Q: What do you get when you cross a stone with a sphere?
A: Rock and Roll
Gather together with your circle of friends, or circle the wagons, tap into your inner geek, and have fun with Pi today.
My old friend Paul was a punster who could cause a roomful of people to groan with his utterances. Choose a topic, and he’d have a pun for it on the tip of his tongue. One of his mathematics gems was this one: “The roundest knight at King Arthur’s Court was Sir Cumference. He ate too much Pi.”
Pi day is the brainstorm of physicist Larry Shaw who works at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. This brainiac’s holiday long ago became an international day of note and is also an Internet favorite among the numbered set.
People have been pondering circles for ages. Ancient mathematicians have been working on calculating the areas of circles for at least 4,000 years. In Babylon, the area of a circle was approximated by multiplying the square of its radius. One ancient Babylonian tablet gave a Pi-like number of 3.125. Ancient Egyptian priests used the number 3.16 to reach the approximate value they needed.
One of the most famous ancient mathematicians, Archimedes of Syracuse, arrived at his number by using the Pythagorean Theorem to determine the areas of two regular polygons that were inscribed within a circle. Through some mathematical gymnastics Archimedes understood that he had not found the actual number, but he did determine the number he needed was between 3.10 and 3.17. Mathematicians have been working on narrowing down Pi ever since then. Today we approximate it as 3.14159…, etc.
In 2010 researchers had calculated π to the 2-quadrillionth digit–2,000,000,000,000,000. A year later, Australian researchers put a super computer to work on the project and came up with a number down to the 60-trillianth digit. This mysterious number continues to fascinate people and will likely remain puzzling for many years to come.
π is an irrational number so it cannot be exactly expressed as a regular, common fraction. The approximation can only be further approximated by 22/7 or thereabouts.
Mathematicians started to use the Greek letter π in the 18th century. It was proposed by William Jones in 1706 then popularized by Leonhard Euler around 1737.
So why is today π Day? By the U.S. date format for March 14th, we have 3-14 or 3.14. The perfect Pi day was in 2015 when the day was 3/14/15. Of course, perfect Pi days are once in a lifetime events.
Comparisons of Pi with pie are inevitable, so let’s wince at this oldie but goodie: “The worst thing about getting hit in the face with Pi is that it never ends.”
We also have several variation on pie, including: “What do you get if you divide the circumference of a bowl of ice cream by its diameter? Pi a’la mode.”
Enjoy some nerdy fun and have a Happy Pi Day.