Those who love commemorating Pi celebrate much more than the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. And what’s it all got to do with pies? Find out more and how to create custom fan gear after the jump.
What is Pi?
Ancient Greek mathmagicians first measured the circumference of a circle from its diameter. They found out that the number is infinite and denoted a symbol in its honor: the Greek letter π. In school, you would have just used the first two decimal places – π ≈ 3,14 – on occasions when you didn’t have a calculator handy.
Pi has captured people’s imagination for centuries. In January 2020, Timothy Mullican calculated the first 50 trillion decimal places of pi with the help of a huge server and numerous hard drives. There was still no end in sight. More astonishingly, a guy called Rajveer Meena managed to recite the first 70,000 (!) decimal places of pi by heart in 2018. His recital lasted 10 hours. Pretty impressive, right?
The squaring of the circle
For over 4000 years, people have been enthralled with this number. In the 16th century, for example, Dutch mathematician Ludolph van Ceulen spent about 30 years calculating the first 35 decimal places. Figuratively, he was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole for years and years. While calculating the 36th decimal place, it is said that he died of exhaustion. His wife then engraved the digits on his gravestone, and Pi was known as “Ludolph’s number” for over 100 years.
Today, all we do is fire up a computer if we feel like generating a few hundred fractional digits of Pi. But we also use Pi as a stress test for those computers. After all, an infinitely long number is a very good way to test their performance.
Why Pi Day
In 1988, physicist Larry Shaw named March 14th as the date to celebrate Pi, because of its date format 3/14. And we say that’s pretty clever. Shaw would bake pies – we wonder why – with his colleagues to celebrate Pi Day. But there’s not only pie to celebrate, but also a parade and a serenade for Albert Einstein, whose birthday is on the same day. Coincidence? Ermm…
Larry Shaw was a pretty popular guy, looking a bit like Santa’s nerdy brother on Pi Day. Picture him with his huge white beard, long white hair, and red hat. To this day, math fans remember Shaw as the Prince of Pi.
We’re off to the kitchen now. Hopefully there’ll be enough ingredients to bake an infinite number of of cakes. And by cakes we mean pies!