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Pi Day and an Interview With a Pi Researcher 188

JoshuaInNippon writes "In honor of Pi Day, March 14 (or 3.14 for those who may need a hint), readers may be interested in reading an interview with Professor Daisuke Takahashi, the Japanese researcher who found 2.5 trillion digits of Pi back in August, before being apparently being edged out in December by a French computer programmer looking to prove his efficient coding abilities. Professor Takahashi's interview gives some unique insight into one man who truly marvels at the number that has driven people to ever greater lengths to find more digits for centuries." Plant Kingdom adds "There have been a number of proposals for alternatives to March 14 (see the Wikipedia page for Pi Day). Here's mine: when the Earth has gone through 1/pi-th of its orbit, as measured from Winter Solstice to Winter Solstice. I've put together a web site to make the case."
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Pi Day and an Interview With a Pi Researcher

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  • I don't get it (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @08:10AM (#31471412) Homepage Journal

    Huh? Pi isn't 14.3 or 14/3.

    • The earth should have undergone 1/2 of one orbit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by isorox ( 205688 )

      Huh? Pi isn't 14.3 or 14/3.

      No, but it's close to 22nd July.

      • Huh? Pi isn't 14.3 or 14/3.

        No, but it's close to 22nd July.

        I refer to July 22 as Pi Approximation Day, as 22/7 is approximately Pi - it's close enough for most things

        It's also nearly my birthday, so another reason to celebrate. :-)

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by isorox ( 205688 )

          It's also nearly my birthday, so another reason to celebrate. :-)

          Surely you mean approximately your birthday?

    • by rjch ( 544288 )

      No, obviously Pi day is January 3rd. Though to be completely accurate, Pi day won't occur until January 3rd, 4159. A Wednesday, for anyone who's interested.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        In Indiana, it's celebrated on March 2.

      • What? 03014159? The digit 0 does not appear in pi until the 32nd position after the decimal point. Surely you're not trying to equate 0 with a decimal point?

        Please just let go of this archaic month/day/year standard. Obviously it's not even used consistently - 03/01 vs. January 3? If the month should come first when spelled out, how can one with clear conscience insist that it come second when in numeric form?

        Really, why deny any day its connection to pi? Find any reason at all to equate any date with

    • According to ISO 8601, today is 2010-03-14. Feel free to celebrate the other Pi Day about four months later when it'll be 22/7 in your locale.
  • Pi day? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by burris ( 122191 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @08:11AM (#31471416)

    Judging by the big hunk of meat in my 'fridge, today is Steak and BJ Day []. Pi day just isn't nearly as fun.

  • by myocardialinfarction ( 1606123 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @08:12AM (#31471418)
    Don't forget it's also mother's day. And nobody makes better pi than mom. /duck
  • by garyok ( 218493 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @08:17AM (#31471430)
    In the UK, we have to wait until the 31st April to have pi day. We'll be waiting a while...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sakdoctor ( 1087155 )

      TFA suggests Archimedes' approximation of 22/7

      • by bguiz ( 1627491 )

        There is quite likely a plethora of different dates in our calendar year that map to the fist digits of pi in decimal form, or the digits in its improper fraction approximations. So yes, there will likely never be any agreement on what is the "real" pi day.

        Not to mention /. isn't where one should seek consensus anyway!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by keeboo ( 724305 )
        I'm programming at this moment and it was just what I needed! Thanks!

        #define PI_VALUE 22/7
        • by mrsurb ( 1484303 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:50AM (#31471824)
          Don't forget to localise for differing values of pi:

          #ifdef INDIANA
          #define PI_VALUE 3

        • 355/113 is better

        • If that's C or C++, you need to wrap the right side of a #define statement in parentheses. Otherwise, the / operator will interact with operator precedence in ways that might surprise you or (more importantly) whoever has to maintain your code after you have moved on. In addition, C and C++ use truncating division when both operands are integers. This is what you probably meant:

          #define PI_VALUE (22.0/7)

          • by keeboo ( 724305 )
            Well, GP was intended as a joke, not as useable code.
            Still, it may be a good idea you posted that, in case someone tries something like that expecting a certain result.

            In the case of PI, I would rather suggest checking if the includes define such constant instead, and otherwise fall back to a proper PI define.
    • I shall be celebrating at 3:14 on 15th September 2653
    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      Just celebrate on Quadectober 3, duh.

