March 14 is a Pi Day: Great for Math and Tastebuds

Let them eat Pi! Today is the annual ‘Pi Day’ celebrated every year to honor the mathematical constant of 3.141592..

The first official Pi Day celebration took place in the San Francisco Exploratorium in the year of 1988. It was organized by Larry Shaw, who worked there, and the Exploratorium staff. Photo: Jeimi-chan/ Flickr

Today is a special day for math fans, and it only comes ones a year! It is not only the birthday of one of the greatest minds in history – Albert Einstein, but also the 14 of March, written numerically in the US as 3/14, is an international Pi day.

Pi is the ratio used to compute the circumference, area, and volume of circles. For those who can’t recollect it, that works out to 3.141592653 for the first ten digits. It is written using the Greek letter π, pronounced “pie.”

According to the Pi Day website www.piday.org, “Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.”

The Pi Day was first organized by Larry Shaw in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where Shaw worked as a physicist, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The Exploratorium continues to hold Pi Day celebrations.

The Pi Day is a one of  the favourite holidays for tech and science companies. For example, in Massachusetts, Raytheon Company employees will deliver apple pies to middle and high school math teachers within 3.14 miles of company offices in Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia. The Google Doodle typically celebrates Pi Day with a clever graphic representation of how it works.

To celebrate, the Illinois Science Council, which refers to Pi Day as “the most delicious of holidays,” many Chicago area bakeries are offering special Pi Day deals on pies and pizza pies.

“We’re really excited that Pi Day has grown in interest with all sorts of bakeries, restaurants in town participating. It’s a fun way to think about math and how important it is in our everyday lives,” Monica Metzler, founder and executive director of the Illinois Science Council.

According to the UBS’s Art Cashin, next year’s Pi day will be a once-in-a-century Pi day.

“At 9:26:53 a.m., they can write 3/14/15; 9:26:53, which you should also recall are the first ten digits of Pi in perfect order,” said Cashin.

National Pi Day is actually a U.S. holiday. The date March 14 was introduced by House Resolution 224 in the year of 2009 on the first session of the 111th Congress of the United States.

The resolution “encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.”

Interesting that it’s not the first government resolution to honor renowned Greek letter. In the year of 1897, in Indiana there was passed House Bill 246 dictating that the mathematical constant pi would officially have the value 3.2. The man who is behind the bill was Edwin Goodwin, a country doctor from Solitude, Ind., a crank pseudo-mathematician with loony-toon visions of fame, says Slate.

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