This holiday is often overlooked by those who do not speak Greek or those who do not speak Geek. But for the science major, this is a special celebration. Though it is an irregular constant number, regularly and annually on March 14, or 3/14, or 3.14 — we have the first three digits of “Pi.” If one wanted to be precise, and why not, it would be at 15:92 o’clock, or 4:32 pm… and 65.35 seconds, or slightly after 4:33 pm. You get the idea.
The origin of this geek holiday has been traced to a celebration led by Larry Shaw at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, where he was a physicist. No less than the U.S. House of Representatives boldly stepped out and passed a non-binding resolution recognizing March 14 as Pi Day in 2009. Your tax dollars at work.
Pi Day is gaining traction with purveyors of the circular food.
In my neighborhood, there is a shop called 3.14 Sweet and Savory Pi Bar. They serve, ironically, sweet and savory pies. They celebrate Pi Day as if it were their day.
The local pizza establishment in the vicinity, Il Vicino is offering a special price on the basic pie, $3.14
Village Inn offers discounts on Pies for Pi Day
Two famous physicists have associations with Pi Day:
- Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day, March 14, 1879.
- Stephen Hawking died on Pi Day, March 14, 2018.
This year, an engineer at Google calculated Pi to 31 trillion digits, requiring 121 days, 170TB of data storage, 25 virtual machines on Google’s cloud computing platform. In the Star Trek episode “Wolf In The Fold,” Mr. Spock drives an evil entity out of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s ship computer by directing it to calculate Pi to the last digit. Mr. Spock informs us:
“As we know, the value of pi is a transcendental figure without resolution.”
From this, we might conclude that cloud computing is nothing compared to space computing.
The life of Pi, (no relation to the Academy Award-winning movie) has evolved to the point that Engadget has featured the music of Michael John Blake who turned the first 31 decimal places into a song:
…played at 157 beats per minute, no less (or half of 314). As it turns out, however, Blake wasn’t the first to come up with the idea — composer Lars Erickson wrote his own “Pi Symphony” a few years back, and has now sparked a bit of a copyright spat on YouTube over who actually owns the rights to Pi in musical form.
You can find the Pi Symphony here.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian