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Wednesday Is Pi Day 282

mrbluze points us to an AP writeup on the upcoming Pi Day — 3-14 (which some will observe at 1:59 pm). The article notes: "[T]he world record [for reciting the number Pi] belongs to Chao Lu, a Chinese chemistry student, who rattled off 67,890 digits over 24 hours in 2005. It took 26 video tapes to submit to Guinness," and mentions in passing a Japanese mental health counselor who last fall recited 100,000 digits, but did not choose to submit proof to the record book.
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Wednesday Is Pi Day

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  • I live in Europe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zouden ( 232738 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:24AM (#18313813)
    So I won't get a Pi day, you insensitive clod!
    • by Petrushka ( 815171 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:40AM (#18313901)
      Sure you do. On the 31st of April :-)
    • So I won't get a Pi day

      Umm, why?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Recurve Boy ( 936129 )
        Because in most places the numeric form for dates is DD/MM/YY. Not MM/DD/YY.
        • Because in most places the numeric form for dates is DD/MM/YY. Not MM/DD/YY.

          Oh OK. I always use YYYY-MM-DD

        • Re:I live in Europe (Score:5, Interesting)

          by pryonic ( 938155 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:19AM (#18314097)
          I've never understood the logic behind the American way of writing dates. I'm not trying to troll here, it just seems illogical to me.

          Here at my office we use both the European and International numerican dates forms, depending on the sitation:

          European: DD/MM/YYYY
          International: YYYY/MM/DD

          As you can the units of time (days, months, years) ascend or descend in order e.g. in the European format you go from the smallest unit (days) through the midsized (months) up to the largest (years). In the International format the same descends from largest first.

          But with the American format you start with the month, then go to the smallest, then to the largest. It just seems totally illogical to me, anyone know why it's done that way?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jrumney ( 197329 )
            The same reason an American gallon/pint is not the same as a British gallon and is certainly not metric. Americans just like to do things differently, there need not be any logical justification for it.
            • Spitballing but like most time traditions they're either farming or railroad related in NA. In farming I'd bet you will care more for what month it is than the day of the month. E.g. February == not the month to plant crops.

              Also, it pisses others off.

              Frankly, I don't see the fuss. I rarely know what year it is, let alone month or day. Time's such a bore.

              • Seemed to me to be more of an office-oriented thing. I would imagine the month at the head of the date would make filing large amounts of documents easier.
          • The ISO date format is great for listing items by date. Thats basically the only time I use it.

            I'm a Aussie so DD/MM/YYYY is what I normally use.
            • The ISO format is arguably the most sensible, since it follows the ordering of number systems as well, and hence plays well with list sorting. Of course the European date DD/MM/YYYY has an internally ordered logic, but in a way it's as stupid as listing prices in cents.euros.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Raphael ( 18701 )

                in a way it's as stupid as listing prices in cents.euros.

                ...or listing domain names as instead of the logical order

          • Re:I live in Europe (Score:5, Informative)

            by Saib0t ( 204692 ) <> on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:47AM (#18314245)

            But with the American format you start with the month, then go to the smallest, then to the largest. It just seems totally illogical to me, anyone know why it's done that way?
            Probably because of the way they say the dates, "I have an appointment on March 14th" rather than "I have an appointment on the 14th of March".

            As opposed to, says, french "J'ai un rendez-vous le 14 mars" or spanish "tengo una cita el 14 de marzo". Might be the reason...

            • Although at the same time us Brits do say "14th of March". I wonder why us and the Americans say it differently, and which way was the original?
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Heian-794 ( 834234 )
                The American way is original, or at least it was what was in use when the American colonies were part of the British empire. Newspapers in the colonies from the late 1700s use "January 1st, 1776" and the like. I couldn't tell you when the UK changed.

                Many US government forms in fact use the DD-MM-YYYY format. If you're flying into the US and are filling out immigration-related forms and hear a muttered curse word followed by the sound of a pen crossing out some numbers at the bottom and rewriting, realize
            • by xoyoyo ( 949672 )
              I don't buy that argument. My birthday is both the 30th of December or December the 30th depending on what mood I'm in, what emphasis I'm (subconsciously) using, the rhythm of the sentence etc.

