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The Magic of "Pi"


Let’s start with the circle – can there be a more simple shape. Just take any point, and map out all the other points on a plane that are at some fixed distance from it. And you get a circle.

The word itself is from the Greek for circle – kirkos (Oddly enough, the word “circus” comes from the same root). Of course, our ancestors were familiar with the circle much before they had any language. In nature, they could see the moon, and the sun. When they cut a tree, they could see that the trunk had a circular cross-section. They invented the wheel – so they knew about the shape. And they believed it to be a symbol of perfection.

So there you have it – a simple shape, nothing seemingly complicated about it. A point. Another set of points that are equidistant from it. What could be simpler?

Ah, but in this seeming simplicity lie some wonderful things. Let’s just take one of them – the number “pi”.
What is pi, you ask. Well, it’s just the ratio of the circle’s circumference to it’s diameter. This ratio is the same for all circles – no matter how large or how small.

So what is the value of this number?

This is where the story starts to get strange. When you were in 3rd grade, you were probably told that the value of this number, this “pi” is 3 (which makes sense, you really didn’t know much about decimal numbers at that point). Then in grade 4 or so, when you got used to fractions and decimals, you were probably told to use the value 22/7 or 3.14 for this value to solve problems.
Here’s the funny part – although we can define what this number is (remember – ratio of the circumference to diameter of any circle) we can’t tell the exact value of the number. Sure, we know that goes something like “3.1415926535,,,” but there is no precise value. The part after the decimal point never ends. It goes on and on into infinity, and the numbers don’t repeat. What this means is, unlike a fraction like 1/3, which is also infinite (0.333333…) we can’t get a repeating pattern that lets us predict what, for example, the billionth digit after the decimal is (for 1/3, the billionth, or trillionth digit after the decimal point is always going to be “3?). It must be said that mathematicians recently have come up with some clever tricks that let you compute the value of any digit of the value of pi very fast (and without knowing any of the previous digits), but that involves rather advanced mathematics, and we won’t go into that here.

Another fascinating fact about pi is that it can be proven (some very clever German mathematicians showed this in the 19th century) that you can never get an equation with a finite number of operations on integers to give you the value of “pi”.

Mathematicians have been trying to find the value of pi for over 4000 years. By 1900 BC, Egyptian and Babylonian mathematicians knew the value to within 1%. Indian mathematicians also knew a very good approximation – the Shatapatha Brahmana , a 6th century BC work from India, gave the value as 339/108. Of course, today we know the value to trillions of digits.

More strangeness – “pi” appears everywhere in physics, maths and engineering. Even in places that seemingly have no connection to the circle. For example, if you were to try to compute the average height of all the people in the country, the formula for that would have a “pi” in it. In advanced physics, some of Einsteins equations trying to describe the nature of the universe have “pi”, as does Heisenberg’s equation governing the behavior of really small particles. Strange isn’t it? And all the more reason to learn maths. The secrets of the world around can only be understood through mathematics.

And yes, dont forget to celebrate National PI day (March 14, at 1:59. (3/14 1:59))


27 comments

  1. Posted by Manav Gupta| 2011-01-31 18:52:32

    Very good article, in our school I was taught that PI = 22/7
    After reading this article only I realized how interesting this number is.

  2. Posted by Ritesh| 2011-02-07 21:46:05

    Very well written and interesting article.
    I also wonder when I see PI everywhere in mathematics and science (trigonometry, geometry, calculus, probability and statistics, ...)

  3. Posted by JC| 2011-02-16 23:35:30

    I definitely see what you're talking about right here

  4. Posted by pe| 2011-02-27 03:36:46

    Took me time to read all the comments, but I actually enjoyed the write-up. It proved to become Pretty useful to me and I’m certain to all the commenters right here It is always good when you can not only be informed, but also entertained I’m sure you had fun writing this write-up.

  5. Posted by Abhi| 2011-03-02 20:11:34

    Great article, keep up the good work.

  6. Posted by Lorene| 2011-04-19 17:20:52

    Thanks alot - your anwser solved all my problems after several days struggling

  7. Posted by Keydren| 2011-04-20 00:18:53

    Real brain power on display. Thanks for that aenswr!

  8. Posted by JANANI| 2011-07-11 18:33:44

    INTRESTING ARTICLE.KEEP IT UP.HAS GIVEN END TO MY QUESTION OF PI.THANKS

  9. Posted by Chacidy| 2011-07-18 05:16:44

    It?s really great that people are sharing this inoframiotn.

  10. Posted by Chennai| 2011-09-10 18:42:10

    gr8 article keep posting

  11. Posted by Justice| 2011-11-25 14:20:00

    Creatd the greatest articles, you have.

  12. Posted by Affinity| 2011-11-28 10:16:07

    Super informative writing; keep it up.

  13. Posted by G.SAI CHARAN| 2012-09-14 11:21:25

    very nice article.thnx for posting

  14. Posted by Ayush| 2012-09-30 14:46:35

    I loved your article, it is just spectacular, before I would have questions as to what pi is, but now, I really understand it

  15. Posted by RIA SINGH| 2012-12-24 21:14:04

    The article was rocking and awesome.I really loved reading it .Now my all problems related to PI are solved.

    A very big thank you to EDUGAIN

  16. Posted by ipsheet| 2013-02-03 13:54:45

    the mathematicians are interesting

  17. Posted by JACK| 2014-06-02 14:40:57

    i didnt understand anything

  18. Posted by Nikhil Gautam| 2014-06-23 23:01:32

    this is of a ultimate use

  19. Posted by harshitha| 2015-12-10 19:22:31

    i didn't understand most of it

  20. Posted by Robert Sciamanda| 2016-04-05 20:05:32

    Even more mysterious is the fact that PI Day (March 14, or 3.14) is also the birthday of Albert Einstein!

  21. Posted by Parag Ranjan| 2016-07-04 15:41:00

    helped me in my school projects.

  22. Posted by Dikshit Gautam| 2016-09-04 16:08:02

    ?=3.1415926535897943...
    This value of ? was given by Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

  23. Posted by Dikshit Gautam| 2016-09-04 16:08:42

    π=3.1415926535897943...
    This value of π was given by Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

  24. Posted by Basil Labib| 2016-12-17 13:28:06

    Truly a wonderful number.....

  25. Posted by PRIYANSHU RANJAN| 2017-03-13 05:39:50

    Awesome article!! Keep it up.

  26. Posted by priyanshu raj| 2017-04-06 05:07:49

    the mathematics are intresting subject

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