Monday, March 14, 2011


Today is Pi Day, as it is the fourteenth day of the third month of the year (rendered as 3/14 here in the States).

"Pi" of course, is the mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, one that appears in many mathematical expressions. In other words, diameter (d) times pi (π) equals circumference (c). It is rendered as 3.14, or to be more exact, 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582 ...

Well, that's the other thing. Not only has it never been rendered exactly to the last decimal point, but such rendering shows no discernible pattern (in other words, a repeating series of numbers). This means, if you asked a computer right now, to calculate the exact number, it would continue as long as the computer is left on, and the hard drive doesn't crash.

It can come in handy, too, like in that episode of Star Trek, where Mister Spock kept a renegade computer totally preoccupied, by instructing it to calculate the value of pi, thus giving Captain Kirk the time he needed to once again save the universe. Or something.

Archimedes of Syracuse (287 - 212 BC) was the Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, astronomer, and all-around geek (shown here in a 1620 painting by Domenico Fetti baking his first pi), who first approximated the value of pi, using what is known as the "method of exhaustion," which means he kept working on it until he was exhausted, and he still didn't finish.

Today, we remember his achievement every year, according to New Scientist magazine, by actually -- you guessed it -- baking a pie.

Well, I think we have all learned something here.

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