              I also have a dentist appointment on today, the 12th of March, so even if French and Spanish are inflexible in their ordering, English is entirely neutral. (I'd argue that the December the 30th and December 30th sound a little abbreviated as they are missing the "of" conjunctive when spoken.) DD/MM/YYYY is the standar
            • by Tim C ( 15259 )
              I'm a Brit, and it's definitely not unknown for people here to say "March 14th" as well as "14th of March". I have heard that explanation before, but like another poster, I suspect that the spoken form follows the written, rather than the other way around.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            It's to do with the order of the platforms you stand on when you are awarded in some sporting event. The second is to the far left, the first is in the centre, and the third is to the far right.

            Trust Americans to associate everything in life with sport.

            • by VE3MTM ( 635378 )
              The reason podiums are that way is so the first-place person is in the middle. The other two are arbitrary, but, being in a right-handed world, it makes sense that the 2nd-place person is to the winner's right. That's all.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by danbert8 ( 1024253 )
            The date format MM/DD/YYYY is because of how we say it. Americans (I don't know about elsewhere) when said comes out month, day, year. For example, if on Pi day someone asked me the date, I would say March 14, 2007. Hence why our date abbreviation is in that order. Do people in Europe say the 14th of March when asked?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Muad'Dave ( 255648 )
            I'm certainly no authority on this, but I've noticed that Americans tend to say dates in the form "March 12th, 2007", not "the 12th of March, 2007". That may have something to do with it, or the written form may have influenced the spoken form.

          • by xoyoyo ( 949672 )
            Interestingly, there are also three unused formats:


            While two of those are obviously plain daft, with the year separating month and date, the third is only as "illogical" as the US standard.
          • by LihTox ( 754597 )
            When talking about current events, one typically leaves off the year, and "March 12th" may be preferred because it starts with the general and becomes more specific. I'm guessing, then, that MM-DD-YY comes from MM-DD, with the year tacked onto the end as a modifier.

            But that's a wild guess. Maybe Americans just want to have a Pi day? (Americans, mark your calendars for March 14, '15, at 9:26 (and make it 9:26 *PM* to really tick off the Europeans.) :P :)
          • by wossName ( 24185 )
            My guess: because 14.3.2007 in the U.S. is read "March fourteenth, 2007", which translates to "3/14/2007" ?
          • by Gryle ( 933382 )
            I suspect it may have something to do the way we vocally say the date. If you ask an American the date, he/she will most like reply "March the 12th" rather than "The 12th of March." We then write it down the way we say it. OTOH, we might just say it that way because of the way we write it.
    • by i_should_be_working ( 720372 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:02AM (#18314009)
      Yeah but the basis is wrong. You can't compare hours, days and months to a base 10 system. Real pi day should be (3.14159..)*(365.25/10)=114 (rounding down for effect) = 11th of March. Hey that's yesterday. Happy belated real pi day!
    • We can join in, we just need to redefine Pi as 1.43
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kelzer ( 83087 )

        We can join in, we just need to redefine Pi as 1.43

        Well, if you'd be willing to take King George off our hands, he's become quite good at redefining science, so I'm sure he could make that change for you.

    • On a serious note, check out the website of your local Engineering school... a bunch (here in Canada anyway) have a Pi Throw on March 14th for charity. You pay $10, somebody gets a cream pie in the face (or, often, they can pay $20 to redirect said pie back to you). The proceeds usually support something worthwhile.
    • So you do get 3.14. Or, more preciselly, [2007.]3.14, but you can skip the first part.
  • To Celebrate.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by inklein ( 1003985 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:24AM (#18313815) Homepage
    And of course, the best way to celebrate is to eat PIE!
  • by tehSpork ( 1000190 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:25AM (#18313821)
    ...a Japanese mental health counselor who last fall recited 100,000 digits, but did not choose to submit proof to the record book.

    Shouldn't that read "Mental health patient ?"

    None the less, that is still very impressive. I wish I had a memory for that kind of thing. :)
    • by neiljt ( 238527 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:29AM (#18313849)
      I wish I had a memory for that kind of thing

      Me too. Then I could use it for something useful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I have a near photographic memory for every useless trivial fact I come across. But when it comes to actual usefull stuff like math, or anything I'd need for an exam, then I've to do real trouble to actually get it to stick. Sometime I think my brain hates me or something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fyonn ( 115426 )
      None the less, that is still very impressive. I wish I had a memory for that kind of thing

      naah, reciting a milliopns digits of pi is easy. the trick is, not to begin at the beginning....

