8 fun facts about Pi

2015-07-22 19:48


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Johannesburg - Today is July 22 - or 22/7, a fraction that recalls the amount we used for Pi in our maths classes in high school.

However, this mathematical constant is a lot more complex, and more interesting than most people ever realise.

To celebrate "Pi approximation day", here are eight fun facts about Pi and how it is celebrated.

1) The celebration of Pi day depends on how you write the date.

The United States and a few other countries write their date with the month before the day. Therefore they celebrate Pi day on March 14 or 3/14... which recalls the first few digits of Pi (3.14...).

Other places around the world write their dates with the day before the month. So some celebrate Pi day today - on 22/7.

2) These dates, however, are not an accurate representation of Pi

Jeff Murugan, an associate professor of mathematical physics at the University of Cape Town, told News24 that both dates are "basically just amusement".

"Pi is an irrational number. That means that there are an infinite number of digits after the point [In 3.14...]. It cannot be expressed as a ratio of two other numbers. That means that 22/7 is not Pi - it is an approximation of Pi."

3) Despite that, Pi day is celebrated by eating lots of... pie.

Despite it not being entirely accurate, both days are celebrated by mathematicians, geeks and the number conscious by the baking and eating of round, mostly sweet pies.

4) It is the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.

Let's use the example of building a fence around a circular swimming pool. If you used the diameter of the pool to determine how much fencing you would need to build around the pool, you would fall short - but just barely.

This is because three diameters end-to-end would make the circumference, but not quite .

"Getting that 'not quite' part is the problem," Murugan said.

One has to keep on adding smaller and smaller bits to make up that "not quite" space, and that addition would go on infinitely - much like Zeno's paradox.

According to the paradox, if a person was running from point A to point B, they would have to first get to point C, which is halfway between those two points. However to get to point C, they would have to run to point D, which is halfway between A and C.

This goes on for infinity.

5) It is found in nature 

Nature is fond of Pi.

You can see it in the DNA in our cells, the pupils in our eyes, a rainbow, the ripples that come from dropping a stone into water and the shapes of rivers as they wind through landscapes, among millions of other things.

6) It really does go on forever

It also has no pattern itself. It has been determined to 12 trillion digits after the decimal point, with no sign of ending.

7) People try to memorise it

The Guinness World Record for memorising Pi is 67 890 digits and is held by Lu Chao from China in 2005.

8) Your birthday and other important numbers are probably in it

A website called The Pi-Search Page allows you to find a specific sequence of numbers you want... however it's limited because it works within the first 200 million digits of Pi.

So those who memorise Pi could pretty well know their crush's phone number - they would just need infinity to try and find it.

Read more on:    science

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