The Pi Day of our lives

The Pi Day of our lives
Pi Day Doodle by Google in 2010

Pi Day Doodle by Google in 2010

As most of us know, March 14th every year is celebrated by mathematicians all over the world as \pi Day. The reason for this is quite simple: March 14 is written as 3-14 in the American style of writing dates and as the value of \pi starts with 3.14159265\cdots so this date seems to be a good one to celebrate the awesomeness of this ubiquitous mathematical constant. This year, the date is extra special as it will be 3-14-15 which takes the approximation one step further. And such a date occurs only once every century. So unless, you live for a really long time, this will be THE \pi Day of your life. Enjoy it to the fullest, the best time to do so would be at 9:26 am.

We have already written a lot about \pi here, but in this short piece, we show some instances where \pi has appeared in popular culture. And yes, a very happy \pi day to everyone!

  1. Palais de la Découverte is a museum in Paris where they have a special \pi room, in which the digits upto 707th decimal places are recorded. The digits are large wooden characters attached to the dome-like ceiling. The digits were based on an 1853 calculation by English mathematician William Shanks, which included an error beginning at the 528th digit. The error was detected in 1946 and corrected in 1949.
  2. During the 2011 auction for Nortel’s portfolio of valuable technology patents, Google made a series of unusually specific bids based on mathematical and scientific constants, including \pi. This was Google’s tribute to this nice constant.
  3. In 1897, an amateur American mathematician attempted to persuade the Indiana legislature to pass the Indiana Pi Bill, which described a method to square the circle and contained text that implied various incorrect values for \pi, including 3.2. The bill is notorious as an attempt to establish a value of scientific constant by legislative fiat. The bill was passed by the Indiana House of Representatives, but rejected by the Senate.
  4. In Carl Sagan’s novel Contact it is suggested that the creator of the universe buried a message deep within the digits of \pi. The digits have also been incorporated into the lyrics of the song “Pi” from the album Aerial by Kate Bush.
  5. In 2010, on \pi Day, Google made a special doodle.
  6. In the movie ‘Taare Zameen Par’, there is a scene where numbers are shown flying by, but the approximation to \pi is shown incorrectly.
  7. In the television series, Elementary based on the character Sherlock Holmes, there is an episode where \pi and its value is of major importance to the plot of the story.

These are just seven instances where this famous irrational number has inspired some effect in the popular psyche, but for mathematicians and physicists the number is more than just a number. And before we forget, 14th March is also the birth anniversary of two great mathematicians, Albert Einstein and Waclaw Sierpinski.

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