Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Happy 30th Pi Day And The Joy Of Pi

This mysterious 3.1459... which comes in at every door and window,
and down every chimney. - Augustus De Morgan in "A Budget of Paradoxes"

Even if math is not really your thing, March 14 is a fun day. It is the birthday of Albert Einstein and  a perfect occasion to have a large piece of your favorite pie. 

March 14 is also a day of Steven Hawking's death who passed away today in Cambridge, UK, at the age of 76.

The constant pi represented by the Greek letter π is a number that expresses the ratio of the circumference of a perfect circle to its diameter. The value of pi has been calculated to more than a trillion of decimal digits.

No other number has captured as much attention and imagination throughout the human history. It is an irrational number that has many applications in various areas of science and mathematics, including theoretical physics, geometry, trigonometry, integral and differential calculus, number theory, probability theory, and statistics.

It is impossible to know when the number π was first calculated. Early mathematicians must have discovered the relationship between circumference of a circle and  its radius by simple experimentation which involved a rope. Ever since this relationship was discovered, people in many cultures obsessed with it and worked to calculate the precise ratio with millions of digits after the coma. Others tried to learn and commit to memory as many digits of the π as possible.

Ten decimal places of π are sufficient to give the circumference of the earth to a fraction of an inch, and thirty decimal places would give the circumference of the visible universe to a quantity imperceptible to the most powerful microscope. - Simon Newcomb in Comic Sections by D. MacHale

The first significant celebration of the number π took place in 1988 in San Francisco. The celebration was organized by the physicist Larry Shaw and involved pie eating and discussions about π. In 2009 the US Congress recognized March 14 as the National Pi Day in an effort to promote math learning.

Whether you are enjoying a slice of a scrumptious, perfectly round pie today, doing some calculus, or simply throwing a pie throwing party, give some thought to this magical number that is so embedded in the fabric of the universe that surrounds us.

Happy Pi Day!

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon@2018