Everything you wanted to know about pi but were afraid to ask

The Intrepid Mathematician

Ghost in the Machine

A clever way to foil an evil ghost possessing your computer is to ask it compute all the digits of π. Spock did just that in a scene from the classic Star Trek episode Wolf in the Fold.

But what exactly is π? It’s a number of course, but not like the counting numbers 1, 2, 3, … we learn in elementary school. The number π is arguably the most famous number in our culture, and for good reason: it is found in all over mathematics and the sciences.

The first three digits of π are 3.14, and that inspired Pi Day, which takes place on March 14 of each year (third month, fourteenth day, get it?). Some celebrate it exactly at 1:59 pm that day in honor of the next three digits: 3.14159… That date also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday. Go figure.

With Pi Day coming up…

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