraceable path through the California electricity grid, we can be sure that we're offsetting the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters with the renewable energy from the new turbines.

Since our first wind investment in 2010, we’ve developed close relationships with renewable energy providers, helping us secure renewable energy agreements like this one for our campus and data centers—more than 1.1 gigawatt’s worth to date—and it’s also made it possible for us to make equity investments in 17 utility-scale renewable energy projects. And over the years we’ve been thrilled to see other California leaders, from tech companies to universities, also working to bring more renewable energy online.

Finally, if we can geek out for a minute: We think this project is especially cool because back in the 1980’s, the golden hills of Altamont Pass were an early test bed for the first large-scale wind power technology in the U.S. We’ve been blown away (pun intended :)) by how far turbine technology has come since then. Once the installation is complete, and the 370 legacy turbines are replaced, it will take just 24 new ones to generate as much power as our campus uses in a year. Talk about doing more with less.

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Online security is on everyone’s mind these days. According to a recent Gallup poll, more people are worried about their online accounts being hacked than having their home broken into.

Security has always been a top priority for Google. Our Safe Browsing technology identifies unsafe websites and warns people before they visit them, protecting more than one billion Chrome, Firefox, and Safari users everyday. 2-Step Verification adds an extra layer of security, beyond your password, to your Google account; it’s like a second padlock on your account’s door. And our research teams regularly release new findings about nefarious online activity, like Gmail account hijacking attempts, so people can stay informed.

We have many protections in place to keep people, and their information, secure, but there's also a lot that you can do to protect yourself. Today, on Safer Internet Day, take a quick Security Checkup, an easy way to review and manage your Google Account’s security settings.
Here are some of the important items you can review during your Security Checkup:
  • Recovery information: Adding a phone number can help us get in touch if you’re locked out of your account. We’ll only use your phone number to protect your account, unless you say otherwise.
  • Recent activity: This is a quick overview of your recent sign-ins to Google. If you see any activity from a location or device you don’t recognize, change your password immediately.
  • Account permissions: These are the apps, websites and devices connected to your Google account. Take a look and make sure you trust—and actually use—all of them. You might want to remove an old phone, or that dusty app you never use.
It takes just a few minutes to make sure your information is accurate and up to date. And as an extra thank you, we’ll add 2GB to your Drive storage plan if you complete the Security Checkup by February 17. Visit your Account Settings and take your Security Checkup today.

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Think of the last time you searched on Google for health information. Maybe you heard a news story about gluten-free diets and pulled up the Google app to ask, "What is celiac disease?" Maybe a co-worker shook your hand and later found out she had pink eye, so you looked up “pink eye” to see whether it’s contagious. Or maybe you were worried about a loved one—like I was, recently, when my infant son Veer fell off a bed in a hotel in rural Vermont, and I was concerned that he might have a concussion. I wasn’t able to search and quickly find the information I urgently needed (and I work at Google!).

Thankfully my son was OK, but the point is this stuff really matters: one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information. And you should find the health information you need more quickly and easily.

So starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph. We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.
We worked with a team of medical doctors (led by our own Dr. Kapil Parakh, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.) to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy.

That doesn’t mean these search results are intended as medical advice. We know that cases can vary in severity from person to person, and that there are bound to be exceptions. What we present is intended for informational purposes only—and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern.

But we hope this can empower you in your health decisions by helping you learn more about common conditions. We’re rolling it out over the next few days, in the U.S. in English to start. In the long run, not only do we plan to cover many more medical conditions, but we also want to extend this to other parts of the world. So the next time you need info on frostbite symptoms, or treatments for tennis elbow, or the basics on measles, the Google app will be a better place to start.

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From a shark with two left feet to a sequel that has everyone buzzing, here’s what trended on search this week.

Haven’t we been here before? 
This past Monday, the U.S. turned to its dirt-dwelling psychic, the groundhog, to determine if it was finally time to put our snow boots back in the closet. Searches for “Did the groundhog see his shadow?” hit 100,000+ while other questions like “What is a groundhog?” also peaked on February 2. So did little Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow and curse us with another six weeks of winter? In fact, he did. Can we get a do-over?

Sports news 101 
Now that the dust has settled from this past Sunday’s Super Bowl, there are several things we can take away from the game. First, Tom Brady might be the best quarterback in football history after winning his fourth championship—he was also the most searched Superbowl quarterback. Second, either Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll made the worst call ever or New England’s victory is all part of a conspiracy (you decide). Last but not least, Left Shark put on the best half-time performance of all time… with help from Katy Perry. The Internet fell hook, line and sinker for the choreographically inept shark. Searchers were also curious about Missy Elliot after her appearance in the show.

 Model Ashley Graham also made a splash this week. Don’t know her? You will soon enough. Graham is set to appear Sport Illustrated’s famous swimsuit issue, making her the first plus-size model to be featured in an ad in the magazine.



Back in the headlines 
The spotlight is back on Lance Armstrong and it’s not helping the cyclist’s already damaged reputation. Back in December, Armstrong and his girlfriend Anna Hansen were involved in a hit-and-run accident involving parked cars. At the time, Hansen said she was driving the car during the incident—but it turns out Armstrong was actually the one behind the wheel, leading to two misdemeanor charges, rising interest on trends and more embarrassment for the star.

Iconic and reclusive writer Harper Lee topped the search charts when news emerged that she will be releasing a new book, a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, in July. The book comes 55 years after Lee’s first novel and the writer has a long history of avoiding the spotlight: She hasn’t granted any interviews or public appearances since Mockingbird came out. While many fans are rejoicing, the surprising announcement is leaving others skeptical. Lee turns 89 this April and is reportedly in ill health, leading some people to feel that the author might be being taken advantage of. We’ll have to wait and see how this story—as well as the one in Go Set A Watchman—unfolds.

Tip of the week
Ready for the long Presidents Day weekend? Look up flights for a last-minute escape. Just say, “Ok Google, show me flights from San Francisco,” to find where you can go to enjoy the day off.