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This coming Saturday is International Pi Day. No, that’s not a typographic error. Pi, not pie, regardless of flavour. Or maybe pi. Usually represented by π, a Greek letter that looks like a wobbly footstool.
It’s on March 14, because if you write it as 3/14, or better yet as 3.14, you have the first three digits of pi. Correctly, pi is 3.141592 plus an endless series of further decimals, but for most purposes, 3.14 will suffice.
But then, pi can never be precise. Mathematicians have calculated pi to 13.3 trillion decimal digits, and they’re firmly convinced that it will never – no, never – repeat a pattern. Which means that no matter how precisely they define pi, the next digit will be unpredictable.
So pi is at once a constant, and a variable.
And yet the universe could not exist without it.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: mathematics, astronomy, value, pi
My last few columns have been heavy-duty stuff -- planetary consciousness, divine intervention, the nature of reality. This week, I want to tackle a more lightweight subject: Infinity.
Granted, most people have never thought much about infinity. Except maybe in astronomy, assuming loosely that the universe goes on forever. In fact, we don’t know where the outer edges of the universe are, because those outer edges are now moving away from us faster than the speed of light. If their light, or radio waves, or whatever, can never reach us, we can never know if there’s anything out there at all.
A few religious people profess a belief in infinity, although they’re more likely to call it “eternity” -- endless time, rather than endless space.
My cousin the mathematician will probably disagree with me, but it seems to me that infinity is a logical impossibility.
Tags: Infinity, mathematics, logic