Happy Pi Day 3.14

(A day early, so you can prepare your pies!)


A plushie for pi day made by Kitty-Sprinkles on deviantart.

by Wislawa Szymborska

The admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also just a start,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can’t be grasped, six five three five , at a glance,
eight nine, by calculation,
seven nine, through imagination,
or even three two three eight in jest, or by comparison
four six to anything
two six four three in the world.
The longest snake on earth ends at thirty-odd feet.
Same goes for fairy tale snakes, though they make it a little longer.
The caravan of digits that is pi
does not stop at the edge of the page,
but runs off the table and into the air,
over the wall, a leaf, a bird’s nest, the clouds, straight into the sky,
through all the bloatedness and bottomlessness.
Oh how short, all but mouse-like is the comet’s tail!
How frail is a ray of starlight, bending in any old space!
Meanwhile two three fifteen three hundred nineteen
my phone number your shirt size
the year nineteen hundred and seventy-three sixth floor
number of inhabitants sixty-five cents
hip measurement two fingers a charade and a code,
in which we find how blithe the trostle sings!
and please remain calm,
and heaven and earth shall pass away,
but not pi, that won’t happen,
it still has an okay five,
and quite a fine eight,
and all but final seven,
prodding and prodding a plodding eternity
to last.
Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter; as well as that of a circle’s area to its radius squared. It’s an irrational number, not something that can be represented by a fraction. It’s decimals neither ending nor repeating in any sequence: ‘Prodding and prodding a plodding eternity to last.’ Ancient cultures tried to approximate pi, at times coming reasonably close. The Babylonians used 3 or 3.12, the Egyptians 3.16. Archimedes painstakingly approximated pi by conceiving of a series of polygons within circles in order to get closer and closer to the exact area. He figured it to be between 3 1/7 and 3 10/71. (If you’re interested in Archimedes and his methods, check out The Archimedes Codex by Reviel Netz and William Noel. They discuss both the finding of a medieval palimpsest with unknown works of Archimedes and everyone’s work to extract them from the seriously damaged book. They also mention how in the method of mechanical theorems he was approaching calculus through geometry. It was the closest I’ve gotten to understanding calculus. I’m honestly not good at advanced maths. I tend to stick to 3 and a little myself when figuring lengths for wire wrapping, since it isn’t an exact science. Quilting requires more stringent geometry and occasionally algebra, but I’ve yet to tackle circles in my quilting projects.)
So have some pie or a pizza pie and celebrate Pi Day! If pie isn’t your dessert, have a round cake instead and sing Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein.

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Filed under Historical Facts and Trivia

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