Google easter eggs: 15 best hidden jokes

1) Google Reader ninja

Probably the finest - and certainly the most childish - Google easter egg. Using the arrow keys, type "up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A" while using the firm's RSS feed reader, and a little ninja appears on the left of the screen, which turns partially blue.

It's a play on the cheat code that worked on early Nintendo video games produced by Konami, the Japanese entertainment company.

2) Steve Irwin

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Most of the 3D buildings that appear in Google Earth have been sketched by independent designers, some of whom managed to sneak in easter eggs of their own.

Spin round to the waterfront side of the Sydney Opera House in Australia and you'll find a model of the late wildlife expert and adventurer Steve Irwin wrestling a crocodile.

3) GMail spam recipes

The suggested links that appear in the bar above GMail inboxes are - depending on your view - entertaining, irrelevant or annoying. But you can't help but smile at the recipe ideas that appear in the same bar of the spam folder.

The menu includes Spam Confetti Pasta, French Fry Spam Casserole and Spam Breakfast Burritos, and best of all they link to real recipes.

4) Recursion

The search engine's "did you mean" feature helps even the worst spellers locate useful results. But type "recursion" into the search box and it suggests "recursion" as an alternative, sending you on a loop of clicks that all generate identical results. Word play, Google-style.

5) Talk to a martian

The Mars feature of Google Earth 5 allows users to explore the surface of the Red Planet - and chat to the locals. Typing "Meliza" into the search box takes you to an area of the planet where you can strike up a conversation with a martian.

But don't expect anything too deep. The martian's chat is powered by Eliza, a rudimentary artificial intelligence application that aims to replicate human interaction, but doesn't really succeed.

6) The meaning of life

Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the geek bible, and it seems that Google's engineers are big fans. Type "answer to life, the universe and everything" into the query box and "42" comes out as the top result.

Other phrases that generate tongue-in-cheek answers from Google Calculator include "number of horns on a unicorn" and "once in a blue moon".

7) Google Earth flight simulator

As if soaring above the planet wasn't enough, Google Earth allows users to fly an F-16 fighter jet anywhere in the world.

Simply press Ctrl + Alt + A to activate the rudimentary flight simulator; you can learn the controls here. The simulator was originally inserted as an easter egg but has since become one of the official features of the programme.

8) Ascii art

The name may not be familiar but you'll undoubtedly have seen examples of ascii art on the web. It has become a catch-all term for any images made from keyboard characters, and has maintained its popularity despite the obsolescence of the early text-only computers where the style originated.

Googlers are so fond of ascii art that they alter their doodle whenever anyone searches for the phrase.

9) Niniane kicks ass

This easter egg is almost impossible to stumble upon, but fortunately Google employees have spilled the beans. Search for "Niniane kicks ass" in Google Maps are you are directed to the tech firm's headquarters in Mountain View, California, where an engineering manager called Niniane Wang worked until this year.

As Mrs Wang explains on her personal website, her name was inserted into the Google Maps coding after she won a dinner-time bet with a colleague.

10) MentalPlex