(Roughly) Daily


Okay, what? Shut up, evolution, this cannot actually be a bird. Are you high?

WTF Evolution: “Honoring natural selection’s most awkward creations. Go home, evolution, you are drunk.”

The wolffish is actually modeled after evolution’s cousin Frank. Evolution has always secretly hated its cousin Frank.


As we think over trial and error, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that the Indiana State House of Representatives passed Bill No.246 which gave pi the exact value of 3.2– a nice, round… and wrong number.

Hoosier Dr. Edwin J. Goodwin, M.D, a mathematics enthusiast, satisfied himself that he’d succeeded in “squaring the circle.”  Hoping to share with his home state the fame that would surely be forthcoming, Dr. Goodwin drafted legislation that would make Indiana the first to declare the value of pi as law, and convinced Representative Taylor I. Record, a farmer and lumber merchant, to introduce it.  As an incentive, Dr. Goodwin, who planned to copyright his “discovery,” offered in the bill to make it available to Indiana textbooks at no cost.

It seems likely that few members of the House understood the bill (many said so during the debate), crammed as it was with 19th century mathematical jargon.  Indeed, as Petr Beckmann wrote in his History of Pi, the bill contained “hair-raising statements which not only contradict elementary geometry, but also appear to contradict each other.”  (Full text of the bill here.)  Still, it sailed through the House.

As it happened, Professor Clarence Abiathar Waldo, the head of the Purdue University Mathematics Department and author of a book titled Manual of Descriptive Geometry, was in the Statehouse lobbying for the University’s budget appropriation as the final debate and vote were underway. He was astonished to find the General Assembly debating mathematical legislation.  Naturally, he listened in… and he was horrified.

On February 11 the legislation was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Temperance, which reported the bill favorably the next day, and sent it to the Senate floor for debate.

But Professor Waldo had “coached” (as he later put it) a number of key Senators on the bill, so this time its reception was different.  According to an Indianapolis News report of February 13,

…the bill was brought up and made fun of. The Senators made bad puns about it, ridiculed it and laughed over it. The fun lasted half an hour. Senator Hubbell said that it was not meet for the Senate, which was costing the State $250 a day, to waste its time in such frivolity. He said that in reading the leading newspapers of Chicago and the East, he found that the Indiana State Legislature had laid itself open to ridicule by the action already taken on the bill. He thought consideration of such a propostion was not dignified or worthy of the Senate. He moved the indefinite postponement of the bill, and the motion carried.

As one watches state governments around the U.S. enacting similarly nonsensical, unscientific legislation (e.g., here… perhaps legislators went to school on this), one might be forgiven for wondering “Where’s Waldo?”


Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

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