Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi Day

This afternoon I came across an interesting item on the BBC Web Site from which I learned that today is Pi Day, a celebration of the mathematical ratio (

Of course this only works by taking the 3.14 approximation of Pi in the American dating style sense, that is the English style reversed, of course; 3/14 working better than 14/3, or 14/03, from the Pi Day point of view. Clearly the residents of that great expanse of rock and mud west of the Pond has more uses than playing football with their hands and needing to wear crash helmets to do so, turning Rounders into a national sport and having an English dictionary written by some who cannot spell.

Mind you the thought of a reversed dating style, belatedly, seemed even stranger; more like “boomps a daisy” than anything intimate.

Anyway, less of the frivolity; back to Pi and its fascinations. As a Professional Engineer, plus an interest in science before that, Pi has been part of my life for over half a century. Even so, I came across a couple of interesting points in the BBC piece that I do not think I recall having seen before.

Pi Day, 14th March, is also the birthday of Albert Einstein.

Another gem was the ratio off the lengths of a river. Apparently, if you divide the length of a river from source to mouth, across a gently sloping plain, by its direct length, “as the crow flies”, the answer is Pi.

I was aware of the Great Pyramid of Giza having Pi related ratios and, of course, very familiar with Pi in waves, though, rather than the ocean waves mentioned in the article, those in electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical vibrations, stress waves, etc.

There are other enigmatic constants as well, of course, such as “e”, the base of natural logarithms, though Pi is the most readily recognisable in the general sense.

However, as Daniel Blatner, author of the BBC article and the book “The Joy of Pi” points out, Pi is an ever present, sometime grating reminder that there are puzzles that can be solved and there are mysteries that, perhaps, cannot.

Of course my background and experiences are such that I am only too well aware of the limitations of science, at its present level. What is beyond is both beautiful and fascinating, far more so than even the science and mathematics.

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