Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PI Day is Here! Why is PI Important To All of US?

I am sure back in 1737 when Leonard Euler first use the symbol  Π, he never envisioned the fascination with Π that developed since. There are tee shirts, PI plates (yes, I have one) and PI mugs. Novelty websites have just about every PI trinket you can think of!

What is PI?

PI is the number that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to it diameter. It works for every circle.  Most math concepts are complex. Just ask any student who is in their first year of Algebra or Calculus. Yet the PI concept is very simple to understand by all.  Just find a circle, measure the distance across and with PI, you have the rest. Take a bike tire or a cookie cutter. It works every time!
The interesting part is that PI is a non-repeating, never ending decimal. Since PI is a non-repeating, never ending number, it can only be approximated. Mathematicians have tried to find a pattern to PI but to no avail.  Throughout its history, PI has become a fascination among mathematicians and computer programmers. Since PI is a non-repeating, never ending number, it can only be approximated.  Over the years as computer processing power increases, developers use the inexact nature of PI to test out computer system efficiency and accuracy. One individual last year calculated PI to 10 trillion digits. It took one computer 371 days and 16.6 terabytes or 3500 DVDs to store them! Read about it below...its pretty amazing.


To put this number of digits in perspective, you only need 40 digits of PI to calculate the
circumference of the observable universe (assuming its a sphere...highly unlikely) to the
accuracy of a width of a particle inside an atom! Anything more is not necessary.  Yet,
the search continues for even more digits of PI.

Best of all, circle are present in every aspect of our lives. Think about it, we can't go a second without seeing a circle. More importantly, PI is used in most calculations in the fundamental development of all infrastructure, communications, quantum physics, music theory, medical procedures, DNA; propulsion systems for air travel, space and military aircraft.

Famous scientific discoveries and the math that describes them are riddled with PI components. 

* The calculation for determining the horsepower of your car has PI in it

* Einstein's famous equations that describe relativity which is now directly applied in  
   satellite calibration has PI in it. Here it is in very simple form:

* The math that determines electric force (electricity) has PI included

*  How about the speed and volume of blood flow inside the first artificial heart? You bet.  
    PI is included in that calculation too.

* Want to figure out the position of two planets nearest to the earth? Boom! PI is smack
    dab in  the middle of that equation too!

* Radio communications, cellphones, computer hard drive/processor technology were both developed using  mathematics that incorporates the number "PI"


* Airlines use PI to calculate flying distance around the earth

* Manufacturing uses PI to figure out how much of a substance will fit into a volume
   of circular or cylindrical space

These are just a few examples of how PI is ingrained in our everyday existence without
us realizing it.

The memorization of PI digits has been just as alluring for some. A guy from China in 2005
recited 67,890 digits of PI. Some unconfirmed claims put the newest records closer to
100,000 in 2006! 

PI Day is also a day to teach kids math by making it fun. Our country routinely falls behind the rest of the world in math and science. PI Day is just what we need to emphasize the importance of learning math in a way that students can grasp and hold onto as they continue with their education.

You might not like math. That's fine. You might not get PI. That's fine too. Just remember that PI (3.14159...) is integrated into our everyday life unlike any other number. Without it, your daily life would be totally different.

1 comment:

Karen Smitko said...

This is my sister's post about her son, my nephew, who is 14yrs old and Autistic. He was the only Non-Typical contestant in this contest: PROUD MOM MOMENT! Matt competed in the 'PI' competition at school today.....this was a competition to see who could MEMORIZE and RECITE the most numbers of PI....He came in 3rd!!! He was able to recite BY MEMORY....105 digits!! In case you want to know....that is : 3.
1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209 7494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798214808651 328230664709384460955058223172535940812848. How many can you recite from memory ????