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Pi Day

Posted by ubikuberalles, 14 March 2008 · 970 views

Today is March 14th. 3/14. Also known as Pi day.

Pi is one of the most important mathematical constants. So important, in fact, that Larry Shaw - known as the "Prince of Pi" - decided to celebrate the number by starting off the "pi day" celebration at San Francisco's Exploratorium. On this day you can eat fruit and pizza pie at the Exploratorium.

Pi is an irrational number. That means it is composed of a sequence of numbers that never repeats. Heck, it's more than that, it's a transcendental number which means its value cannot be reproduced with a finite sequence of algebraic operations using integers. That puts it in a special class since only a few transcendental numbers are known to exist ("e" is another one).

Pi is an obsession to many mathematicians, who have gone to extraordinary lengths to calculate the next digit of Pi. So far Pi has been calculated to 1.24 trillion digits. In other words, it would take a Terabyte disk drive just to hold that number. This is the kind of thing that makes you wonder why they do it. Are they trying to find the impossible "last" digit of Pi? If we calculate Pi to the 10 gazillionth digit would God show up, thank us for our effort and close up shop (like what happened in the Arthur C. Clarke story The Nine Billion Names of God)? Scientists try to cover themselves by saying that, although this level of accuracy for Pi is of little practical use, it contributes to "improving calculating methods". Ya, right. Whatever. We all know the real reason, you geeks.

I have to admit to my own geekiness on this matter. I know Pi to 14 digits from memory: 3.1415926535897 (I swear I didn't look it up). That's nothing compared to a few people I know who've memorized it to 20 or 30 digits.

Pi day is also important to remember because it's the birthday of Albert Einstein, my all-time favorite scientist and personal hero. He was born on this day in 1879 making him 129 years old if he were alive today.

Billy Crystal and Kirby Puckett were born on Pi day. A bunch of other notables were also born on this day too (like the Austrian composer Richard Strauss) but those two stick out in my mind. Mostly because I'm from Minnesota and Kirby played for the Twins (Billy Crystal is notable to me because, well, he's Billy Crystal).

The most important reason I like Pi day is because...well...it's my birthday. :D Perhaps I should celebrate by eating some (pizza) pi(e).

Heh, didn't know there was a Pi day. I only know it up to 5 digits.. 3.14159. For all practical purposes that's a very good aproximation after all. So who knows what will happen if we calculate Pi a lot.. maybe we find a secret egg? Perhaps not... Either way, happy birthday!
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Happy BirthPiDay!
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In Germany, we don't have a PI day. :lolblue:

14.3. :D
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In Germany, we don't have a PI day. :lolblue:

14.3. :D

You have 22/7... Which is closer to π than 3.14 :D
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You have 22/7... Which is closer to π than 3.14 :lolblue:

Just remember that according to the inventor of Duff's Device (no relation to Homer's favorite beer), Pi seconds is a nanocentury.
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For Pi Day my Algebra II class calculated π to 20 digits by hand as a team. They used Machin's formula and the Taylor series for the inverse tangent. (I've explained that they will learn how the series works when they get to second-semester Calculus.)

I like π as much as the next math geek, but I have to agree with this article that argues that 2π is a more important constant.
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