Celebrating Pi Day (and other magical numbers)

Today is Pi-Day 2008. A day in honor of Pi, one of the oldest and most mysterious mathematical constants known to man. A day in celebration of the works of dozens of great mathematicians and scholars. A day to revel in the glory and power of Pi. For those of you that live in the USA and use the MM/DD date representation format, the reason should be clear enough: March 14th, 2008 == 3.14.

Pi isn’t just a number that you can use to calculate circle-related mathematics, it’s a symbol of something by far greater. Pi is one of many magic” numbers that are found everywhere – if you know where to look. These magic numbers can’t be explained, they just are. And if you use them right, they make it a lot easier to do a lot of really complicated things… In a way, they’re a testimony to technology and computers (or vice-versa, depending on how you look at it).

Pi, i, e, and Phi are just some of the numbers that have an almost-magical role in furthering scientific and mathematical studies and observations in our daily lives. It doesn’t matter where they came from or what they actually mean; the one thing that truly counts is what you can make them do for you.

No one knows can know what Pi stands for – it’s a transcedental number that never terminates. While it’s commonly shortened as 3.14 or 3.14159; but in reality, it never ends:

  3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348
253421170679821480865132823066470938446095505822317253594081284811174502841027019385211055  
  596446229489549303819644288109756659334461284756482337867831652712019091456485669234603486
  104543266482133936072602491412737245870066063155881748815209209628292540917153643678925903
  600113305305488204665213841469...

Nowadays, when you say “Pi” you’re not just referring to the endless number, but also indirectly referencing the cult-like following it has gathered over the years. Pi is everywhere, and not just in mathematics and nature alone. Websites, T-Shirts, software, and pop-culture (PDF warning!) have all irrationally-converged over the Pi concept (pun intended!).

March 14th isn’t the only day that Pi is celebrated – a number of other days including July 22nd (22/7 ≈ Pi), November 9th on Leap Years, and November 10th otherwise (the 314th days of their respective years) are also recognized as “Pi Approximation Days” in their own right. And in China, December 10th at 1:13 PM is also considered to be yet another Pi Approximation (December 10th is the 355th day of the year, and 355/113 ≈ Pi).

Looking at the abundance of “magic numbers” tucked-into corners of everyday life, hiding in flower petals, ancient architectures, the layout and design of the universe, and belly-button ratios make one wonder: What other miracle numbers are out there, waiting to be discovered and their secrets unveiled; bringing order to chaos and providing an explanation for phenomenon where there once was none?

Some “magic numbers” trivia:

  • Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day, 1879; as-is befitting of a scientist of his rank!
    (Sidebar: Mahmoud Al-Qudsi, the founder of NeoSmart Technologies was born on Nov. 9th, or Pi Approximation Day as well).
  • Many scientists lost their minds trying to figure out Pi! The “circle-squaring disease” (from “squaring the circle” or the attempt to find a square with the same area as a circle in a finite number of steps) is known as Morbus Cyclometricus.
  • The length from your toes to your belly-button divided by the length from your head to your belly-button is equal to Phi.
  • James Smith wrote several books “proving” that Pi is equal to 25/8 — which is wrong, of course.
  • Most people classify Pi as being just another “irrational number,” but that’s actually not true, because if Pi were simply irrational, dealing with it would be so much easier (and “squaring the circle” would be possible). In reality, Pi is a transcendental irrational number, i.e. it’s not the solution to any polynomial linear system with rational coefficients.

28 thoughts on “Celebrating Pi Day (and other magical numbers)

  1. The engineering department of my company is celebrating Pi day today, having Pie served at 1:59 and 26 seconds this afternoon.

    Happy Pi day!

  2. Not to be a huge downer, but it is difficult to say this is “International” Pi Day, as most of the world outside the USA uses the DD/MM/YYYY date format, making today 14/03/2008 in the majority of the world – but really, any chance I get to demand pie from someone should be a paid holiday in my book :-)

  3. While I abhor all measurements American (Imperial, MM/DD/YYYY etc), I think this date for Pi actually works. Let’s not see it as an American inspired date, but the logical date based on YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS. Obviously, to be annual, we can’t use the YYYY portion, so starting with MM=3 and then moving down to DD=14, HH=15 etc etc, allows us to recognise a Pi-type anniversary date.

