Happy Pi Day Mar14

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Happy Pi Day

Sure, there’s plenty of enthusiasm for March’s “big” holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. And we’ve already put together some great music and movies here on Pyxis Magazine to help celebrate those most green of festivities. But if you want to celebrate a more cerebral March holiday, how about Pi Day?  No clue what we’re talking about?  That’s because for the average person, math pales in comparison to green beverages, hopping leprechauns, and giant corned beef sandwiches – but if you prefer your holidays on the more thoughtful side, Pi Day could be just the ticket.

Pi, which is the Greek letter ?, is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, or the relationship between a circle’s diameter (its width) and the distance around the circle.  Pi is also what’s known as an “irrational” number, which means it will continue infinitely without repeating – this has proved to be fascinating to many people, and many attempts have been made, both by human and computer effort, to find a simple pattern within Pi. Despite much effort – and supercomputer calculations that have factored Pi out to over 1 trillion digits – that pattern has yet to be found. (The most digits that Pi has been factored out to date by a human are 22,514 decimal digits, a feat accomplished by Daniel Tammet in 2004.)

So what does Pi – to most, nothing more than an obscure mathematical term (well, “mathematical constant,” technically) – got to do with a March holiday? Plenty.

Pi is 3.14.

March is the third month. So March 14th is… aha! Now you’ve got it.

But who cares about Pi, and what are you supposed to do on Pi Day, anyway?

First of all, Pi is part of every circular thing on the planet – including the planet itself. So every time you change a car tire, buy cookies, throw a frisbee, bounce a ball, or peel an orange, Pi is quietly there. Not only is it found everywhere in mathematics, it’s also imperative in geometry -which means if you want to build or construct anything circular, spherical, or conical in shape, you’d best befriend Pi.  Pi also makes frequent appearances in Physics – everywhere from Kepler’s Third Law Constant to Coulomb’s Law for the Electric Force.

The concept of Pi has been known since ancient times, back to Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek societies; Archimedes was one of the first to work with Pi more extensively.  So Pi has been part of human culture and the educated mind for over 2,500 years; and it’s also virtually the only topic from the beginning days of mathematics that remains of serious interest to modern mathematicians. Hm. Most impressive, this Pi.

As far as what to do to celebrate – well, if you’re really being precise about Pi Day, you can have a moment of Pi rememberence at 1:59 p.m. and 26 seconds – that would be Pi factored out to its first several digits, or 3.1415926. Perhaps 3.14 ounces of your favorite beverage are in order. If you’re MIT – the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology – you send your acceptance letters out to prospective students on Pi Day, proving, yes, mathematicians do have a sense of humor. But perhaps the most common celebration of Pi day is – what else? Pie!

The very first official Pi Day celebration was held in 1988, complete with a plethora of fruit and pizza pies and crowds organized to march around in – you’ve got it – circles. Circles are of course an important element in Pi Day celebrations, as is the Pi symbol itself – you can easily find Pi t-shirts, Pi coffee mugs, and, yes, Pi plates to buy.

You can spend the day converting things to Pi – for instance, instead of it being 3 o’clock, it’s ½ Pi o’clock. Instead of being 31 years old, you’re 9 Pi years old.

You can expand on the Pi-pie theme by adding other food items to your meals for Pi Day – pineapple, perhaps, or a nice salad with pine nuts?  We can definitely recommend reading the book called The Life of Pi by Yann Martel – and there’s even a movie called Pi – about a mathematician who loses his mind – although it’s not a particularly cheerful film, so perhaps you’d best save it for the end of your Pi Day.

And guys, if you missed the boat on Valentine’s Day, now’s your chance – if you propose to your girl on Pi Day, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to show her that – just like Pi – your love will continue indefinitely.

To find out more about how you can participate in Pi Day, visit www.piday.org.