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## Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi311

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Imagine the following scenario. The end of civilization has occurred, zombies have taken over the Earth and all access to modern technology has ended. The few survivors suddenly need to know the value of pi and, being a mathematician, they turn to you. What do you do? According to a couple of Canadian mathematicians, the answer is to repeatedly fire a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun at a square aluminum target about 20 meters away. Then imagine that the square is inscribed with an arc drawn between opposite corners that maps out a quarter circle. If the sides of the square are equal to 1, then the area of the quarter circle is pi/4. Next, count the number of pellet holes that fall inside the area of the quarter circle as well as the total number of holes. The ratio between these is an estimate of the ratio between the area of the quarter circle and the area of a square, or in other words pi/4. So multiplying this number by 4 will give you an estimate of pi. That's a process known as a Monte Carlo approximation and it is complicated by factors such as the distribution of the pellets not being random. But the mathematicians show how to handle these too. The result? According to this method, pi is 3.13, which is just 0.33 per cent off the true value. Handy if you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world."
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## Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi

• #### Drop stones in a circle (Score:2, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward

Trace a circle on the ground and drop stones at it.

• #### So handy (Score:2)

That's better than the part of pi I have memorized, 3.1415926. I had no idea I could waste valuable shotgun shells calculating pi to such precision.
• #### Keep the shells (Score:5, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:39AM (#46746579)

In a post apocalypse zombie filled world I'd just say "3" and keep the shotgun shells.

• #### Re:Keep the shells (Score:4, Funny)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @10:07AM (#46746927) Homepage Journal

How about killing two birds with one stone? Stand the zombies in a circle, and fire the rounds at them. Count the number of dead zombies. Now you've got an approximation for Pi AND a bunch of dead zombies. Win-win.

• #### a bunch of dead zombies (Score:3)

AND a bunch of dead zombies.

What's a dead zombie? Is this some kind of recursion?

(Getting old has a lot of advantages, but one of the disadvantages is that it's harder to keep track of popular memes. I mean, I never understood the whole "vampire" thing, and now we're on to zombies. What's next?)

• #### Re: (Score:2)

I'm rooting for BEMs - werewolves will probably be skipped.
• #### um.... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:40AM (#46746583)
":...being a mathematician, they turn to you." You're not much of a mathematician if you don't already know the value of Pi out to several decimal places without the need to expel valuable ammo in an experiment. /john
• #### Re: (Score:2)

What's more, if you are able to remember the details of the experiment, you are more than capable of remembering a few decimals of what is probably the most widely known constant in mathematics.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

":...being a mathematician, they turn to you." You're not much of a mathematician if you don't already know the value of Pi out to several decimal places without the need to expel valuable ammo in an experiment. /john

Yeah, and how hard is it to divide 22 by 7 with a twig in the dirt, "Mr. Mathematician"? That's also an acceptable approximation of Pi that is 4.0249943477E-2 percent off the "true value". I think the colder climate and/or recreational hallucinogens has slowed those Canadians' brains a might. Maybe that's the way to avoid zombies, after all.

• #### Re: (Score:3)

Relevant SMBC [smbc-comics.com].

• #### Re: (Score:3)

It's just a way for mathematicians to get people to stop asking inane questions during the apocalypse.

"Can you estimate Pi?"
"Sure. Hand me that shotgun."

"Do you know Euler's Number offhand?"
"Of course. Hand me that bazooka."

"What's Pythagoras' constant?"
"Seriously? Do you see a tank around here?" Eventually you get left in peace.
• #### Only in America... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:40AM (#46746587)
a gun to calculate Pi value...
• #### Re:Only in America... (Score:4, Funny)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:44AM (#46746641)

a gun to calculate Pi value...

According to a couple of Canadian mathematicians,

I didn't realize we had annexed Canada recently. I hope we didn't also get Quebec.

• #### Re: (Score:2, Troll)

With the Conservatives acting like dictators and making bullshit pro-corporations, anti-people laws, I hope Québec splits soon enough.

Then it will pave the way for the USA to let Texas and California go their own separate way, too.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

I hate to break it to you, but the ancient term "America" refers to the whole continent, Canada included.

• #### Re:Only in America... (Score:5, Funny)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:45AM (#46746661)

Don't be silly, the method should work in any country.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

a gun to calculate Pi value...

Not only are they Canadian, they're French Canadian. Calling them American is worse than calling them Canadian as the Québecers would rather be their own country all together. I just think they're smoking something to not use simple long division to calculate Pi, especially as a university research mathematician. I mean, really! 22 / 7 = closer to Pi than their stupid shotgun embarrassment.

• #### Ask an old person? (Score:5, Insightful)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:41AM (#46746593) Homepage
The engineers answer: ask someone who went to school before the zombies arrived. Mind you, an engineer probably wouldn't have to bother. Rhetorical question: I wonder how Euclid managed?
• #### Re:Ask an old person? (Score:4, Funny)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:50AM (#46746703) Homepage

Euclid's Shotgun? Is that much like Occam's Razor, or Shrodinger's Cat?

