aNewDomain.net — Every year at 1:59 p.m. on March 14, which potentially can be numerically rendered as 3.14159, the folks at San Francisco’s Exploratorium celebrate pi. It’s the constant 3.14159 …
Pi Day 2014 will be even bigger than previous years. With more pi dancing, pi beading and pi pies. Why? Because pi is cool. It’s mysterious. Even with today’s mighty computer power, no one even knows how pi ends. The irrational number is apparently infinite. It just keeps going and going. And it contains no repeating series of numbers. It’s been calculated to well over a trillion places.
What’s Archimedes got to do with it? He, like Bill Gates, was a grand master popularizer. But pi is much older than that old mathematician. Pi — the infinite number you get when you calculate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to that same circle’s diameter — is mentioned by the Babylonians, the Egyptians and even writers in the Bible several centuries before Archimedes of Syracuse began promoting it around 260 B.C. Pi is often referred to as Archimedes’ Constant.
Find an in-depth history here. Scroll below for a bunch of cool pi facts, triviata, graphics and videos.
The infinite number that is pi is obviously ripe for conspiracy theories. Weird ones. On the Internet it’s easy to find sites that let you convert pi into images, audio files and even alphabetic sequences so you can find personal messages delivered through mathematics especially for you. One thing worth noting: The Satanical signature 666 doesn’t make an appearance until position 2240. Whew.
Here are some other cool pi facts I’ve been collecting over the years.
- March 14 — Pi Day — is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. Cue the Twilight Zone theme.
- A man known as William Jones of Wales — this is not a relation of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, but it would be cool if he were — was the one to give pi its current name. That was in 1706.
- There’s a second, lesser-known way to describe pi. It’s the number of times a circle’s diameter will fit around its circumference. Try that on your friends at your Pi Party.
- Calculating pi is a sport. Who knew? There are various clubs around the globe that train people to recite pi. I once had the distinct pleasure of watching a Japanese student, Kiroyuki Gotu, recite pi from memory for 112 hours. On stage at the NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo, he recited it to 42,195 places. Without missing the beat.
- Did you know you can use pi to figure out your hat size? Seriously. First, measure the circumference of your head. Then divide what you come up with by pi and round it off to an eighth of an inch. There’s your hat size.
- Pi is handy if you ever need to estimate the height of an elephant. You never know! Here’s the trick. First measure the diameter of the elephant’s foot. Then multiply that number by two. Finally multiply the result by pi.
- Try singing the line “pi, pi, 3.1415” to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Some kids in CA came up with this years ago — right before the Exploratium kicked off a Pi Day in the spring of 1999. The kids wrote an entire song to the tune and they dedicated it to the day their “math team tied” as opposed to “the day the music died.”
- The true beauty of pi lies in its flexibility. Find it in harmonic motion theory, superstring calculations, Einstein’s gravitational field equation and more.
- Would you believe you could calculate a circle the size of the entire universe (down to a proton) using pi to just 39 places? It’s true.
And here’s to “Pi, pi, mathematical pi,” sung to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie,” with rhyming lyrics to help you remember the pi digits — i.e. instead of “but the levee was dry” the artist sings “three, point, one, four, one, five.” Love it.
Find the real lyrics here. Below that find video of the pi version of the song.
And presenting a pi song — composed by matching the numbers in the pi string to real notes on a scale.
Here’s the Pi Domino Spiral. Try to solve its many hidden references.
Have a great Pi Day!
For aNewDomain.net, I’m Gina Smith.
Gina Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s memoir, iWoz Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It (W.W. Norton, 2005/2007/2012). With John C. Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle, she is the editorial director at aNewDomain.net. Email her at gina@aNewDomain.net, check out her Google + stream here or follow her @ginasmith888.