Pi in Your Face

Mathematically speaking, pi is transcendental, irrational, and deliciously random. It is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It never ends, and it never repeats, but only 39 decimals of pi are needed to calculate a circle the size of the known universe. Clearly, this never-ending number, used to describe rainbows, the double helix, general relativity, and capillary waves, is worthy of a fete. Responding to need, Exploratorium physicist Larry Shaw founded Pi Day 24 years ago on March 14 -- an appropriate date that represents the first three digits of pi and elegantly coincides with Einstein’s birthday. It wasn’t until 2009 that the U.S. House of Representatives recognized National Pi Day, but the celebration had already circumnavigated the globe. In 2004, Daniel Tammett, a British author diagnosed with autism and savant syndrome, took five hours to recite pi to 22,514 digits. He ranks only sixth in the world at this task (Akira Haraguchi delivered 100,000 digits in 2006). However, Tammett has a particularly vivid form of synesthesia, which attributes color, texture, and shape to every number, and he says that pi is beautiful. Join Larry Shaw for limericks, lectures, and demos before the annual Pi Procession, which circles the pi shrine 3.14 times, ending with a “Happy Birthday” singalong to Big Al, and, of course, the eating of pie.
Wed., March 14, 12:45 p.m., 2012

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