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18 March 2008

Pi Day! It was just Pi Day! 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209

Sure, click all you want.

San Francisco has a famous science museum, the Exploratorium, and the Exploratorium has an annual celebration of Pi Day.

20th Anniversary of Pi Day
Friday 14 March 2008

[Get it? It only took me 3 days to get it. Pi Day is always on 3 month 14 day.] Apparently Pi Day is wildly popular, and hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands? millions? billions? trillions? quadrillions? quintillions?) of people show up to dance, gambol, cavort and sing the praises of this neverending (in its decimal expansion), highly useful and fascinating irrational, transcendental number.

TOP: 1st Day Issue, Postalo Vleeptron: Pi Day / infinite denomination

2ND: big boxes filled with pie plates (yes, all sorts of pi puns on PDay) with one of the ten decimal system digits on each plate, attached to yardstick handles.

3RD: Everyone grabs a digit and then somehow a long conga line is assembled in proper order, and marches around the Exploratorium as a living, wriggling representation of the decimal expansion of Pi. I'm sure someone gets the special honor of carrying the Decimal Point.

BOTTOM: the Exploratorium's poster advertising Pi Day. [photos by Daniel Terdiman, C|NET.]

The rest of this stuff -- mostly mnemonics in various lingos to memorize the first handsful of digits of Pi -- I just brazenly filched. You're smart, you can figure out that each word in

Can I have a small
container of coffee?

contains the proper digit's number of letters, so the above nicely churns back 3.1415926 .

You may want more precision. They have longer mnemonics. But Lord have mercy, after about 8 digits of precision, there just aren't any possible applications in the physical universe for more precision. You can probably build the Brooklyn Bridge or all the aircraft built before 1960 with 3 digits of precision. You can probably astrogate to Neptune with 4.

(None of our ambitious robots have visited Neptune yet. Watch This Space for late-breaking updates.)

A very strange aspect of the Borwein Brothers's formula for the hexadecimal (base 16) expansion of Pi is that if you want to know just the 9375th digit of the expansion, you just shove 9375 in the front of the formula, and it squirts the proper hex digit out the ass. You don't have to compute the first 9374 digits first!

This, of course, is so bizarrely counterintuitive as to convince me, with my dim comprehension of such things, that the formula depends on Magickal Principles. I'm sure the Borwein Brothers would vigorously deny that. I wonder how many semesters I'd have to sit in their class -- they're at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada -- before the Light Bulb finally went on in my head.

Yes, Math is supposed to hurt and cause torment and pain. It just is. That's the way it's always been. If you fail the course with a particularly humiliating grade, pick yourself up, enroll in the course the next semester, it will make more sense the second time, you'll probably get a B.

"All noble things are
as difficult as they
are rare."

-- Plato

The poetry of Emily Dickinson, on the other hand -- a very easy course to Ace first time around. And think how valuable and useful it will make you, how proud the community will be of you.

The difference between a math course and a liberal arts/humanities course:

If, in the middle of the semester, your teacher drops dead, the new replacement for the liberal arts course will begin teaching you all entirely different things about the subject, many completely opposite to what the first professor was teaching you.

In the math course, the new professor will ask: "What page did the dead guy leave off on?"

I finally dropped out -- I wasn't contributing anything, and was barely comprehending everyone else's posts -- but I used to hang on a List called Pi-Hacks. These creatures like to compute the expansion of Pi on their home computers, I guess to the extent of their computer's memory and storage capacity. But I guess you can do it in a way that you can reach any point in the expansion, pause, reset parameters, and then resume, and thus keep grinding away on your PC forever.

I always wondered what these folks' parties are like.

Now about the Maths Department of the University of Zimbabwe in Harare ...

A fundamental characteristic of Mathematics is that, when you become mesmerized by and addicted to it, you increasingly don't really give a flying fuck about what's happening outside your window. Even if the electricity goes off and forces you back to the Golden Age of Pencil & Paper, you are in profound and intimate contact with The Ultimate Reality, and loopy and corrupt totalitarian dictators can (as the Brits say) just bugger off, because they're just illusions, fuzzy, shadowy, unreliable distortions of the Ultimate Mathematical Reality.

~ ~ ~

Zimaths is a production of the University of Zimbabwe Maths Department. The Editor is Dr Gavin Hitchcock, with the assistance of Mrs Erica Keogh, Dr David Mtetwa, Mr Lazarus Mudehwe, Mr Gerald Marewo, Prof Mikhail Petrov, and Prof Alistair Stewart. Email:


Currently we know the first 6,442,450,000 decimal digits of Pi, thanks to Japan's Kanada Lab. They ran a program (written by Daisuke Takahashi) on a large computer (a HITAC S-3800/480 to be precise) at the University of Tokyo from 19 - 24 September 1995 using something called Borwein's 4th order convergent algorithm.

[From Pi-Hacks:

The world record for the number of digits of pi calculated on a PC has been broken. Shigeru Kondo has calculated 100,000,000,000 digits in just under 960 hours using QuickPi 4.5. The calculation stats are given below. Shigeru has verified the correctness using data from the University of Tokyo. Congratulations Shigeru!

