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Posts Tagged ‘pi

“Exploring pi is like exploring the universe”*…




Pi is an infinite string of seemingly random numbers, but if you break down the first 1000 digits of Pi according to how many times each number from 0 to 9 appears, they’re all just about equal — with 1 being the outlier at 12% (although we wonder if they’d all average to ~10% given enough digits of Pi)…

More at “Visualizing The Breakdown Of The Numbers In The First 1000 Digits Of Pi Is Fascinating.”

* David Chudnovsky


As we watch it even out in the end, we might spare a thought for Hannah Wilkinson Slater; she died on this date in 1812. The daughter and the wife of mill owners, Ms. Slater was the first woman to be issued a patent in the United States (1793)– for a process using spinning wheels to twist fine Surinam cotton yarn, that created a No. 20 two-ply thread that was an improvement on the linen thread previously in use for sewing cloth.

A waxen Hannah, at the Slaters’ Mill Museum in Pawtucket, RI




Written by LW

October 2, 2017 at 1:01 am

“You drive for show but putt for dough”*…

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“Everybody has their one thing that they’re good at, and if you ever find it, you want to stick with it.”
—Rick Baird

On April 9, 2011, at a tournament in Richmond, Virginia, an IT manager named Rick Baird notched 18 straight hole-in-one shots to record a perfect putt-putt score. In more than 50 years of sanctioned competition, it was just the third time that anyone had achieved the feat.

Putt-putt is different from miniature golf. It’s played only on official courses; there are no pirate ships, no windmills, and no holes that cannot be conquered with one stroke — if you execute the perfect shot. On that day in 2011, Baird executed the perfect shot 18 times in a row.

Via Grantland

* Bobby Locke


As we address the ball, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that president Bill Clinton underwent surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital to repair the quadriceps tendon of his right knee.  An avid golfer, Clinton had injured his knee at 1:20 that morning when he slipped down some stairs at Australian professional golfer Greg Norman’s house.  Clinton’s surgeon later reported that the president’s primary concern after the surgery was when he would again be able to “swing a golf club.”  Upon his return to the links, Clinton continued to improve his game, and once remarked that he was the only president to trim his handicap while in office; it stood at 15 when he left the White House.

President Clinton on the links in 1995


Happy 3.14–  Pi Day!

And Happy Einstein’s Birthday!

Written by LW

March 14, 2014 at 1:01 am


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 LW

February 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

The Music of the Spheres…


From the redoubtable Roger Ebert, who observed, “now all I need to know is: (1) How to remember the song; (2) How to play the piano.”


As we hum along, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to Richard Ewen Borcherds; he was born on this date in 1959.  A chess prodigy in line to become Grand Master, he forsook the board (feeling that higher levels of play were more about the competition than the chess) for mathematics.  A specialist in in lattices, number theory, group theory, and infinite-dimensional algebras, he is best known for solving/proving the so-called “Moonshine conjecture,” which had been formulated in the late ’70s by John Conway and Simon Norton (and was so named as the proposition seemed so outlandish).  More recently, Borcherds has been working to develop a mathematically-rigorous construction of quantum field theory.  Among his many prizes, he has been awarded the “Nobel of Math,” the Fields Medal.



Written by LW

November 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

Pieces of pi…

In 2010, Japanese engineer Shigeru Kondo set a record, calculating the value of pi to 5 trillion digits… then last October, he smashed his own mark, identifying the first 10 trillion decimal places.  (He used a home-made computer that ran so hot that the temperature in his apartment was over 100 degrees…)

The quest will no doubt continue– pi is an irrational number that exerts an irrational fascination.  Meantime, readers can take a peek at this work-perpetually-in-progress.  Web design firm firm Two-N has created this nifty visualization and search tool, allowing one to find any one of the first 4,000,000 digits of pi:

Bonus: “50 Interesting Facts About Pi


As we ruminate on randomness, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to Hermann Minkowski; he was born on this date in 1864.  Minkowski developed the geometry of numbers and used geometrical methods to solve difficult problems in number theory and mathematical physics; he is probaly best remembered for realizing that his former student Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity (1905), presented algebraically by Einstein, could also be understood geometrically as a theory of four-dimensional space-time.  Einstein embraced the geometric approach in the development of his theory of general relativity– and the four-dimensional space (the three physical dimensions plus time) involved has since been known as “Minkowski spacetime.”

Minkowski’s best friend was “mathematical hotelier” David Hilbert.


Written by LW

June 22, 2012 at 1:01 am

Slicing the pi…



Calculating the value of pi, the mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is a Sisyphean task– it goes on forever. And from a practical point of view, it’s silly:  resolution to just 39 digits is enough to calculate the circumference of a circle the size of the observable universe with an error no larger than the radius of a hydrogen atom.

Still, the quest continues.  As i09 reports

A pair of pi enthusiasts have calculated the largest chunk of the mathematical constant yet, reaching just over 10 trillion digits. Alexander Yee and Shigeru Kondo, respectively a computer scientist in the US and a systems engineer in Japan, fought hard-drive failures and narrowly missed widespread technical disruptions due to the Japan earthquake to break their previous Guinness world record of 5 trillion digits…

Read the whole story (well, the story-to-date) at “Epic pi quest sets 10 trillion digit record.”


As we remember that “pi aren’t square, pie are round,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1675 that Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz first used the “long S” as the symbol of the integral in calculus.  Leibnitz’s first such uses were in in private manuscripts; the first public appearance was in his paper “De Geometria,” published in (the appropriately-titled) Acta Eruditorum in June 1686.

The integral of a function of x over the interval [a,b]  (source)


Written by LW

October 29, 2011 at 1:01 am

The Annals of Synesthesia: Volume 3.14159…

Today (March 14, or 3.14) is Pi Day…  so as a special treat (and, even for the arithmophobic, it is a treat):

As we wonder at the constant irrationality of it all, we might add another honoree to our festivities:  Albert Einstein was born on this date in 1879.


“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Written by LW

March 14, 2011 at 1:01 am

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