    Perhaps there could be a competition to mark the most accurate moment of the anniversary, down to the nanosecond?

  4. Whatever happened to eating Humble Pi or Hair Pi?

    Everyone go home tonight and practice the latter and please your old ladies

  5. “…if Pi were simply irrational, dealing with it would be so much easier (and “squaring the circle” would be possible).”

    This is not true, in fact almost all algebraic numbers are NOT constructible.

  6. Sorry to be a pain here, but pi is quite easily understood by anyone: It is simply the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference. The fact that it cannot be represented by an *integer* value has no bearing on the concept of its existence. It has been proven that integer values are a microscopic subset of the full set of all real numbers, so numbers like pi and e are actually more common than integers.

    Personally I don’t see the irrationality of pi to be anything remarkable, its applications in so many areas of maths, particularly when using radian measure (as is necessary when doing most computations) is what makes it amazing. In particular, the Euler equation, or rather the relationship between pi and trigonometry is a good example of the remarkable properties of pi… the number of decimal places it has is kind of meh if you ask me. And just to add a note, the Euler equations only boils down to e^i*pi + 1 = 0 in radian measure, it is a simplification of the much more remarkable and useful: e^ix = cosx + isinx.

    /rant

  7. Since the world truly didn’t make sense before UNIX here are The REAL Pi Dates

    3.141592653 seconds since epoch – 1 January 1970 00:00:03 AM
    31.41592653 seconds since epoch – 1 January 1970 00:00:31 AM
    314.1592653 seconds since epoch – 1 January 1970 00:05:14 AM
    3141.592653 seconds since epoch – 1 January 1970 00:52:21 AM
    31415.92653 seconds since epoch – 1 January 1970 8:43:35 AM
    314159.2653 seconds since epoch – 4 January 1970 11:15:59 PM
    3141592.653 seconds since epoch – 6 February 1970 4:39:52 AM
    31415926.53 seconds since epoch – 30 December 1970 02:38:46 PM
    314159265.3 seconds since epoch – 16 December 1979 03:27:45 AM
    3141592653 seconds since epoch – 21 July 2069 10:37:33 AM

    See 1970 was where it was at!

    This confirms my Gen X theories that the Baby Boomers had all the fun and are going to ruin the Universe. They were far too stoned and impregnated to appreciate the many seconds of Pi’ish goodness that passed them by.

    I was barely 2 years old when my Pi day came in 1979 and evaporated in a second. Now I have to be 90 years old to appreciate the next one?

    The only thing I’m going to be appreciating in 2069 is my Depends Robotic Adult Diapers.

    Damn you Baby Boomers. Damn you to a firey Hell where there is a continuous KC and the Sunshine Band soundtrack and many demons with pointy pitchforks, BUT YOU WOULD LIKE THAT WOULDN’T YOU, YOU SICK BAASTARDS!

    Cheers
    Clarky

  8. Technically, “Pi Approximation Days” aren’t “more approximate” than “Pi Day,” but they’re just not officially recognized….

    For instance, July 22nd (22/7) is closer to the actual value of Pi than 3.14 is; and Nov 9/10th is just as equal to 3.14 as March 14th…. But we can’t have every day being Pi Day now, can we? No, of course not, that’d be giving mathematicians and scientists and engineers more credit than they’re worth now, wouldn’t it? :D

  9. the fraction 2143/22 gives the fourth power of pi upto eight decimal places…( a discovery of Ramanujan, a mathmatical prodigy) we could think of using this pi equivalent to celebrate pi as well as Ramanujan!

  10. The really maddening thing about pi is the paradox that it can not be represented by the ratio of two whole numbers, and yet its definition is that it is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. This drives me nuts.

  11. I always wondered if there is a number system where pi is a rational number. Like a trinary system based on 0, 1 and Pi.

  12. Woot, I was born right after midnight , between the 22nd and the 23rd of July.

    Happy pi day everybody !!

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