Friday, 14 March 2008

'Typical maths nerd'

I just scrolled down to the BBC's 'Most Read' stories, as you do, and saw the headline 3.14 and the rest. I immediately thought "Hmm, why are they talking about pi" and the numbers 3.141592654 sprang to mind as I clicked on the story. Turns out, it's Pi Day! Who knew?! Apparently the date is based on the fact that a shortened form of pi is 3.14, and 3/14 is the 14th March in the American date format.

I was suitably amused by the first few paragraphs:

As we're all taught at school, pi represents the number you get when you divide the distance around a circle (its circumference) by the distance across (the diameter).

With just a string and a ruler you can quickly measure that pi must be just over three-and-an-eighth (3.125). With more precise measurements, you may be able to narrow it down to 3.14.

However, if you ask a typical maths nerd, you'll get an earful of pi - 3.14159265 and so on. A surprising number of students have memorised 50 or even 100 digits after the decimal point.

It was the third paragraph that got me: as I just indicated, I've known the first 10 digits of pi for years, and somehow it was still tucked away in a dusty corner of my brain. Which is impressive for someone who has difficulty remembering her own PIN number if she doesn't use it for a week or two. But who cares - I'm officially a maths nerd!

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