Hey, Mathletes, it’s National Pi Day – the one day a year (3/14) when we take time to reflect on the mysterious and endlessly cool constant that circles around us.
For me, Pi Day is just plain fun, but pi is vital to scientists and engineers at jet propulsion laboratories.
Geospatial information scientists use pi to make measurements, like perimeter, area and volume, of features on Mars.
They use pi every day to command rovers on Mars ~taking images, turning the wheels, driving around, operating the robotic arm, and even talking to Earth. Pi also helps them to calculate the width of laser beams in the study of ice.
At first, Pi Day was gimmicky, but now it’s a gone-rampant big deal. Have you signed up for a pi-mile race yet?
Pi is everywhere ~ in The Simpsons and Star Trek, The Matrix, and, of course, the novel, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. In Person of Interest, Finch, as a substitute teacher, talks about the digits of pi. He gives an answer to the question “When are we ever going to use this?” A jam-up answer.
There’s even a new literary form called a ‘piem.’ It’s a poem where the length of each word is the same as the number in the pi sequence. For example, here’s a baudy little ditty written by British mathematician Sir James Jeans in the early twentieth century to remember the first fifteen digits. (Hey, poets, write a piem, leave it in the comments. You know you want to.)
How I want a drink,
Alcoholic of course,
After the heavy lectures
Involving quantum mechanics.
There’s plenty of pi-tunes out there but have a listen to this English singer and songwriter. Kate Bush is known for her expressive four-octave soprano voice…and idiosyncratic lyrics.
What are you doing
for National Pi Day?
Baking, I hope.