Monday, March 14, 2022
Welcome to today’s rabbit hole.
Apt imagery given that when you think of a hole, the shape of a circle probably pops into your head. And a circle – or the ratio of its circumference to its diameter – is exactly what we’re wording about today.
Happy Pi Day!
These are the things I wish I had remembered in advance, because then I would have baked a pie or bought a pie or somehow consumed a pie. Alas.
Obviously, the best thing about pi day is being able to eat pie and call it the same thing. But in the absence of pie, I got a little curious about actual pi. And oh, the holes! Rabbit holes. Wormholes. Hole in my head.
My grandmother and her sisters, my aunts, used to say that a lot when dealing with people who said particularly crazy things, like their husbands. “Boy, you got a real hole in your head.” Sometimes it was a clear head. Sometimes it was a thick head. But mostly it was a hole in the head.
Like the kind I leapt into exploring pi today.
Want to join me?
You already know that pi is the number you get when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter. It may be represented as 3.14 but that’s only because nobody has the rest of their life to repeat all the numbers, which would be impossible anyway since they never repeat.
That fact alone is a little mind blowing, like maybe enough to put a hole in your head.
Think about it. A number that never repeats. Never is a long time.
I did find one web page that lists it out to a million digits. A million digits still takes up a lot of space.
Pi cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers, or as a fraction, which makes it an irrational number. Perhaps it also has a hole in its head.
But did you also know that 3/14 is Albert Einstein’s birthday? And it’s the day Stephen Hawking died. There’s some karmic collusion in the universe right there. Sadly, none of it makes pie appear on my plate.
Do you know who did not give me a pi day discount? Tiff’s Treats. I feel like this could have been their chance to sell me a dozen cookies for $3.14.
Do you know who else did not give me a pi day discount? Any pizza place. I mean, come on, people!
Fun fact: because pi can never be calculated, neither can the precise circumference of a circle. Fortunately, NASA only needs a few of its digits for engineers to calculate interplanetary navigation – just 3.141592653589793 to be exact.
Of course, that would imply that I have any idea why NASA uses circumference to calculate space travel, but since I haven’t brushed up on my physics lately, I can only be in one rabbit hole at a time.
Math aside, the most awesome thing I discovered is that a bunch of crazy word and number geeks (ie: my kind of people) came up with a style of writing called Pilish.
It works like this.
Each word has to contain the same number of letters as the sequence of pi.
Pie I love!
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I didn’t quite catch it at first, so for anyone else with a hole in their head, that’s 3 letters in the first word, then 1 letter in the second, and 4 in the last.
Pie I love, a dream! Blueberry.
Sounds like the haiku of math.
Someone already beat me to writing a pi book, though. It’s called Not A Wake, and yes, it’s on Amazon.
Of course I bought it.
In spite of all the delightfulness of pi, a certain faction of mathematicians wants to abolish it. They would rather represent circumference to radius as tau. It hasn’t totally caught on.
It does, however, have one advantage. Tau is 2 pi. And two pies are always better than one.
If you are so inclined, you can celebrate on 6/28, perhaps with one blueberry pie and one pizza.
Apparently – more rabbit holes, please – you can also celebrate Fibonacci day on 11/23. And… wait for it… the Fibonacci sequence itself came from a puzzle about rabbits.
Because of course it did.
The question asks: if two rabbits can produce another pair of rabbits in their second month of life, how many pairs of rabbits will there be after a year?
That amount of math just makes me want pie.
Now. If someone could just tell me how to get chocolate cake day squeezed into the year, we’d be onto something.
I have, admittedly, spent my entire life not being curious about pi. Math was the only class I did consistently poorly in. I can literally remember being six or seven years old and my mother laying pennies out on the table in front of me so I could count them, then asking me how many I had left if she took away two. It confounded me utterly.
In eighth grade I failed a math test and when you failed a test you had to have your parents sign it. I guess so they could beat you about the head a bit. I specifically waited until the middle of the night then went into my parents’ bedroom and poked my mother to tell her I forgot to have her sign my test. She was not too tired to notice that I failed, and not too stupid to believe that I forgot.
I did, for inexplicable reasons, take AP Calculus in my senior year of high school, and then I never did anything without a calculator again.
But nobody ever told me about pi day, either. Maybe with the right incentive math could have been more fun. We’ll never know.
Today, however, I made up for all those years of indifference and learned some very cool and useful things, like when to eat two pies. I’m calling that a win.
Photo: a slice of pignoli pie that I had at Porta in Asbury Park one day when Ralph and I stayed there. It was quite possibly the most amazing pie I have ever eaten in my life, and they never had it on the menu again. Trust me, I checked.