Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day: Once in 100 years

Let's Celebrate π!

Today is 3/14/15 and I've scheduled this post to appear at 9:26. That echoes the maximum number of digits I can use of π, the most famous irrational number: 3.1415926.... Blogger doesn't allow specification of seconds so I can't get two more digits. Every other year in the century, the digits of π are just echoed by 3/14, not the year. Pi Day is a recent invention so nobody celebrated on 3/14/1592 at 6:53 AM. There weren't very accurate clocks back then anyway.

I don't know if I will bake a pie later today, but that's what is traditional for Pi Day. After all, PIE is not only a homophone for PI but also, as everyone should know, π is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius, and a pie is circular of course. There are many ways to celebrate Pi Day, such as the 3.14 mile race in our town today, with pie served at the end. One participant in the race will be Riley McLincha, a Michigan native who was in the Guinness World Record Book in 1978 for memorizing 7,500 digits of Pi, according to the Ann Arbor News.

More mathematically: after 3.1415926535897, the digits of π go on indefinitelyπ is not just irrational (that means it's not able to be expressed as a fraction), but also transcendental (that means it's not "algebraic"). I mention this with apologies to readers among my friends and relatives who already know the math far better than I do. In an op ed in today's New York Times, Manil Suri points out:

"Pi, being the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is manifested all around us. For instance, the meandering length of a gently sloping river between source and mouth approaches, on average, pi times its straight-line distance. Pi reminds us that the universe is what it is, that it doesn’t subscribe to our ideas of mathematical convenience." 
Lots of people have tried to get their minds around the concept. To quote an article titled "The Secret Jewish History of Pi" from yesterday's Forward:
"In an episode of the original 'Star Trek,' Mr. Spock — played by the late, great Jewish actor Leonard Nimoy — commands an evil computer that has taken over the life support system of the Starship Enterprise to compute Pi to the last digit. Spock therefore outwitted the murderous cyborg, which wound up self-destructing, because, as Spock explained, 'the value of Pi is a transcendental figure without resolution.' ... 
The great Maimonides: “The ratio of the diameter of the circle and its circumference are unknown and can never be discussed with accuracy,” he wrote in the 12th century. 'This is not a lack of knowledge on our part, as the idiots think, but rather it is that by its nature this thing is unknown, and by virtue of its reality cannot be known, and it is not possible to speak of it … its actual value cannot be perceived.'”
And (with more apologies to those in the know) homophone or homonymn is the term for two words that sound alike but are spelled differently: like PI and PIE! 

Pi Day Pies from a google image screen capture.
Miriam's π Shirt and some Thanksgiving pies a few years ago.
Actually 22 July (22/7) is a better Pi Day on the other 99 years of the century, as well as being my birthday. I always felt kind of transcendental. Hope you eat some pie!


Charlie Louie said...

I was never any good at maths and it's a very long time since I every thought about Pi. I think Pi day should definitely be celebrated with pie xx

Cakelaw said...

This is a fun post - loved reading all about Pi day.

~~louise~~ said...

I too was terrible in math Mae but the one "recipe" i could always remember was PI. I'm not sure why but I did.

I wish I would have realized the significance of this year's Pi Day. I did put it on the calendar but I had no idea it would go viral. I didn't even post about it! I usually celebrate Pie Day on January 23 which is a day sponsored by Crisco. Oh well, you don't need Pi Day to celebrate Pie that's for sure.

Miriam's shirt is adorable. Tabitha would LOVE one like that. She is quite into the whole Math and Science thing unlike her grammy, lol...

Thanks for sharing, Mae...