• #### Re: (Score:2)

I thought the engineer's answer was, "More than three and probably less than twenty."

Oh, no, wait, that's the answer to "What's 2+2?"

• #### Re: (Score:3)

Rhetorical question: I wonder how Euclid managed?

I know what rhetorical means but really, there's so many obvious ways. Take a piece of string, tie down one end and draw a circle in the sand with the other. Now use the same piece of string to measure out the circle. You'll get an approximation of pi more than good enough for any practical purpose, the only thing "special" about it is that numbers that aren't fractions like pi, e and the square root of 2 was fucking with their understanding of math. Even the ancient druids of Stonehenge could map out a cir

• #### Re: (Score:2)

The babylonians [exploratorium.edu] and God's favourite people [st-and.ac.uk] thought that pi=3. Hey, it's good enough for government work, and probably for fighting zombies.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Rhetorical question: I wonder how Euclid managed?

Slingshot. It is a slower process but still provides a useful answer when under primitive conditions.

• #### I think I just found a title for my thesis (Score:2)

Number Theory With A Machinegun - The Problem Solving Powers Of The M2 Browning .50 Caliber Heavy Machinegun :)

• #### Re:I think I just found a title for my thesis (Score:4, Funny)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:43AM (#46746629)

Indeed, if a Ma Deuce doesn't solve the problem either the problem is unsolvable or you just need more ammo.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

If you mount it on a sliding rail running parallel to and pointing at an infinite length horizontal board with an infinite belt of ammo and set it moving with a correctly calibrated exponentially increasing speed then you can use it to reproduce, using a measurement of the distance from the start, the Fibonacci sequence.

Useful if you're in a zombie apocalypse and you need to remember it.

Do I get my own Slashdot article now?

• #### easier way (Score:2)

I would just approach my fellow humans with the Mossberg 500 and ask if anyone remembers the value of pi. I live in Silicon Valley: even the zombies would remember it.
• #### Re: (Score:2)

And as a mathematician, I would already remember more significant figures for pi than I would likely be able to get from a bullet-scatter pattern.
• #### A really slow news day (Score:2)

what's next? researchers use beads to do arithmetic?

• #### Re: (Score:2)

what's next? researchers use beads to do arithmetic?

Next article is on how to use paper logarithm tables to perform calculations in a post-apocalyptic world.

• #### Sweet (Score:2)

Alright boys, we used up all our limited ammo but at least we know pi before we die!
• #### Archimedes (Score:2, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward

neither had nor needed a shotgun to calculate pi to 2 significant digits, which I'd wager is significantly closer than you're likely to get...

• #### Funding (Score:2)

As a mathematician, the best part of it is probably asking your department to put the rifle on your research funds. I'm sorry, professor Dumoulin, you need *what*?
• #### Huh. Who knew... (Score:2)

We have only been using shotguns for fractions.
• #### I don't understand (Score:4, Funny)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:51AM (#46746707) Journal
Do you put the zombies in front of the square alluminum plate?
• #### Why calculate pi? (Score:2)

by Anonymous Coward

In a post-apocalyptic world, why not fix the mistake and calculate the correct constant, tau [tauday.com]?

• #### Sounds like... (Score:2)

Sounds like they undershot.

• #### You're writing this to geeks you know.... (Score:2)

3.14159265358... or something like that. That could be wrong. But my memory is usually worth "Good Enough" engineering.

And I think it's a lot harder to remember ... What the hell do I do with this shotgun again?
• #### 2 tips for preppers (Score:5, Insightful)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @09:57AM (#46746785)
First, pack at least couple solar powered calculators. You can get cheap scientific calculators at the dollar store. They'll be worth their weight in gold during the second Renaissance. Second, don't give the mathematician any weapons. Let him be a mule, carrying any tech books you find along the way. Give him a pencil and pad of paper and let him re-derive the whole of known mathematics.
• #### Re: (Score:2)

First, pack at least couple solar powered calculators. You can get cheap scientific calculators at the dollar store.

• #### Why mathemeticians won't survive. (Score:2)

Apocalypse, eh?

I would probably be using the mathematician standing in the corner wasting shotgun shells calculating Pi as bait during the next zombie attack.

Just sayin.

• #### Unlike computing, math tech will still work (Score:2)

Unless solar powered calculators magically disappear
and people forget about how to use string and rulers.

• #### Infinite series (Score:3)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @11:13AM (#46747651)

Just calculate 4-4/3+4/5-4/7+4/9-4/11... to as many significant figures as you'd like. It converges to exactly pi.

• #### Time saving tip for these guys (Score:5, Funny)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @11:18AM (#46747707) Homepage

Come to Tennessee or Indiana and drive out in the country. Pretty much half the stop signs have already been prepped for you - you just have to count holes.

• #### Or find a library? (Score:3)

on Monday April 14, 2014 @12:59PM (#46748757)
There are definitely old school reference books with the value of pi to hundreds if not thousands of decimal places.

Unless the zombies take up reading or eat books, and you don't break your glasses, we're good to go.

.

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