If celebrating a mathematical symbol sounds irrational, how fitting that pi is an irrational number. March 14 (3/14) is national pi day (whose numbers begin 3.1415). Students across America and the world will celebrate pi day by competing in how many digits of pi they can recite, by eating pi, and by writing pi raps and poems.
Pi is the Euclidian circle’s ratio between circumference and diameter, and keys into equations of highschool geometry. The number was invented by the ancient Greeks and later studied by Arab scholars, before Gauss and Newton focused on it. The number, which has an infinitely long series of numerals after the decimal point, is a key constant in engineering.
Pi Day began in 1989 when the Exploratorium, a museum of science, art, and human perception in San Francisco, first dedicated the day to the constant. Since then, many have picked up on pi, till finally, in 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives formally declared March 14 to be National Pi Day:
“Whereas the Greek letter (pi) is the symbol for the ration of the circumference of a circle in its diameter…” the resolution begins, and then ends, “That the House of Representatives (1) supports the designation of a Pi Day and its celebration around the world.”
Pi has been featured widely in popular culture as a perplexing and intriguing number, from episodes of Star Trek, as a title of a Kate Bush Song, and the key metaphor in the movie Pi.
Though many will be competing to see who can recite the greatest number of pi digits memorized, it is unlikely they will break the record. The world record holder for the greatest number of digits of pi memories was set by Chao Lu, who recalled 67,890 digits within 24 hours in 2005.
Next year’s pi day will have the date of 3/14/15, making that pi day exceptional.