    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      I think that 22nd July is more appropriate because we can only ever approximate pi anyway.

    • by afabbro ( 33948 )
      Adopt ISO 8601 and you won't have to wait.
  • Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 14, 2010 @08:35AM (#31471494)

    This is stupid, who thought MONTH - DAY - YEAR is a reasonable date format? Do you frequently find yourself asking "Hmm, I wonder what month it is?" And always make people look in the center to find out the date? WTF

    It's like throwing away metric and using some crazy-ass divisible by 12 unit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      This is stupid, who thought MONTH - DAY - YEAR is a reasonable date format?

      The person that noticed that we generally say "March 14th, 2010", so it's more intuitive.

      It's like throwing away metric and using some crazy-ass divisible by 12 unit.

      Oh please, it isn't done right where you are, either. It should be 2010-03-14 so it sorts chronologically and intuitively can't get the month or day mixed up. Your preference is simply different, not less stupid. This isn't one of those topics you can use to pose as one of the smarter people.

      • But we don't. Americans/Canadians say that. Everyone I know says "14 March" or "the 14th of March". I've heard the "but that's how you say it" argument for the US date format before, but it's simply untrue. Other English speaking countries generally say the date before the month (or, just the date ... "the 14th").

        And those accursed cheap electronics (like wristwatches and low-end VCRs and stuff) that ONLY display in month/day (with no year) are terribly annoying because if it's before the 12th of any month,

        • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Informative)

          by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @10:22AM (#31471966)

          Bad form replying to one's self but this is interesting: []

          The number of countries using the US system is pretty small. It's basically the US and a few random places like Palau and Micronesia.

          But - there are quite a few variations on date format, more than I thought :)

        • by Malc ( 1751 )

          Actually I'd argue that the accursed cheap electronics are that way because they were developed in Asia. They're not showing mm-dd-yyyy with the year missing, but rather yyyy-mm-dd with the year missing.

          Still bloody annoying and confusing for everywhere else in the world.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Base 12 is an excellent base. Metric/decimal is okay but we're not monkeys anymore. Can't we please get over the fact that we have just 10 fingers? Base 12 makes it a lot easier to work with common fractions. Halves, quarters, AND thirds are all easy to calculate. Assuming you accept that the inch is no more or less arbitrary than the centimetre as a unit of measure, then in base 12, feet and yards become completely sensible. A great gross of yards (12^3 = 1728 yards = 5184 feet) is pretty close to to

      • I seem to recall that the Babylonians used a base-60 system (which subsumes base-12 within it). The prime factors of base-60 are: 2, 2, 3, 5 (or easily 3,4,5) which matches up really nice with a 3,4,5 triangle for example.
    • I prefer writing yyyy-mm-dd, especially for anything programming-related.

      In regular writing, I'm fine with seeing dd-mm-yyyy. mmm dd, yyyy is still okay since there's no ambiguity about what which the day and month are, but this leads to the laziness that results in....

      mm-dd-yyyy or mm/dd/yyyy. Which are about the stupidest written conventions I've ever come across. Along with imperial measurements, why is the US hell-bent on foisting backwards systems on the rest of the world?

    • "It's like throwing away metric and using some crazy-ass divisible by 12 unit."

      Or: Metric is like throwing out base 60 and using some unit that you can't divide evenly by 3, 4, or 6.

  • Calling Fabrice Bellard "a French computer programmer"? Is it a joke?
  • by Saint Stephen ( 19450 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:05AM (#31471618) Homepage Journal

    1/pi is not pi. It's like celebrating the third time something happened by doing something one third of the way through and then stopping!

    "When a circle's diameter is one unit, then the cirmcumference is pi units." []

    So if a year is "one unit", we should celebrate pi every 3.14 years or something.

    • ``1/pi is not pi.''

      pi r square!

      No, pies are round!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      For every pi proportioality the reciprocal relation is a 1/pi proportionality, so it's every bit a significant. For a near-circular Earth orbit 1/pi of a year is the time when the earth has passed the equivalent of the diameter of it's orbit and swept an area the size of of a rectangle made from it's major and minor axis.

  • RE: yeah, okay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anarchduke ( 1551707 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:07AM (#31471634)
    Oh Jesus. Really?

