I’m going to be irrational today and go full circle by wishing you a Happy π Day. There are 3.141592… reasons for us to celebrate. We recognize this unofficial holiday because it is 3/14–March 14th written in the American configuration of the date.
The first time I heard about π was in junior high geometry class. The instructor described the circle as a shape with an infinite number of corners instead of being a shape that is cornerless. To this end, he said Leonardo da Vinci had tried to work on “squaring the circle” to approximate π.
Mathematicians used various words to describe the mathematical figure before the π symbol was standardized. Some of the terms were: circumferential, quantitas, proveniet circumferential, and in quam cum multpliectur diameter. These were simply different ways of saying, “the quantity which, when diameter is multiplied by it, yields the circumference”. Basically, π represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter–or how many times a circle’s diameter fits around its circumference.
Although popular culture associates the number π with circles, it isn’t limited to circles. The areas of arches, curves, and hypocycloids can be expressed in terms of π. Researchers have recently began to use pi in chaos theory, number theory, and probability.
People are pattern-finding creatures, so some psychologists believe this is the reason why many mathematicians are obsessed with trying to find a repeating pattern to pi. Since π is an irrational number, it has an infinite number of digits. The latest story about the highest number of generated digits for π claimed it was 12-trillion. Calculating pi depends on how obsessive the mathematicians are about the numbers and how much super-computer time the mathematicians have at their disposal. The upper places are only limited by the physical capabilities of the computer.
Here’s an interesting fact about π and circles: There are 360-degrees in a circle and π is used in circle calculations; the number sequence …360… begins at the 359th place of π.
Scholars have claimed that π is the most important, intriguing number in the field of mathematics. At least it is the most recognized mathematical constant on Earth.