This statement is both literal as well as figurative. While it connotes the actual numerical value of the mathematical concept of Pi, it also denotes the real-world applications of the formula, which enhances it figurative value in our lives. Pi is one of the more enduring as well as endearing concepts that make mathematics fun to learn!
First, a bit of history.
The symbol of Pi, “π” has been derived from two Greek words, viz. “περιφέρεια” (meaning periphery) and “περίμετρος” (meaning perimeter). The Welsh mathematician William Outright is the first documented user of the symbol in the year 1647. However, it only gained popularity in 1748 with the publication of Leonhard Euler’s “Introduction to Analysis of the Infinite.”
In mathematical terms, the formula Pi translates to the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. Pi is an irrational number and its approximation stands at 3.14 or 22/7.
“If it is merely another formula, why does Pi hold a unique place in mathematics?”
Read on to find out the fascinating story of this unassuming mathematical formula that, as you will discover, is essentially at the core of most things in our everyday life.
In 250 BCE, the celebrated mathematician Archimedes devised a method to accurately determine the value of Pi and published his findings in the essay, ‘Measurement of a Circle’. This mathematical genius astutely figured out ways to estimate the perimeters for polygons with twice as many sides, to arrive at the approximate value of 220/71 <Pi <22/7.
“Archimedes’ principles outlived him by two thousand years!”
The perimeter of the circle (blue) is between the perimeter of the green hexagon and that of the purple hexagon according to Archimedes’ method. (Source: math.psu.edu)
Challenge yourself to find out how many of these mind-boggling mathematical paradoxes you know of!
If you thought that scientific inquiry was a leisurely activity in the old world, you are grossly mistaken. Following Archimedes’ approximation of the value of Pi, there started a positive competition among contemporary mathematicians as well as those of posterity to determine more and more digits of Pi.
Who will find the most decimal places of Pi? Source: visualhunt
“The race to expand the Pi decimal system did not affect the West until the 17th century CE when Leonardo da Pisa Fibonacci added an interesting twist to the enigmatic story of Pi.”
The discovery of analysis and differential calculus proved to be a defining moment in the long evolutionary history of Pi. This led celebrated mathematicians such as John Wallis, James Stirling and Isaac Newton to deduce that Pi was not only geometrically perceived but also be found in the form of a series.
“Did you know that there is a group of individuals calling themselves the 1000-club who can recite the first thousand decimal places of Pi? Members include David Thomas (22,500 digits), Mark Aarøe Nissen (22544 digits).”
Still evolving, Pi has provided mathematicians with more mysteries and paradoxes than perhaps the entire gamut of mathematical theories!
As already mentioned, Pi is an irrational number. This means that cannot be written as a fraction of two whole numbers (like a rational number). Confused, yet?
Additionally, Pi decimals cannot be predicted. In fact, there exists no mathematical model, not even the mighty computer, on record that can predict Pi decimals. Now, that is unique indeed!
“The discovery of Pi was seen by ancient mathematicians as an affront to God!”
Pi is a transcendental number, which means it cannot be the solution to any polynomial equation with integer coefficients.
However, formulas bind Pi to other mathematical constants such as the Golden Ratio, which corresponds exactly to the construction methods of the Fibonacci sequence.
Mathematicians are still debating whether Pi is a normal number. In other words, it is still a matter of conjecture if Pi can have a finite sequence of decimal places. This has ensured that interest in the concept of Pi has not diminished even after four millennia!
Pi is also an integral part of statistical and probability studies, as exemplified in Buffon’s needle problem.
Yes, you saw that right. Pi is an inescapable part of our everyday life experiences. And, we are not talking geometry classes alone.
Whenever you look at a circle, any circle (such as the Sun, or even a light bulb), you will know that you are looking at Pi.
Oh yes! Pi is all around you! Source: visualhunt
“Even the famous uncertainty principle of Heisenberg has the presence of Pi in it.”
What’s the link between Pi and an Egyptian pyramid? Source: visualhunt
Ever wondered how advanced ancient Egyptians truly were in their spirit of inquiry? Just take a look at the magnificent pyramid, err…the Pi-ramid. Calculate the ratio between the perimeter of the base of the pyramid and double the height. Voila! You have your Pi. Was this intentional or a mere coincidence? Perhaps, we will never know.
For the sceptics who refuse to see the beauty of literature in mathematics or vice versa, here is some food for thought. Our beloved Pi seems to be a peacekeeper between worlds. Don’t believe us? Here is some poetry for inspiration. This is also a fun activity for coding enthusiasts and amateurs!
The following stanza gives thirteen digits of π:
See, I have a rhyme assisting
3 1 4 1 5 9
my feeble brain,
2 6 5
its tasks sometimes resisting.
3 5 9 9
Bet we got your interest piqued!
“Here is a fun fact to make you fall in love with Pi: two math teachers, A. Beveridge and J. Shan, used the mathematical Pi to figure out the lead character in GOT! Even if you are not a GOT fan, you simply cannot ignore the powerhouse that is Pi.”
We leave you with a few thoughts to ponder and decide if Pi truly deserves the attention and adulation of a mathematical enigma.
The greatness of Pi has been recognized by scientists and mathematicians the world over. To mark this, March 14th is celebrated as Pi Day. Now, that is what true devotion looks like. We won’t be surprised to find out that the symbol of Pi is worshipped as a God in some corner of the globe!