March 14: It Is Pi (Pie) Day!

Mar 14, 2017 By Anita R
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Now, here's a day to celebrate those delicious circular apple and plum pies. March 14 (3/14) every year is celebrated by millions across the world as Pi Day - by both the mathematical and the foodie kind!

Pi represents an irrational number that continues indefinitely, without repetition or pattern. It is used to compute the area, circumference and volume of circles. This number begins with 3.141592653 and continues indefinitely. Infact it has been calculated for up to 2 trillion digits - and the beauty is the numbers never repeat! 

Pi day is marked in many ways - from competitions on how many digits students can memorize to pie-eating contests. Even companies join in the fun - Raytheon sends out pies to math teachers at schools within 3.14 miles of its company offices!

The Origin Of Pi

Circles have always puzzled ancient mathematicians. Even as early as 1900 BC, various civilizations from Babylonia to Greece and India had discovered that the circumference of a circle is always a little more than three times the diameter of the circle. There was no precise value that was available as each civilization computed the ratio within 1% of its actual value.

Archimedes is said to have finally figured it out for us, and named the value 'Pi'. He figured that rather than work with circles he could use polygons to get to his quest. So he began comparing the perimeters of two polygons – one inscribed inside a circle and the other outside.

By comparing over 96 such polygons, Archimedes arrived at the value 3.14159. The more the sides of the polygon that is used to compare, the better the value of pi you will get. The value that Archimedes arrived at was still only 99.9% accurate.

Mathematicians have figured that the value of Pi can be arrived at using the ratio (22/7). In honor of this constant, some people celebrate Pi approximation day as July 22!

Albert Einstein & 'Pi'

Physics and mathematics go hand in hand. So what better way than to celebrate both on the same day! March 14 also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein - the famous theoretical physicist who gave us the "Theory of Relativity". We had written about Einstein here. Princeton University, where Einstein spent 22 years of his life, hosts a day-long celebration, a walking tour of the neighborhood where he lived, and Einstein look-alike contests!

In 1988, San Francisco Exploratorium was the first to hold a Pi Day Celebration. Larry Shaw, a retired physicist is credited with its founding. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution to support naming March 14 (3/14) as Pi Day.

This Pi Day, as you chomp down those round delicacies, spare a thought for the math behind it!