What’s in a pi?

Written on |

March 14h is International Pi Day. Why do we celebrate it? Is pi still relevant 4,000 years after being discovered? And is peach pie better than cherry?

What’s the best kind of pie? And what’s the perfect crust-to-filling ratio? Mankind has been struggling with these questions since the dawn of baked goods, which is probably about as long as the number pi has been known to us.

Although Pi Day was first celebrated in the 1980s, the number pi (represented as the Greek letter π) was first discovered about 4,000 years ago. The ratio of a circle’s circumference to the circle’s diameter, pi is always the same, whether you’re measuring a penny or a truck tire. Not only that, but pi is an “irrational” number – no matter how many digits of pi we calculate, we’ll never be able to predict which digit comes next. 

We decided to ask Ofir Gorodetsy, a PhD student at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Tel Aviv University, about the significance of pi.

“The decimal expansion of π starts with 3.14,” Ofir said. “Which is why we celebrate Pi Day on March 14th every year. And aside from being known to Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, pi is also mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, where the approximation 3 is used to measure the circumference of a circle.”

Too much pi?

Although most people are familiar with pi as being 3.14, mathematicians have been struggling to find the other digits of pi for centuries. According to Ofir, “figuring out the digits of pi gets pretty difficult after a dozen or so. Many scholars from all over the world have tried to find more and more digits: Archimedes, Liu Hui, Brahmagupta, Fibonacci, Isaac Newton. In the 18th century a mathematician even came up with proof that the digits of pi don’t follow any pattern, so they never repeat in any predictable way.”

According to Ofir, figuring out the digits of pi is much easier these days. Even freshmen at university can calculate as many digits as they’d like, using modern tools.

But the magic of pi is not only its length, but how common it is in the natural world. The disk of the sun, the pupil of our eyes, the ripples in a pond, even the way rivers tend to bend and flow can be described using pi. It’s used in the work of biologists, engineers, geographers, physicsts, mathematicians. Almost every discipline that deals with the world around us crosses paths with this unique number at some point. 

So why do we celebrate Pi Day? Probably because math is at its most delicious when it’s fresh out of the oven.

Related posts

TAU Researchers Identified a Serious Security Flaw in Samsung’s Galaxy Series

March 31, 2022

Inventive Study to Develop Biological Solutions for Agriculture

March 27, 2022

What the Ukraine Crisis Means for Cyber Warfare

February 28, 2022

AI Week 2022 Draws over 5,000

February 23, 2022

The “COTS-Capsule” that protects electronic systems from hazardous radiation effects in space

January 17, 2022

Out of This World

January 5, 2022

Fighting Pollution With Seaweed

September 12, 2021

For the first time: The “God Particle” has been characterized in its decay into a pair of charm quarks

August 8, 2021

What to Do When Everything is Vulnerable and Under Attack

July 25, 2021

The Faculty of Engineering Predicts: A Greener and Safer Future

July 2, 2021

Exploring New Frontiers in AI

June 14, 2021

Fireflies’ Protective ‘Musical Armor’ Against Bats

May 12, 2021

Google and TAU to Harness the Power of AI for Social Good

May 6, 2021

Robot “Hears” through the Ear of a Locust

March 4, 2021

TAU Launches Israel’s First Center for AI and Data Science

February 25, 2021

TAU’s First Autonomous Boat is Ready to Sail

February 24, 2021

Israel’s Premier Artificial Intelligence Event is Back!

February 22, 2021

Ready for Launch!

February 17, 2021

Researchers from TAU have developed a technology that enables photographing moving objects

December 17, 2020

TAU Study Proves that Light Can Kill Coronavirus

December 14, 2020

The future generation of the Startup Nation

November 26, 2020

The Sky is Not the Limit

November 2, 2020

TAU’s Cyber Week 2020 Goes Virtual

October 18, 2020

Seeing the World in New Colors

October 12, 2020

TAU Professor First Israeli Named to US Inventors’ Academy

September 15, 2020

Tel Aviv University Researcher Heads a Committee in Charge of the Future of the European Science

August 16, 2020

Careful, it’s viral

February 17, 2020

Disturbing perfection: study shows power of “disrupted” materials

February 6, 2020

Recalculating: when research starts one way and ends another

February 2, 2020

What will life look like in 2030?

May 9, 2019

Better maps for better self-driving cars?

April 8, 2019

A unique collaboration for Blockchain Applications at the Coller School of Management

March 27, 2019

MIT expert helps promote synthetic biology at TAU

March 1, 2019

Are two brains better than one?

February 19, 2019

A match made in Megiddo

February 13, 2019

Pursuing the Unknown

Copyright ©  Tel Aviv University Trust. All rights reserved.
Registered charity number 314179.