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Commemorating Pi on 3/14/15

Hashtag: Happy Pi Day (Pi -Mathematical Constant)

Commemorating Pi on 3/14/15

The Popular Mathematical Symbol

The Greek letter π or Pi a mathematical symbol equivalent to 3.14159, the ratio of a circle’s circumference in relation to its diameter. Pi fascinated the greatest thinkers of our time and achieved an iconic status in the world of nerds, geeks, and math educators.

According to Piday.org, Pi is an “irrational and transcendental number” but a unique and fascinating number with over a trillion non-repeated digits beyond its decimal point. It is extremely useful measuring trigonometric and geometric shapes such as the area of a circle and volume of a cylinder. Pi is a widely known mathematical constant due to its ubiquity and almost infinite but non-repetitive or patterned digits.

The π symbol first appears in William Jones’ “Synopsis palmarium mathesis” in 1706 to represent the decimal 3.141592. The reason is that Pi in decimal form is infinite and therefore cannot represent the exact proportion between the diameter and circumference of a circle. The symbol was popularized by Leonhard Euler in 1737 and became a universally accepted symbol for Pi in 1934.

Historically, Pi has been a challenged to many mathematicians around the world. For instance, Tsu Chung-Chih, Chinese mathematician computed the first seven digits of Pi in the 5th century. Al-Kashi in Samarkand, on the other hand, improved that further and calculated 2π in sexagesimal, which is accurate to seventeen decimal places. The variant series of PI was calculated by Indian mathematician Madhava using Gregory-Leibniz series for π (3,3).

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What We Really Know About Pi

Most students can easily recognize the Pi symbol because it reminds them of not only the formula for getting the diameter of a circle but the need to multiply together the series of terms such as π (4,6,9) = 16. The ability of students to recognize and work with mathematical symbols according to study is a sign of intellectual advancement in mathematics. The reason is that although Pi or π is often introduced in the upper elementary grades, many people are not aware of the numerical value and uses of Pi.

The knowledge that Pi has over a trillion digits was given to us by computer’s superior computational ability. The fascination about Pi pushed scientist and mathematicians to harness the astonishing computational power of modern computers. Newer techniques have been developed to further accelerate computations of Pi such as FFT or Fast Fourier Transform and computations using supercomputers from NASA’s Ames Research Center and Hitachi. However, these computations only disclosed significant hardware defect and computational errors rather than resolving the ubiquity of π.

The mysterious mathematical constant attracted professional scientist, mathematicians, and the lay public. There are hundreds of websites, internet-based clubs, and thousand of online research papers dealing with Pi. Contents of popular books, television shows, and movies are evidence of fascination with Pi. “Wolf in the Fold”, a Star Trek episode shown in 1967 was about foiling an evil computer by asking it to compute Pi’s last digit. In 1996, MSNBC Network aired a news segment about Pi while the decimal 3.1459 were used in movies such Matrix Reloaded where the Key Maker warns that a door will be accessible after 314 seconds.

The mystery of Pi is still unresolved and the fascination that started thousands of years ago is expected to continue along with developments and latest findings of mathematicians and computer scientist in the field of Pi.