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Yippie Pi Daaaay, numbercruncher: Is it time to forgive Indiana for calling it 3.2?

March 14, 2013 - Pi Day
March 14, 2013 - Pi Day Photo by catherinecronin via Flickr Creative Commons

Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, is the mathematical constant celebrated every year on Mar. 14 by Greek letter geeks and the people who love them.

The value of π is an irrational number that equals approximately 3.14159 and goes on for infinity. This is what it looks at 1,000,000 digits. Here, it shows off at 4 million.

Count the magazine Mental Floss among the numerically inclined; they asserted in a subscriber email Thursday that "the notion of legislatively changing a mathematical constant sounds crazy," and then launched into a tale of "The Time Indiana Tried to Change Pi to 3.2":

In 1897, Indiana's legislators tried to pass a bill that legally defined the value of pi as 3.2. It all started with Edward J. Goodwin, a Solitude, Indiana, physician who spent his free time dabbling in mathematics and an old problem known as squaring the circle ... Goodwin wasn't going to let something trivial like a proven mathematical impossibility deter him ... [H]e convinced American Mathematical Monthly to print the proof in which he "solved" the squaring-the-circle problem. One of the odd side effects...was that the value of pi morphed into 3.2.

Goodwin copyrighted his faulty method to collect royalties. But he offered to let Indiana use his masterpiece free of charge — if the state adopted this "new mathematical truth" as state law. House Bill 246 was introduced, and it was eventually passed unanimously ... [It] had become national news, and a Purdue University professor decided to intervene. He explained to a group of senators why Goodwin's theory was nonsense, and the bill died a quiet legislative death.

Also, Mar. 14 is Albert Einstein's birthday. That means double party in Pasadena.

The L.A. Times reports that the Caltech math club is commemorating the day with "a celebration of nerdiness" that includes real pies, according to club President Christopher Perez.

Attendees of Nerdfeast 9000 (not the real name...  yet) were sure to cover all their decimal-place bases. To ensure 3.14159265 accuracy, the pie party started at 1:59 a.m. and included 26 pies in five different flavors. 

Elsewhere, the pi jokes keep coming  

Pi Day 2013

[more at KPCC.org]

Storified by Lisa Brenner· Thu, Mar 14 2013 15:40:04

**Pi are not round, Pi 'r' squared**. Happy Pi-day (3.14) to all those who numerically write their months before their datesNeil deGrasse Tyson
Happy pi day! Here's how to calculate the beloved #mathematical constant using a 200-year old method http://ow.ly/iUHGC #piday #piNew Scientist
Can't get enough PI today? http://pic.twitter.com/4zv4fIa1itErik Holm
Count von Count: Pi day? Three point one four one five nine two six five three five eight ... my love for numbers is irrational! Ah ha ha!Sesame Street
Happy Pi Day factoid: The mirror reflection of 3.14 is PIE...http://pic.twitter.com/bW7fMhQ4fb (Thx @renansalazar for the link!)Danica McKellar
Pi Day is just a crock of bullshit made up by the math companies to sell more mathEli Braden
Fbcdn
Go home Pi. You're irrational.Charles R. Kaiser

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