    Okay, I'm about to troll, but...

    First, do we really need a holiday for every fucking thing out there? Where the hell is dung beetle day? Aardwolf week? Permian Extinction Day?

    Secondly, you invested enough energy into worrying about WHICH day should be Pi day that you created a website over it?

    Finally, if Pi gets its own day, I think its entirely fair that 1.618 [] get its own celebration. Phi is easily as fascinating a number as Pi, so why didn't you get your panties in a twist over not having Phi day?

    Sometimes, you CAN be too much [] of a geek.

    End of Troll.
  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:07AM (#31471640) Journal

    I understand that in the book "Contact" by Carl Sagan, when the scientists meets the aliens he asks them a question:

    Scientist: Do you believe in God?

    Aliens: Yes.

    (Astonished) Scientist: Really?! Why?

    Aliens: We have proof.

    Scientist: Proof?!!!

    Alien: Yes, when we decoded Pi to (a very large number) we found a Message...

    Of course this idea was exploited in a different way by the movie "Pi". (Sorry didn't see it either.). In any case, if Pi is truly Random (it is isn't it?) won't every possible message occur? Just like those monkeys with their typewriters (if you don't know what a typewriter is look it up).

    • by pcolaman ( 1208838 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:18AM (#31471704)

      What the fuck is a monkey?

    • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:51AM (#31471828) Homepage Journal

      In any case, if Pi is truly Random (it is isn't it?) won't every possible message occur?

      Hmmm ... You must be using an unusual definition of "random", which usually means that the value is unpredictable. Pi is the opposite of random. It's precisely defined and always has the same value for anyone who calculates it correctly. (Which leaves out the religious folks, but that's to be expected for anything requiring validity. ;-) Pi would even be the same in a different universe with different physical laws, because its value isn't dependent on anything physical.

      As for every message occurring, I think you're thinking of normal numbers []. There is a conjecture that pi is normal, but it hasn't been proved. So far, statistics of the digits of pi are consistent with it being normal to as many digits as have been tested. A normal number does contain every possible message, in every possible encoding. If pi is normal, then so is e. [The proof is trivial for anyone who knows the well-known equation relating e and pi.]

      And yes, this mathematical (ab)use of the word "normal" is one of the silliest things that mathematicians have ever done. But there is a long tradition of such silly misuse of common words as mathematical terms.

      • Ok, you're right, I wasn't using the right definition of random. Thanks for telling me about "normal" numbers!

    • by mrsurb ( 1484303 )
      In "Contact" the conceit was that the message occurred much earlier than would be statistically expected. The protagonist found another "message" in a non-base-ten expansion which decoded to bitmap image of a circle. Circles within circles!
      • by skywire ( 469351 ) *

        It makes a great story, yet one requiring a large dose of suspension of disbelief, since we know that pi is not arbitrary, but logically necessary. Even God could not insert a message into pi.

    • by epine ( 68316 )

      Yes, I've seen those decodings. In base 8 it's a glowing testament to the crystalline clarity of the signal/noise ratio of the future universe when it cools to micro-degrees Kelvin. Decoded in base 6, it's a screech of satanic positrons travelling backward in time to the original inferno.

      Decoded in base seven, it contains the message "these digits intentionally left blank".

  • I vote for July 22nd.

  • What exactly is there to research about pi? Its digits are random. They change simply by switching to a different base so no pattern can be truly meaningful just an artifact of the chosen representation.

    • It is primarily a way to test computational algorithms.

    • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

      No, they are perfectly deterministic.

      To calculate the numerical value of the digits I could understand as useless, but there are plenty of properties that are basis-independent, like it's irrationality, transcendence and normality.

      Also, there are some quite beautiful representations, look for the continued fractions one.

    • Well, it's still an unsolved problem as to whether Pi is "random" (that is, whether it's a Normal number [] in base 10. Even if it is, it may not be normal in another base.

  • C'mon, you know the words, er, numbers!

    pi - Kate Bush []

    This version only takes six minutes to sing. The extended version? You don't even want to know.
  • I hope they're already planning for a really, really big Pi Day blow-out in 2016.

  • Um, if you wanted to use a circle as a metaphor for the year, then 2 pi radians would be a full circle, so wouldn't it make more sense to make it the day half way through the year (pi radians)?

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"