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March 14, when written as 3/14, represents the first three digits of pi. It is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. To commemorate the world's most famous mathematical constant, enthusiasts around the world embrace their inner nerdiness by celebrating Pi Day. The date, which also happens to be Einstein's birthday, inspires a variety of events every year. Last year was the ultimate Pi Day, as adding the year to the date notation, 3/14/15, encompassed even more digits in the sequence. We won't get this much pi again for 100 years.
Just why are people crazy about pi? The number - 3 followed by a ceaseless string of random numbers after the decimal point - is irrational, meaning that it cannot be expressed through the division of two whole numbers. It is also a transcendental number, which means that it isn't the root of any algebraic number. This irrational and transcendental nature appeals to people, perhaps because pi's continuous flow of digits reflects the unending circle it helps to trace.
Pi has held an almost mystical quality to humans throughout time. Its unspoken presence can be felt in the circular ruins of Stonehenge, in the vaulted ceilings of domed Roman temples and in the celestial spheres of Plato and Ptolemy. It has inspired centuries of mathematical puzzles and some of humanity's most iconic artwork. People spend years of their lives attempting to memorize its digits. Contests are held to see who knows the most numbers after the decimal. Some people write "piaku." Those are poems in which the number of letters in each word represents subsequent digits of pi. Still others create complex works of art. They are inspired by the randomness of pi. The list goes on and on, like pi itself.
How are you celebrating Pi Day?
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What would happen if pi = 3.2?
Write your answers in the comments section below