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March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!


The above looks like a totally random string of numbers. However, it is actually the first 17 digits of π (aka "pi", pronounced like "pie"), which is one of the most important numbers in science and mathematics. It is defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to it's diameter. π shows up everywhere: any calculations involving circles or waves include it. It also shows up in physics, in equations such as Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle (which states that it is impossible to precisely know the speed and the location of a particle at the same time) and Coulomb's Law (which explains the electric force between two charges). It is everywhere in statistics as well. It is one of those numbers that keeps popping up in nature, even though it is irrational and hard for us humans to conceptualize.

Pie are Squared (πr2)
Equation for the Area of a Circle

Even though we don't fully understand the number π, however, we can still celebrate it's usefulness. So, today, March 14 at 1:59 (3.14 1 59), have a slice of pie in honor of π.

Want more on Pi Day? Check out the official Pi Day website.