    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:24AM (#18314125) Journal
      Quoth Monty Python, "You know, there are many people in the country today who, through no fault of their own, are sane. Some of them were born sane. Some of them became sane later in their lives. It is up to people like you and me who are out of our tiny little minds to try and help these people overcome their sanity. You can start in small ways with ping-pong ball eyes and a funny voice and then you can paint half of your body red and the other half green and then you can jump up and down in a bowl of treacle going "squawk, squawk, squawk..." And then you can go "Neurhhh! Neurhhh!" and then you can roll around on the floor going "pting pting pting"..."

      Well, it's one kind of counselling...
  • Crazyness (Score:3, Funny)

    by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:37AM (#18313883)

    a Japanese mental health counselor who last fall recited 100,000 digits, but did not choose to submit proof to the record book.

    That's just plain crazy!

  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:46AM (#18313925)
    Now I, even I, would celebrate
    In rhymes inapt the great
    Immortal Syracusan rivaled nevermore
    Who in his wondrous law
    Passed on before
    Left men his guidance
    How to circles mensurate

    Continuing to 100000 or so is left as an exercise to the reader.

    The joke is that in writing this out I have to remind myself, as a non-American English user, that "rivaled" is spelt like that, and to do that I have to recite the numeric value of pi up to that point...go figure

    • Re:Obligatory quote (Score:4, Informative)

      by jacobw ( 975909 ) < ... m minus language> on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:47AM (#18314243) Homepage
      There is actually a word for this: piphilology [], the art of coming up with mnemonics to remember pi. Like the poem in the parent post, these tend to be phrases or poems in which the number of letters in each word corresponds to a digit of pi.

      One common mnemonic (which I've seen attributed to Isaac Asimov) is "How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics!" If you want to get really fancy, the Wikipedia entry lists a full sonnet, in more-or-less iambic pentameter:
      Now I defy a tenet gallantly
      Of circle canon law: these integers
      Importing circles' quotients are, we see,
      Unwieldy long series of cockle burs
      Put all together, get no clarity;
      Mnemonics shan't describeth so reformed
      Creating, with a grammercy plainly,
      A sonnet liberated yet conformed.
      Strangely, the queer'st rules I manipulate
      Being followéd, do facilitate
      Whimsical musings from geometric bard.
      This poesy, unabashed as it's distressed,
      Evolvéd coherent - a simple test,
      Discov'ring poetry no numerals jarred.

      Admittedly, it's not a very good sonnet, but, hey, what do you want?
      • Now I make a reply involving my clever trick for rusty memories. Mnemonics usually challenge one; my own Slashdot post offers an easier path. You can memorize, and my account retrieves karma!
  • These people are really useful member of society, like people who can play monopoly with one foot.

    Name that (probably inaccurate) quote.
  • If I put together all the digits I know by heart about anything at all, phone numbers, dates, train schedules, computer IPs, heck even application version numbers...

    I don't think the total would be more than a thousand digits :-)

    How do they do it?
    • Re:100000 digits? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fLiXUs ( 781299 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:25AM (#18314137)

      There are plenty of memory techniques. Didn't you know there is a world championship in remembering things? See for instance [] or [].

      If you want a tip, here's something a read in a book by a Norwegian memory world champion, Oddbjørn By:

      1. Assign each 2 digit number to a person and an action related to that person. The person has two names, so the first character of each name represent one of the digits.
      2. Now you can represent 4 digits with a person and an action. This will give you 4 with different first characters.
      3. Imagine locations on a known path.
      4. Assign a person doing an action at each location.
      5. Now you have 4 digits per location on your path... Just make a very long path and you'll have 1,000,000 digits (250,000 locations*) in no time!
      6. To recite the number, just traverse your path and look at the name of the person in each location, and the name of the person associated with the action.

      *You probably want less locations, so you can visit the same one under different conditions. E.g. during day / night / rain / snow / heavy winds... we're down to 50,000 locations already!

