Happy National Pi Day!

Today is National Pi Day, courtesy of House Resolution 224, passed earlier this week.  (Get it?  Today’s 3/14, like Pi, which is approximately 3.14.)  As the Resolution notes, Pi is central to math, science, and engineering, fields “essential for a knowledge-based society.”

As a little kid, I used to pride myself on knowing Pi to 7 or 8 digits (the limits of my hand-held calculator).  A minor accomplishment to be sure, but I’ve always loved math.  Years later, I learned about real math geniuses such as Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in India in 1887.  One online bio of Ramanujan notes:

During an illness in England, [Ramanujan’s mentor, prominent mathematician G.H.] Hardy visited Ramanujan in the hospital. When Hardy remarked that he had taken taxi number 1729, a singularly unexceptional number, Ramanujan immediately responded that this number was actually quite remarkable: it is the smallest integer that can be represented in two ways by the sum of two cubes: 1729=13+123=93+103.

Ramanujan was an intuitive math genius, and died tragically young at 32.  For a great read, check out Robert Kanigel’s book The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan. And Ramanujan was important regarding Pi.  Though I have absolutely no understanding of the relevant math, PiDayInternational.org says Ramanujan did a lot of important work regarding Pi, discovering “new formulas for pi, remarkable for their elegance and inherent mathematical depth.”  Later, “Ramanujan’s formulas became a foundation for calculating pi on handheld and personal computers – although supercomputers now use newer methods that go beyond it.”

Though the rest of us lack Ramanujan’s math genius, at least we can use modern technology (benefiting from Ramanujan’s work) to look up Pi to a million places online.  See 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592.com.

Have a Happy Pi Day.  I recommend celebrating by buying a good pie, either a Mineo’s Pizza or an Eat’n Park homemade strawberry pie.  Before dining, measure the pie’s radius and use Pi to determine its area.  That way, you’ll know if you have enough for everyone.

The text of House Resolution 224 is below the break:

H. Res. 224

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

March 12, 2009.

Whereas the Greek letter (Pi) is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter;

Whereas the ratio Pi is an irrational number, which will continue infinitely without repeating, and has been calculated to over one trillion digits;

Whereas Pi is a recurring constant that has been studied throughout history and is central in mathematics as well as science and engineering;

Whereas mathematics and science are a critical part of our children’s education, and children who perform better in math and science have higher graduation and college attendance rates;

Whereas aptitude in mathematics, science, and engineering is essential for a knowledge-based society;

Whereas, according to the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) survey done by the National Center for Education Statistics, American children in the 4th and 8th grade were outperformed by students in other countries including Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, England, South Korea, Latvia, and Japan;

Whereas since 1995 the United States has shown only minimal improvement in math and science test scores;

Whereas by the 8th grade, American males outperform females on the science portion of the TIMSS survey, especially in Biology, Physics, and Earth Science, and the lowest American scores in math and science are found in minority and impoverished school districts;

Whereas America needs to reinforce mathematics and science education for all students in order to better prepare our children for the future and in order to compete in a 21st Century economy;

Whereas the National Science Foundation has been driving innovation in math and science education at all levels from elementary through graduate education since its creation 59 years ago;

Whereas mathematics and science can be a fun and interesting part of a child’s education, and learning about Pi can be an engaging way to teach children about geometry and attract them to study science and mathematics; and

Whereas Pi can be approximated as 3.14, and thus March 14, 2009, is an appropriate day for `National Pi Day’: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) supports the designation of a `Pi Day’ and its celebration around the world;

(2) recognizes the continuing importance of National Science Foundation’s math and science education programs; and

(3) encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.

H/T Slashdot.  More at CNet via link found at Slashdot.

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