NATIONAL NEWS

What’s Pi Day all about? Math, science, pies and more

Mar 14, 2024, 6:42 AM

(Image by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay)...

(Image by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay)

(Image by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay)

Math enthusiasts around the world, from college kids to rocket scientists, celebrate Pi Day on Thursday, which is March 14 or 3/14 — the first three digits of an infinite number with many practical uses.

Around the world many people will mark the day with a slice of pie — sweet, savory or even pizza.

Simply put, Pi is a mathematical constant that expresses the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is part of many formulas used in physics, astronomy, engineering and other fields, dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, Babylon and China.

Pi Day itself dates to 1988, when physicist Larry Shaw began celebrations at the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco. The holiday didn’t really gain national recognition though until two decades later. In 2009, Congress designated every March 14 to be the big day — to hopefully spur more interest in math and science. Fittingly enough, the day is also Albert Einstein’s birthday.

Here’s a little more about the holiday’s origin and how it’s celebrated today.

What is pi?

Pi can calculate the circumference of a circle by measuring the diameter — the distance straight across the circle’s middle — and multiplying that by the 3.14-plus number.

It is considered a constant number and it is also infinite, meaning it is mathematically irrational. Long before computers, historic scientists such as Isaac Newton spent many hours calculating decimal places by hand. Today, using sophisticated computers, researchers have come up with trillions of digits for pi, but there is no end.

Why is it called pi?

It wasn’t given its name until 1706, when Welsh mathematician William Jones began using the Greek symbol for the number.

Why that letter? It’s the first Greek letter in the words “periphery” and “perimeter,” and pi is the ratio of a circle’s periphery — or circumference — to its diameter.

What are some practical uses?

The number is key to accurately pointing an antenna toward a satellite. It helps figure out everything from the size of a massive cylinder needed in refinery equipment to the size of paper rolls used in printers.

Pi is also useful in determining the necessary scale of a tank that serves heating and air conditioning systems in buildings of various sizes.

NASA uses pi on a daily basis. It’s key to calculating orbits, the positions of planets and other celestial bodies, elements of rocket propulsion, spacecraft communication and even the correct deployment of parachutes when a vehicle splashes down on Earth or lands on Mars.

Using just nine digits of pi, scientists say it can calculate the Earth’s circumference so accurately it only errs by about a quarter of an inch (0.6 centimeters) for every 25,000 miles (about 40,000 kilometers).

It’s not just math, though

Every year the San Francisco museum that coined the holiday organizes events, including a parade around a circular plaque, called the Pi Shrine, 3.14 times — and then, of course, festivities with lots of pie.

Around the country, many events now take place on college campuses. For example, Nova Southeastern University in Florida will hold a series of activities, including a game called “Mental Math Bingo” and event with free pizza (pies) — and for dessert, the requisite pie.

“Every year Pi Day provides us with a way to celebrate math, have some fun and recognize how important math is in all our lives,” said Jason Gershman, chair of NSU’s math department.

At Michele’s Pies in Norwalk, Connecticut, manager Stephen Jarrett said it’s one of their biggest days of the year.

“We have hundreds of pies going out for orders (Thursday) to companies, schools and just individuals,” Jarrett said in an interview. “Pi Day is such a fun, silly holiday because it’s a mathematical number that people love to turn into something fun and something delicious. So people celebrate Pi Day with sweet pies, savory pies, and it’s just an excuse for a little treat.”

NASA has its annual “Pi Day Challenge” online, offering people plenty of games and puzzles, some of them directly from the space agency’s own playbook such as calculating the orbit of an asteroid or the distance a moon rover would need to travel each day to survey a certain lunar area.

What about Einstein?

Possibly the world’s best-known scientist, Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Germany. The infinite number of Pi was used in many of his breakthrough theories and now Pi Day gives the world another reason to celebrate his achievements.

In a bit of math symmetry, famed physicist Stephen Hawking died on March 14, 2018, at age 76. Still, Pi is not a perfect number. He once had this to say:

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist. Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”

___

Associated Press video journalist John Minchillo contributed from Norwalk, Connecticut.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

President Joe Biden is receiving constant updates on threats of Iranian retaliatory strikes against...

Kevin Liptak, Natasha Bertrand and Samantha Waldenberg, CNN

Biden says he expects Iran will attack Israel ‘sooner than later’

President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House Friday that he expects Iran will attack Israel “sooner than later.”

3 hours ago

About 576,000 Roku accounts were compromised in a cyberattack, the company said on April 12, the se...

John Towfighi, CNN

Roku says 576,000 accounts breached in cyberattack

About 576,000 Roku accounts were compromised in Roku's second cyberattack of the year.

3 hours ago

The dome of the U.S. Capitol is reflected in a window on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in April 2...

Kristin Wilson, Haley Talbot and Lauren Fox, CNN

House passes modified surveillance bill after it failed earlier this week

The House on Friday passed a modified surveillance bill, just two days after an earlier version failed to advance.

7 hours ago

Oakland officials have voted in favor of changing the name of the city’s airport to San Francisco...

Olga R. Rodriguez and Christopher Weber

Oakland officials vote to include ‘San Francisco’ in airport’s name

Oakland officials have voted in favor of changing the name of the city’s airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport.

7 hours ago

FILE: Rashee Rice #4 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up before Super Bowl LVIII against the Kansas ...

Associated Press

Kansas City Chiefs’ Rashee Rice surrenders to police on assault charge after high-speed crash

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice has surrendered to police on charges including aggravated assault after he and another driver of a speeding sports car allegedly caused a crash on a Dallas highway last month.

11 hours ago

Derrick Dearman, convicted killer of 5 on Alabama death row, dropped his appeals and asked the stat...

Emma Tucker, Isabel Rosales and Rebekah Riess, CNN

Alabama man convicted of killing 5 people asks to be executed: ‘It’s the right thing to do’

The 35-year-old inmate on Alabama’s death row has spent almost six years fighting his sentence after being convicted of killing five people. But now, he says he’s asked the state to execute him.

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

What’s Pi Day all about? Math, science, pies and more