K. D. Dowdall

Pen and Paper

 Pi Day spotlights one of math’s most seductive numbers! by Dan Rockmore.

Why do we celebrate the number pi (π) on March 14? Because it’s the fourteenth day of the third month of the year, and 3 and 14 are the first three digits of pi’s decimal expansion. If you really want to show you’re a pi aficionado, you can start your celebration at 1:59 p.m. and 26 seconds, because with those five additional digits you have pi’s first eight digits: 3.1415926.

Those eight numbers are just the beginning of pi’s true value. Unlike most numbers we encounter in everyday life, pi has digits to the right of the decimal point that go on not just for a long time but forever — and in an unpredictable way. The Swiss mathematician Johann Heinrich Lambert proved that in 1761.

The short way to say this is that pi is an irrational number, one that cannot be represented as a fraction and thus has an infinite and never-repeating decimal expansion. And since the 19th Century, pi has been known to be transcendental, meaning that no combination of its powers can add up to a whole number. This distinguishes it again from more familiar irrational numbers like the square root of two (whose second power is equal to two).

REAL-WORLD REFLECTIONS

You don’t have to be a mathematician or even a “math person” to find pi fascinating. We all learned as students that pi represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, or, as we might put that mathematically, π = c/d. But not every student fully appreciates the fact that the ratio stays constant no matter how big or how small the circle.

Pi is an ideal. It characterizes the relationship between measurements of a perfect circle in a Platonic world. But we see its real-world reflection all around us. It’s present in coins, plates, those circular irrigation ponds you see from airplanes, and other familiar objects — pi is embedded within them all. The same is true for three-dimensional objects like spheres and cylinders. As long as something is round, pi applies.

And pi isn’t just about round things. Famously, it’s a piece of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which quantifies the level of precision one can obtain when making measurements at the subatomic level. Closer to home, pi is part of a formula used to price investment risk. Pi both leaves nothing to chance and helps measures chance.

ANCIENT ORIGINS

Pi is as timeless as it is unchanging. Our ancestors knew about pi at least as far back as 4,000 years ago, even if a Greek letter wasn’t used to denote it until 1647. The Bible contains an implicit reference to pi: A cylindrical vat used by Hiram in the “Book of Kings” is said to measure 10 cubits across and 30 cubits around. (30/10 = 3, which at least gives the first digit of pi.) The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians made their own estimates of pi’s value, and Archimedes famously used a clever geometric argument to place the value of pi between 22/7 and 223/71.

While both of those fractions come close to representing the actual value of pi, we’re always coming up with better ways to express pi’s value. Recent attempts tend to rely not on geometry but on mysterious formulas like the one often taught in first-year calculus:

 Mathematical formula

And this is just one of many “infinite series” representations for pi.

The Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan — you may know him from the 1991 book and 2015 movie “The Man Who Knew Infinity” — owes his fame, in part, to his pursuit of elaborate formulas for the reciprocal of pi, or “one over pi” in the common parlance. Ramanujan’s formulas reveal mysterious connections between pi and patterns in prime numbers — whole numbers like 2, 3, 5, and 7 that are divisible only by themselves and one.

GOING TO EXTREMES

Fascinating as they are in their own right, formulas like Ramanujan’s provide the starting point for the “extreme computing” efforts to calculate pi we’ve all read about in recent years. In 2016, computer whiz Peter Trueb made headlines when he used an ingenious computational configuration to calculate pi to mind-blowing 22,459,157,718,361 decimal points.

Related

While some people use computers to calculate ever-more-accurate values for pi, others memorize pi to thousands of digits and then recite them aloud in a public setting — as if reciting a sonnet for robots. The current Guiness Book world record holder here is Rajveer Meena from India, who in 2015 recited 70,000 digits of pi before stopping.

So while we differ in the ways we think about pi and work with pi, we can all come together today to celebrate the seductive powers it has over our minds. So on this March 14, take a moment to contemplate this remarkable constant — maybe over a slice of pie. Here in Dartmouth’s math department, we’ll have a nice selection — and we’ll start at precisely at 1:59 and 26 seconds.

Just for good measure.

Get the Mach newsletter.

SUBSCRIBE

2 thoughts on “Why We Celebrate March 14th – Happy Pi (TT) Day !

  1. And STEM people thought humanities people didn’t “get” it….Hah! Well done…

    Like

    1. KC….you bet we did, “get it”…Hah ha! Thank you KC…you made my day! Karen

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

BRAIN FREEZE

You are not here by accident, there is a purpose for you being here.

絲絨之問 The Velvet Underground Taipei Story

台北地下絲絨殘酷搖滾啟示錄 Apocalypse of justice and music: Close to the fire close to the edge-- La version la plus rare de notre VU Live House Taipei

tornadoday

...might I be found in words I leave behind

Legends of Windemere

Enjoy the Adventure

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Thonie Hevron brings the stories behind the badge

Soul Writing Project

a place for poetic-ish ramblings on life, love and happiness ♡

The Lonely Author

Hoping to inspire the world one word at a time.

Watching the Daisies

Life Lessons on the Importance of Slow

itwasinspiredbyaworld

itwasinspiredbyaworld

Blessed with a Star on the Forehead

As I navigate through this life ...

ROCKY ROAD FAMILY

Our small family living in a 5th wheel following Dads work as a rock fall technician... what could go wrong?

Bobby Blade

Short Stories

BOOKIVERSE

ALL ABOUT BOOKS

Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire

Where Mindy McGinnis Stores Her Extra Words

Life, As Kevy Michaels

Transformed By Meeting That Which I'm Not

XFINITE

embrace the impossible

firewatersite

Read, Play, Watch

The Vulpine Portfolio

Freelance Magickian. Neopagan Author. Modern Necromancer. Occult Historian. Lovecraft Nerd. Cyberpunk Geek.

travelingpersecond

Learning Cultures by Traveling

Michèle's Blog

For the love of our human spirit

ALMANDYNE

A storyteller who writes and scribbles, and calls it art.

from sand to stars

... and in between

Hot Shot Headlines

Fiery topics and scorching original work

What You Blog About

Let the world know what you blog about

Write your Destiny

The Writer's world

Finding French Charming

Finding True Love.. Even After Forty

Candid By Liz

Make It A Magical Day

Fairy Tale Feminista

Answering life's questions one fairy tale at a time.

dilip |

snaps, naps

Its good to be crazy Sometimes

A view from the inside of going through the minefield of the British benefit system if you are disabled and the ups and downs of coping with mental illness

Frank Parker's author site

A Septuagenarian's ramblings

The Fairy Tale Dimension

Looking Behind The Scenes

Jazz You Too

jazz music blog

Writergurlny

A Gingers Point Of View

To My Recollection

Poems and short stories by a writer in progress.

culturevultureexpress

A little bit of everything

My Window

Sharing my thoughts, poems, travel & art

Juliet Rivor Poetry & Prose

Writing poems, stories, quotes to inspire, motivate, and fill with emotion :)

The BookWorm Drinketh

Give Tea to the Tillerman, But Booze to the Bookworm!

Karen Pleskus

Author in progress

The Reluctant Poet

A Discovery of Enlightening Insights, Information, Humor, Writings and Musings

%d bloggers like this: