By Ben Luthi
Ben Luthi has been a freelance writer since 2013, covering all things money and travel. His work has appeared in many major publications and financial websites, including U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, Fox Business, Experian, FICO and more. Ben lives in Utah with his two kids, and loves spending his free time traveling, hiking and talking about credit cards.
March 14 marks Pi Day, an international celebration of the mathematical constant Pi. The annual event was first started in 1988 by Larry Shaw, a physicist, who selected the date based on the first three digits of pi, which are 3.14.
Pi Day is also the date of birth for the renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. Here’s what you need to know about pi and how you can celebrate it.
What is Pi?
Pi is a mathematical constant first calculated by the Greek mathematician Archimedes. It’s the number you’ll get if you divide any circle’s circumference by its diameter. The figure itself goes on forever with no pattern. Since the mid-18th century, pi has been represented by the Greek letter π.
The infinite nature of the constant is one of its appeals. David Chudnovksy, a Ukrainian mathematician who once held the record with his brother for calculating pi to more than four billion digits, once said, “Exploring pi is like exploring the universe.”
That musing can be taken quite literally, too. According to theoretical physicists Jörg Arndt and Christoph Haenel, using 39 digits of pi can be used to calculate the circumference of the observable universe with the precision of one atom.
The mathematical constant is also used in engineering, construction, communications, GPS, and so many other areas of human invention and creation.
While most pi counting has been done using algorithms and supercomputers, there’s a contingent of pi enthusiasts who practice memorizing large numbers of digits of the constant. This is primarily done using what’s called piphilology, or the creation of mnemonic techniques to remember digits in their order.
For example, you may memorize a poem in which the length of each word is based on the digit in its order. For example, the first word has three letters, the second has one letter, and the third has four letters.
Rajveer Meena from India holds the Guinness World Record for memorizing 70,000 digits, which he recited over nine hours and 27 minutes in 2015.
How to Celebrate Pi Day
Pi Day is on March 14 every year. In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the holiday on that date. In 2019, UNESCO decided Pi Day as the International Day of Mathematics.
The Exploratorium, a public learning laboratory in San Francisco where Shaw founded the celebration, hosts an event each year where enthusiasts can enjoy pi-related art, music, trivia, puns, and more.
In addition to celebrating the mathematical constant, many people also take the opportunity on Pi Day to bake and eat pie, a homophone of the word. This can include pie-baking competitions, pie-oriented parties, and eating pizza pie.
Note that in some areas of the world, another celebration called Pi Approximation Day takes place on July 22, which using the day/month/year format is 22/7. Divide 22 by seven, and you’ll get a rough estimate of pi.
There’s also Tau Day (or Two Pi Day), which is observed on June 28 to celebrate the constant that represents 2π.
The Bottom Line
Pi Day is a great time every year for mathematicians and pi enthusiasts to increase interest in math and science through exhibitions, panels, activities, and other ways. It can also be a good day to have fun with family members and friends and enjoy various types of pies.
The goal for many is to learn to appreciate math and how it has helped us build our civilizations and learn about the world and universe around us.
Enjoyed learning more about pi? You can explore more of SouthEast Bank’s Dollars & Sense posts here.
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