      • While there are certainly ways to memorize lots of things, the extremely high number of digits leads me to suspect that they are calculating rather than memorizing. If you got good enough at doing the calculations in your head, you could effectively go on reciting the digits indefinitely.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:03AM (#18314017) Homepage
    Can you image if he gets a mail from Guinness saying "Sorry , you missed the record by 10. Or at least we think you did but tape 26 got chewed by the machine at digit 54166. Bad luck son, try again next year and next time use Memorex!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by psxman ( 925240 )
      Bah, he shouldn't have bothered sending videos at all! He should've just sent a plaintext transcript on a CD.
    • Mildly offtopic, but this is the first mention of the number of video tapes I could find.

      24 hours and 26 video tapes implies that each tape contained slightly less than one hour of video. That doesn't make any sense at all - even on the highest recording VHS level, you still get 2 hours or so on each one.

      Anyone have any idea?

      • by mjpaci ( 33725 ) *
        I'm with you on that. 24 hours in 26 tapes? WTF?
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
        You're assuming a couple things. Allow me to assume some different ones.

        They use a standard T120 [] and do indeed get 2 hours per tape in NTSC format.

        But they're not crazy, so they have 2 recorders. For the first hour, they start both recorders. Starting with the second hour, they replace the first tape, leaving the first tape with only an hour. On the third hour, they replace the second tape. 4th hour, first tape again, etc, etc.

        This leaves them with 26 tape
  • 1337 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HetMes ( 1074585 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:16AM (#18314083)
    Following the discussion about the date/time format, in continental Europe we proud ourselves in experiencing 13-3-7, or 1337...
  • 1:59 pm? (Score:3, Funny)

    by FirienFirien ( 857374 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:24AM (#18314131) Homepage
    which some will observe at 1:59pm

    It can also be observed at 3:49 a.m., which is then 0.159 of a day; it's also much easier to have a minute's respectful silence at 3:49 am ;)
  • by mrsym0r ( 1068436 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:34AM (#18314165)
    I feel it's only appropriate to add that march 14th is also international steak and blowjob day []
  • See link [], but who am I to question slashdot?

    They say:
    "Akira Haraguchi, 59, managed to recite the number's first 83,431 decimal places, almost doubling the previous record held by another Japanese."
  • I ask because when I was a child, I remember reading about the "reciting digits of pi" record in the family Guinness Book of Records. It had a photo of the then record-holder, standing in front of a chalk board, upon which was written "3.142857142857142857142857..."

    It's not hard to recite the decimal expansion of 22/7.

  • by Panaqqa ( 927615 ) * on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:11AM (#18314623) Homepage
    I recall a certain rivalry over memorizing digits of pi back in high school. Everyone was around the 2-3 hundred mark when one guy threw down the gauntlet - 500 digits. Well, I put the memorization effort into overdrive and reached about 2,500 before being "crowned" the undisputed school champ. (Yay!)

    Interestingly, that fall in my frosh year at university, reciting pi turned up as a big contest among the first year math students. 2,500 was enough to take the crown at university also.

    There is actually a very efficient way of memorizing strings of random digits one you get the hang of it - the key is groups of 5. The technique works well enough that 25 years later I still remember 500 digits. And the workout I gave my memory skills serves me well today still. Strings of digits are simple - tell me your phone number just once, etc.

    100,000 - now that's impressive. I can tell you from experience, that memory will serve him well in chemistry, especially organic. More power to him!
    • When my father was at university, the maths geeks would play a drinking game whereby they would each take it in turns to say a digit of pie, and whoever got it wrong had to buy the next round. They would not memorise the digits, however, but a method of calculating the nth digit. Of course, all current (and, I believe all theoretically possible) methods of doing this grow in computational time as the value of n increases, making it more likely that someone would make a mistake...
  • by Gertlex ( 722812 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:40AM (#18314809)
    Why oh why does everyone ignore the fact that 3.14 is Einstein's birthday too? :'(
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by trongey ( 21550 )

      Why oh why does everyone ignore the fact that 3.14 is Einstein's birthday too? :'(

      Because we can?
      Because he never remembers my birthday?
      Because we would have had to know it in the first place to be able to remeber it?
  • mrbluze points us to an AP writeup on the upcoming Pi Day -- 3-14

    Ok, which retarded state legislature is trying to redefine Pi as -11 now? Is there new Biblical evidence that those people who claim that Pi is exactly 3 were off by 14?

Disks travel in packs.