3/14, Pi Day

March 14, Pi Day, not an official holiday, but the mathematical holiday. With a grand fest at the Exploratorium at Pier 15 in San Francisco and thousands of other places worldwide. A Big Mac with meat enough to bite in, an excellent excuse for a first PRESS PASS.

So today its Pi Day, Pi written with capital P, but the symbol is a lower case Greek π. It’s only since 1737 that this quirky π sign has been adopted, after Euler gave the child – before often referred to as “p” or “c” – using it in his “Mechanica” work, it’s birthname.

March 18, in American English written 3/14, representing 3.14.

Mathematicians, scientists, nerds, geeks, all number lovers have a passion for this irrational number, already known by the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians  and Egyptians. Making Pi probably the most popular or recognized number.

For those who were sleeping during maths lesson, Pi is obtained by dividing the circumference or “periphery”of a circle by its diameter, always giving 3.1415927… and on and on and on.

The ancient Chinese correctly calculated Pi way back in 400AD to seven digits. Since then, with a little help of advanced algorithms running on super computers, Pi has been calculated in 2014 to over 13 trillion digits (that’s 13,000,000,000,000 or 13 x 10^13). And the Pinfinity battle for the most accurate rendition of π will continue.

Supposed there are no calculation mistakes – and even if: who will check the answer? 😉
What could be the reason driving those people spending time and energy trying to find this out? I’d rather read a good non fiction than a book filled with formulas and numbers. There are even competitions reciting the maximum number of digits. The world record holder took 9 hours to recite over 44,000 digits of π.
Everybody is free to choose his/her passion, but, honestly, but in my spare time there are other things to do. Why all this fuss, considering that:
  • the decimal representation of π truncated to 11 digits (that is 3.14159265358) is accurate enough to estimate the circumference of any circle that fits inside the earth within an error margin of less than… 1 millimeter
  • at 39 digits π (3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197) can estimate the circumference of any circle within the observable universe with a precision comparable to the radius of a hydrogen ( a chemical element with chemical symbol H and atomic number 1) atom. Better remember that… might come in useful one day…
  • looking for some real fun? At position 763 there are 6 9s in a row, called the Feynman Point (I’d call it different… ;-)). And rather be Stanley tracking Livingstone (or was it the other way around?) somewhere in Central-Africa, I presume
  • there are many more hidden patterns to discover if you’ve got some spare time to kill…
  • and here is some fun… surely your date of birth is baked in somewhere down deep there in π. A tribute to Pi Day 2017, the folks at Time.com have written – especially for Pi Day 2017 –  a program to scan where your birthday ranks within a list of One Million Digits of Pi and identify the first instance of all 366 days of the year, represented like “314,” with the month followed by the day (“704” for July 4th for example, or “1225” for Christmas Day”). The program found the final date — Dec. 3, or “1203” — beginning at the 60,873rd digit. Enter your birthday or any other date below and we’ll show you how deep into Pi you have to go to find it. Not doing too well, ranking in at digit #797… Till date, the honorary top ranking goes to Albert Einstein, who was born on March 14, 1879 — before Pi Day, but after Pi 😉 … and probably the sponsor of this program.

Those days, Pi is baked in the ROM of any calculator, or known by any spreadsheet, or any high-level programming language. There is certainly no need to learn this number by heart, but one starts wondering the granularity of those digits… No, am not going to try it out.

Personally, I’m still more in favor of e, e≈2.71828…, discovered and calculated by Leonhard Euler. e is often called Euler’s number and like Pi, is a transcendental number (meaning it is not the root of any algebraic equation with integer coefficients). And the base of natural logarithms.

Taking it one further, hand in hand with π, we get what probably is the most beautiful formula ever, called Euler’s identity:

But this will take us to far and be for the next episode, time to party now. If you’re not in the mood to party, get a head start here.

One last thing: Pi Day is on March 14. With e being 2.72, this would mean February 72, a very tight squeeze in an already short month as February 😦

So, let’s better join and piggy back the Pi-tribe, at the end of the day we’re half brothers. 3.14 drinks with fellow sympathisants, wearing one of those merchandising T-shirts promising such good things … once you got there.



Those 3 pints, as in integer, don’t see not an issue – probably will start disintegrating after the third round, but problems will arise trying to absorb that 1/14th of the 4th drink… depends of course how granular you want to go, and since there is no need to be precise enough to calculate the trajectory of satellites in orbit, there is a room for margin. Trial and failure…

The morning after, get yourself back in calculus mode trying to figure out the circumference of that Aspirin tablet and calculate Pi to see if the 17th digit hasn’t changed yet. All out of the head, so without help of devices like smartphones, calculators, spreadsheets. And this to 20 digits. Deal?

Happy Pi Day to all those fellow loonies out there.

For those who do not appreciate the beauty of this all, you can just as well call it Pie day and hit the viennoiserie…

Guten Appetit!

In case all fails, there is still theraphy…


// S


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