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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
At this time of year, the trail that I walk daily with my dog along the shore of Okanagan Lake is littered with long brown pine needles.
They lie on the ground looking like that old game of Pick Up Sticks. Pine needles lie on top of each other in crazy patterns, pointing every which way…
As I crunch those needles underfoot, I find myself wondering about the chances that the pattern of fallen needles in any one square inch (okay, 2.54 cm squared) might exactly duplicate the pattern in any other square inch. Vanishingly small, I’d guess.
I find big numbers – really big numbers, I mean – meaningless. The U.S. federal deficit, the chance of winning a Power-Ball lottery, the diameter of the universe – are all incomprehensible.
Tags: numbers, Peter Principle, Rickenbacker, pi