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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