25 February 2008]

Here are some other examples of pi-mnemonics --- not all are mathematical. With the exception of ChiShona and Sindebele (official languages of Zimbabwe) they are from the huge and absolutely brilliant text file available from Antreas P. Hatzipolakis' site. I have left out authors' names for these because I do not think the names mentioned there are the original authors. I will be of course happy to correct this in case of error!


How I wish I could enumerate Pi easily, since all these horrible mnemonics prevent recalling any of pi's sequence more simply.

How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics. One is, yes, adequate even enough to induce some fun and pleasure for an instant, miserably brief.

Can I have a small container of coffee?

See, I have a rhyme assisting
my feeble brain,
its tasks sometimes resisting.


Kur e shoh e mesoj sigurisht.


Kak e leko i bqrzo iz(ch)islimo pi, kogato znae(sh) kak.


Iye 'P' naye 'I' ndivo vadikanwi. 'Pi' achava mwana.

P and I are lovers. Pi shall be a brainy child. (Martin Mugochi, maths lecturer, University of Zimbabwe)


Eva, o lief, o zoete hartedief uw blauwe oogen zyn wreed bedrogen.

Eve, oh love, oh sweet darling your blue eyes are cruelly deceived. (this song was being sung in the sixties, and its inventor has slunk into obscurity).


Que j'aime a faire apprendre
Un nombre utile aux sages!
Glorieux Archimede, artiste ingenieux,
Toi, de qui Syracuse loue encore le merite!

I really like teaching a number that is useful to wise men! Glorious Archimedes, ingenious artist, You, of whom Syracuse still honours the merit!


Wie o! dies Pi
macht ernstlich so vielen viele M�h!
Lernt immerhin, J�nglinge, leichte Verselein,
Wie so zum Beispiel dies d�rfte zu merken sein!

How o this pi
gives so many people so much real trouble!
Learn after all, young men, easy verses,
how such for instance this should be easy to keep in mind!


Kto v mgle i slote
vagarovac ma ochote,
chyba ten ktory
ogniscie zakochany,
odziany vytwornie,
gna do nog bogdanki
pasc kornie.

Who likes to skip school on a rainy and misty day, perhaps the one who madly in love, smartly dressed, runs to fall humbly at the feet of his loved one.


Sim, �'util e f�cil memorizar um n'ugrato aos s�bios.

Yes, it is useful and easy to memorize a number loved by the wise.

Sou o medo e temor constante do menino vadio.

I am the constant fear and terror of lazy boys.


Asa e bine a scrie renumitul si utilul numar.

That's the way to write the famous and useful number.


Nxa u fika e khaya uzojabula na y'nkosi ujesu qobo.

When you get to heaven, you will rejoice with the Lord Jesus.

(Note: again, the last digit represented here is due to rounding off --- it should be 3. Thanks to Dr Precious Sibanda, U of Zimbabwe Maths lecturer for this one)


Sol y Luna y Cielo proclaman al Divino Autor del Cosmo.

Sun & Moon & Skies proclaim the divine author of the Universe.


Ack, o fasa, Pi numer f�rringas
ty skolan l�ter var adept itvingas
r�aknel�ra medelst r�knedosa
och sa ges tilltron till tabell en dyster kosa.
Nej, lat ist�llet dem nu tokpoem bibringas!

Oh no, Pi is nowadays belittled
for the school makes each student learn
arithmetic with the help of calculators
and thus the tables have a sad future.
No, let us instead read silly poems!

(probably written by a journalist at one of Sweden's daily newspaper in the early 70's or so.)

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679 82148 08651 32823 06647 09384 46095 50582 23172 53594 08128 48111 74502 84102 70193 85211 05559 64462 29489 54930 38196 44288 10975 66593 34461 28475 64823 37867 83165 27120 19091 45648 56692 34603 48610 45432 66482 13393 60726 02491 41273 72458 70066 06315 58817 48815 20920 96282 92540 91715 36436 78925 90360 01133 05305 48820 46652 13841 46951 94151 16094 33057 27036 57595 91953 09218 61173 81932 61179 31051 18548 07446 23799 62749 56735 18857 52724 89122 79381 83011 94912 98336 73362 44065 66430 86021 39494 63952 24737 19070 21798 60943 70277 05392 17176 29317 67523 84674 81846 76694 05132 00056 81271 45263 56082 77857 71342 75778 96091 73637 17872 14684 40901 22495 34301 46549 58537 10507 92279 68925 89235 42019 95611 21290 21960 86403 44181 59813 62977 47713 09960 51870 72113 49999 99837 29780 49951 05973 17328 16096 31859 50244 59455 34690 83026 42522 30825 33446 85035 26193 11881 71010 00313 78387 52886 58753 32083 81420 61717 76691 47303 59825 34904 28755 46873 11595 62863 88235 37875 93751 95778 18577 80532 17122 68066 13001 92787 66111 95909 21642 01989

[there's more.]

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