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Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2011

Today is a very special day: a day set aside to honour that quirky little number, Pi (because it’s the 14th day of the 3rd month… 3.14. Tee-hee!).

Alas, Pi Day does not entail mathematicians running around town distributing pie to the masses. Personally, I think this would be an excellent idea. They could use their fascination and skill with numbers and formulae to craft delicious pies, baked in pi-shaped pie tins. Then, everytime someone bit into a pie (and with free pie going around, there would be lots of people munching away), they would think of Pi, thus increasing awareness of this nifty number.

Of course, I’d plug for a few chocolate pies. For some reason, I am not a huge fan of fruit (though I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like), which kind of takes the fun out of blueberry, pumpkin, apple, key-lime, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, gooseberry, and blackberry pies (really, almost every type of pie).

Chocolate Pie: Just like my Granny makes

Fixation with pie aside, I think there is a really special quality to Pi. Pi is an irrational number. If you try to express it as a decimal, the string of digits after the 3. will never end or repeat, but spiral on into eternity. While there are other irrational numbers, Pi sees a lot of use (knowing the measurements of cylinders and circles is kind of important). Even though we can’t express it exactly, we depend on it. Knowing that we can never fully measure Pi, we take the entity of Pi on a kind of faith.

There are people who try to measure Pi as precisely as possible, memorizing thousands of digits. According to the serious research source that is Wikipedia, the Guinness-record holder for most digits of Pi recited is a graduate student named Lu Chao, who memorized Pi to 67,890 places. Here’s what I find interesting: no matter how many digits of Pi you learn, there will always be one more. Pi is unending, trying to calculate it is like counting the seconds in eternity. We know this. And yet we try anyway, plunging into the void as far as we can.

Kind of like making fiction, if you think about it. We use our words to peer over the edge of the unknowable, standing on the work and shoulders of those who have come before.

Even if it’s futile, sometimes especially if it’s futile, we persist. Why? Because we are human. Because we need to know, to shine the light into the night as far as we can, to take that one step further along the endless road.

From pie to the union of fiction and mathematics in one philosophy, to a celebration of the human spirit. All from one funny little character.

What a great holiday.

-Arvik

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6 comments

  1. I ate chocolate pie today! In honor of Pi Day which also happens to be my birthday, so that means there are no calories in birthday pi(e). 😉


    • Happy Birthday! Hope you enjoyed the pie! 😛


      • It was delicious, but I think your version would be even more delicious.


  2. As Homer would say, “Mmm . . . pi pie.”

    My favorite pie ~ pecan.

    Thanks for a fun post, Arvik


    • MMMMM, I love pecan pie. Last year for my birthday we actually had a pi(e)party. Where everyone had to bring something pi(e)-like. I had some math friends who came dressed as pi, and then we served pizza and pcan pie and other pie shaped things. It was fun. Thanks for reminding of that, Arvik.


    • Hey, thanks Nancy, I forgot about pecan pie! Pecans are delicious!



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