π is quite an impressive and interesting concept. The “right-upright” rounded depiction of this Greek letter became the Roman “P”. In the Cyrillic alphabet it is the letter “Π” (peh), the cursive capital form looks nearly identical to π. We can clearly see that π has influenced human language and culture.

What is celebrated today, is the mathematical meaning of π. In junior high or middle school geometry class, you may have been taught that Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter or π = C/d. You might remember that a circle’s circumference is a little over three times the length of it’s diameter, this ratio is π.

π is probably the most famous irrational and transcendental number. It cannot be accurately expressed as a fraction; one form approximates it as 103993/33102. It is usually shown in its decimal form: π = 3.1414926535… with the … meaning it theoretically goes on forever without pattern or repetition.

π is occasionally called Archimedes’ constant and sometimes called Ludolph’s constant. Ludolph van Ceulen was a mathematician who lived in Holland in the 16th century. The symbol “π” was used first by the Welsh mathematician William Jones in 1706. As far as the particular operations these men performed, I’ll leave the descriptions to more mathematically inclined people and scholarly websites.

So, why is today celebrated as Pi Day? Notice how the first numbers of π coincide with the American numerical depiction of the date, 3/14. For this reason, π is both a number and a cultural phenomenon. It’s one of the too few observations that celebrate intelligence.

Another interesting fact is that today is Albert Einstein’s birthday. He was born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany on March 14, 1879. I’m sure the significance of 3/14 and π was not overlooked by him. I’m sure the fun-loving genius enjoyed this coincidence. Of course, Einstein’s contributions go far beyond basic geometry and the calculation of circumferences.

This year, global attention has once again focused on Albert Einstein because of the verification of Gravitational Waves. This phenomenon was the last prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity. The world took notice of the announcement released on February eleventh, this year, by the “Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory”. Scientists measured small waves or ripples in space-time that were produced by the collision of two black holes.

The discovery is important to physics for at least three reasons. The most obvious reason is that direct observation of gravitational waves has been accomplished. It’s also important because this was the very first time a binary black hole system has been observed. Third, this is the most convincing evidence, so far, that actual black holes are the very objects that Einstein’s Relativity Theory predicted.

So, we see that this year’s observation of Pi Day is quite special. Pi Day is a great time to express your inner nerd in fun ways. Some people enjoy a special Pi Pie for dessert. Some folks wear Pi tee shirts or drink their coffee from Pi mugs. The hardcore nerds try to calculate π to ever greater places. At least most regular people can enjoy peculiar mathematics humor today, Pi Day.

Here’s a groaner for you: “Did you know that 3.14 percent of all sailors ar Pi-rates?”

Ciao

The Blue Jay of Happiness shares this link that shows Pi to one million digits: http://www.piday.org/million/ .