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Pi Day breathes new life into 3.14

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

Cherry pie. (FOTOLIA)

Cherry pie. (FOTOLIA)

An irrational number’s special day has come full circle again.

For math enthusiasts, Friday marks the annual Pi Day, held since the late ‘80s.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference and diameter of a circle and is an infinite number.

March 14 is Pi Day because the date in western countries reads as 3.14, the approximate number equal to Pi, even though Pi is infinite and actually continues on with the first six digits being 3.14159.

University of B.C. mathematics professor Lior Silberman said Thursday the number is everywhere.

“Whenever you see something circular, probably calculations having to do with it involve Pi,” the academic said. “Whenever you see periodic motion then there’s Pi there. . . a bus tire, or a pendulum . . . whenever something vibrates then they’ll be some Pis in the formulas.”

He said the number is used to engineer countless products and structures.

It was first used to calculate area of farmers’ fields.

Silberman said Pi just occurs naturally, which is what makes it such an interesting number.

Pi Day is used by schools to teach students about the number but some universities, such as Harvard, take the event seriously, according to Silberman.

Pie-eating contests and competitions to see who can memorize as much of the number as possible are common.

UBC, on the other hand, has a more laid back Pi Day celebration.

“Tomorrow we’ll have pies at the departmental colloquium,” Silberman said. “It’s kind of a joke … a humourous event.”



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