Pi Day: Pie puns and jokes apart, here are four reasons Pi is the best constant

Here are 4 compelling reasons this fantabulous & underrated constant matters to non-mathematicians.

It's Pi day today! The 14 March... because 3/14 kind of, sort of looks like 3.14 if you squint a little, and then a little more. I know, I know... it isn't the same thing — far from it, because 3/14 is clearly a fraction and not Pi by any stretch of the number. Whatever.

It's still known as Pi Day. And today is it!

Pi Day: Pie puns and jokes apart, here are four reasons Pi is the best constant

Pi power.

The one day of the year when mathematicians probably get discounts at bakeries, cheers at pie-contests and contests over who can recite more digits of pi — infinite that it is.

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208
99862803482534211706

Those are the first 100 digits if you're planning on giving it a go.

Jokes apart though, pi really does need popularity and better PR. From school, we've learnt that pi is linked with all things circular and round. The ratio of circumference to the diameter which is unchanging in circles anywhere and everywhere.

We learnt it by heart, took the IIITJEEs/SATs/GATEs, and then threw the Pi along with all those enormous textbooks and practise tests in the bin (unless you're in a technician, engineer, or have a kid learning geometry.)

Coincidence? I think not. Image courtesy: Envision

Coincidence? I think not. Image courtesy: Envision

Here are a handful of different reasons pi is fantabulous and underrated, as Mathematician Steven Strogatz put it in his ode to Pi in the New Yorker. 

Pi puts infinity within reach

The digits of pi are endless, and yet its numbers don't show a pattern or any kind.

"They go on forever, seemingly at random—except that they can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle," says Strogatz.

Pi has a duality, caught between perfect order and total randomness.

Pi touches infinity in other ways too

There are several formulas like this one: 1 – 1⁄3 + 1⁄5 – 1⁄7 + 1⁄9 – 1⁄11 + ⋯ called 'infinity series'. Not only are they an endless series of numbers or fractions, like pi itself, but the sum of all their numbers also equals pi.

These formulae feature odd numbers, and form a bridge between number theory and geometry.

"(Pi) joins two seemingly separate mathematical universes, like a cosmic wormhole," Strogatz said.

NASA celebrate Pi day with stories about the role of Pi in space and spaceflight. Image: NASA

NASA celebrates Pi day with stories about the role of Pi in space and spaceflight. Image: NASA

At the heart of all thing cyclical is Pi

There are many different constants in the sciences and mathematics, but there's one quality that sets pi apart — its link with cycles.

Whether its a process that repeats over and over — a heartbeat, a hip hop rhythm or planets orbiting the Sun — pi has a seat on the table.

The world around us has more pis running in the background than we realize. The gentle breathing of a sleeping baby and our body's sleep-wake cycle are two such examples, both of which can be described using some seriously pi-laden mathematics.

Pi makes waves

Owing to the link Pi has to rhythms and cyclical patterns, it is also rooted in the way waves work. The ripple in a pool of water, tides in the beach, electromagnetic waves that rule wireless communication (hello, 5G!) or supersonic jet engines are some examples.

Pi has its two legs in so many natural phenomena and workings of the universe. There's no running from it.

So, today on Pi day, embrace the damn constant. It's going to be in and around you longer than any darling or lover will.

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