Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Today’s topic is pi: that glorious number that is more than a number. It is a phenomenon.

Some people think of pi as 3.14.

Some people think of pi as π.

Some people think of pi as

The dictionary says pi is:

1: the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet

2a : the symbol π denoting the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter

b : the ratio itself : a transcendental number having a value rounded to eight decimal places of 3.14159265

Wikipedia goes into a little more detail:

π (sometimes written pi) is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any Euclidean plane circle’s circumference to its diameter; this is the same value as the ratio of a circle’s area to the square of its radius. It is approximately equal to 3.14159265 in the usual decimal notation. Many formulae from mathematics, science, and engineering involve π, which makes it one of the most important mathematical constants

The Wikipededia continues:

π is an irrational number, which means that its value cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction m/n, where m and n are integers. Consequently, its decimal representation never ends or repeats. It is also a transcendental number, which implies, among other things, that no finite sequence of algebraic operations on integers (powers, roots, sums, etc.) can be equal to its value

That is a lot to digest, especially irrational and transcendental which seem more suited for talk of personalities rather than numbers. So lets look at some other things about pi.

You cannot celebrate pi day in Europe because 14.3 is not the same as 3.14. Actually, you could celebrate it but it would require some explaining.

The Guinness World Book record for memorized digits is 67,890 held by Lu Chao of China. It took 24 hours and 4 minutes to recite.

If 3.14 feels somewhat, well, incomplete, it is because it is. Even this needs elipses.


Because pi cannot be calculated to a conclusion. You could have a million decimal places, a trillion decimal places, and you would still not be done.

Nobel prize winning poet Wisława Szymborska wrote a poem about that:

The admirable number pi:

three point one four one.

All the following digits are also just a start,

five nine two because it never ends.


The caravan of digits that is pi

does not stop at the edge of the page,

but runs off the table and into the air,

over the wall, a leaf, a bird’s nest, the clouds, straight into the sky,

through all the bloatedness and bottomlessness.

It’s neverendingness (∞) has been used to thwart criminals:

In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Wolf in the Fold”, after a murderous alien entity (which had once been Jack the Ripper) takes over the Enterprise’s main computer with the intention of using it to slowly kill the crew, Kirk and Spock draw the entity out of the computer by forcing it to compute pi to the nonexistent last digit, causing the creature to abandon the computer, allowing it to be beamed into space.


So today, 3.14, celebrate your inner geek.

Go to the Pi Day web site to check out pi stuff.

Invent a pi-ku (1st line: 3 syllables, 2nd line: 1 syllable, 3rd line: 4 syllables).

Bake a pie.


Enjoy some music.


Celebrate a famous physicist’s birthday.

Or the birthday of our famous physicist:

Happy birthday, rb137. GEEK!!


And count the days until Pi Day 2015 when, at 9:26:53am (wherever you are), it will be 3.141592653. Better, but still not perfect.

(Crossposted from  Views from North Central Blogistan)


  1. House Resolution 224

    Whereas Pi can be approximated as 3.14, and thus March 14, 2009, is an appropriate day for “National Pi Day”: Now, therefore, be it

       Resolved, That the House of Representatives-

    (1) supports the designation of a “Pi Day” and its celebration around the world;

    (2) recognizes the continuing importance of National Science Foundation’s math and science education programs; and

    (3) encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.

  2. kirbybruno

    My daughter’s math class is having a celebration today. They will be eating pies and having a contest to see who can remember the most numbers.

    I am going to make hand pies for dinner and some kind of sweet pie for dessert, but I have no idea what kind because I LOVE PIE!!!  

  3. Jk2003

    With a stripe sequence that was pi.  First stripe was three rows then one row then four rows and on and on out to about twenty five places I think.  They were cool.

  4. kirbybruno

    possibly narrow it down to one. The front one is English Banoffee, and the back one is Key Lime. Both are nekked and waiting for me to pile on a bunch of whipped cream. 🙂


  5. The latest I’ve heard is this: The sinuosity of a river is its length (with curves) divided by its length as the crow flies. The average sinuosity of the Earth’s rivers is … pi.

    If you have a floor that is made of parallel strips, each of the same width, and you drop a needle on the floor, the probability that the needle will cross a line on the floor is related to pi. If the length of the needle is the same as the width of the strips, the probability is 2/pi. (For more, Google Buffon’s needle)

    There are many infinite series that sum to pi or a fraction related to pi:

    pi = 4/1 – 4/3 + 4/5 – 4/7 + 4/9…..

    pi = 3 + 4/(2*3*4) – 4/4*5*6 + 4/6*7*8 …..

    pi^2 = 6/1^2 + 6/2^2 + 6/3^2 + 6/4^2

    Pi is part of Stirling’s approximation of large factorials (factorials are written with a ! . 5! = 5*4*3*2*1)

    n! is approximately (2*pi*n)(n/e)^n

    Pi is part of what many believe to be the most beautiful formula in math

    e^(i*pi) = -1

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