My love for Π is Constant

March 4th, 2021 by admin

A cherry pie, and 2 apple pies, with the pi symbol on top of each one

I consider myself an expert on pie. I love to find the best pie places wherever I go, and I am a firm believer in vanilla ice cream à la mode. Pi, the illustrious mathematical constant, is a different story. I struggled with math throughout my school years, and while at BYU, got away with not taking a single math class. My aunt, on the other hand, is a math professor, and is passionate about this number and its designated day, March 14th. She writes an annual prompt on Facebook about this nerdy holiday, educating the masses of its significance. Though I deeply prefer pie to pi, I will celebrate any holiday that encourages dessert consumption. This year, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and find out more about Pi Day, a day dedicated to a constant number and the most heart-warming dessert. Don't read this crash course on an empty stomach.

Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It is represented by the Greek symbol Π, initially used by William Jones in 1706. Its earliest large celebration was in 1988, by a physicist named Larry Shaw. He led a march around a circular area in San Francisco and afterward, the consumption of fruit pies ensued. In 2009, the US House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day on March 14th.

Pi is often referred to as "Archimedes' constant", the Greek mathematician who pioneered — no pun intended – an algorithm to approximate Π. Pi is approximated by the fractions of 22/7 and 355/113, but no common fraction can represent its exact value. That's the glory of irrational numbers. The hunt for computing the digits of pi has gone on for thousands of years. The current record for pi digits calculated is 50 trillion digits, set in January 2020 by Timothy Mullican. In other pi news, Kate Bush’s album, Aerial, incorporates the digits of pi for her song suitably titled, "Pi".

Because of its traditionally circular shape, pie is often the pun of choice for this circular-based number, and I have no complaints. The point of this whole article is: in the modern day, we can translate ancient mathematical principles into eating. I highly encourage you to participate in this holiday by solving for pi – but more importantly – by baking and eating your own pie. Archimedes – and your mom – would be proud.

- Mary R. Harrast

Posted in: News