It’s a slice to celebrate Pi Day
By Zach Poole, Contributor
There are contests to see who could ramble off the most digits of a never-ending number, pizza parties and of course, eating pie. These all combine into festivities that make up one of the most entertaining, yet mysterious, holidays being celebrated throughout grade schools all across the world.
March 14 marks Pi Day, a holiday designated to celebrate the mathematical number used to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The number itself is roughly 3.14, hence the choice in the date, but in reality the number continues infinitely.
Pi is often represented in mathematics by the Greek letter π. The exact origin of Pi is not well documented, however, the Greek mathematician Archimedes is known to have been an early user of the number. As a result, Pi is also called the “Archimedes constant.”
Pi Day is said to have started in 1988 in San Francisco at the Exploratorium, a museum dedicated to math, science and the arts, as a way to bring the centre’s staff together for a social gathering.
The first ever Pi Day featured marching throughout a circular room while blasting the digits to Pi on a boom-box and to cap it off, the group was served fruit pies. The man credited with coming up with Pi Day is Larry Shaw, an employee of the Exploratorium.
He would frequently dress up in costumes at the annual celebration, where he was dubbed the Prince of Pi. Shaw would lead the annual Pi day parade at the museum and continued to partake in the festivities even after his retirement in 2005, after 33 years with the Exploratorium.
Shaw passed away in 2017 at the age of 78. The festivities have evolved and continued annually at the Exploratorium, however, how the celebration shifted into mainstream academic culture is still shrouded in ambiguity.
Presumably, the Exploratorium’s festivities simply became popular enough that they were noticed and eventually adopted by schools and other academic institutions.
Coincidentally, March 14 is also the birthday of Albert Einstein. Pi Day celebrations often include references to the famous scientist and a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
A common tradition on Pi Day is Pi digit memorization and recitation, also known as Piphilology. Various techniques including poems have been developed to aid in the memorization of Pi, using the number of letters in each word to reference each digit of Pi, a popular one that covers the first 20 digits is:
“Sir, I have a rhyme excelling, In mystic power and magic spelling, Celestial spirits elucidate, For my own problems can’t relate.” — Unknown
The current Guinness World Record for Piphilology was set in March 2015 by Rajveer Meena, who correctly recited 70,000 digits over the course of more than nine hours.
An unverified but generally accepted record claim goes to 100,000 digits, set by Akira Haraguchi.
Haraguchi’s record attempt was filmed over the course of 16 hours, however, Guinness has not accepted it as an official record attempt. Various other dates have also been observed as holidays in relation to Pi, including Nov. 10 which is the 314th day of the calendar year. Tau Day, celebrated on June 28, is in reference to the ratio of a circle’s radius to its diameter, or approximately double Pi equalling 6.28.
After 31 years of celebration, Pi Day was officially recognized as the International Day of Mathematics by UNESCO in 2019 and continues to be a popular holiday throughout academic communities all over the world.