If you're celebrating Pi Day today (March 14), then you're a certified math geek or physics geek or maybe even a tech geek. If you're just an outside observer, we thought you might like to know why all the hubbub over 3.1415926535 ... well, that could go on forever, so …
On Pi Day, pi enthusiasts wear clothing adorned with the pi symbol, eat pie, and even throw pi-related parties.
March 14 is chosen as the day to celebrate pi, because the numerical date, 3/14, represents the first 3 digits of pi. Hardcore Pi Day celebrants are planning special events for 9:26:53 a.m. on March 14, 2015, as the numerical date 3/14/15 9:26:53 represents the first 7 digits of pi, 3.141592653. [Real Pie Chart: America's Favorite Pies]
The concept of pi is important to mathematics because of its relationship to the circle; it is a constant representing the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Since pi is found in so many different equations in math, physics and other sciences, it is considered one of the most important mathematical constants.
Pi is an irrational transcendental number, meaning that its decimal places will continue to infinity. It cannot be represented using decimal notation or a rational fraction. As such, 3.14 is not pi, but simply an easy notation for the first 3 places. Even the common use of 22/7 for pi is not exact. To date, pi has been calculated out to more than 1 trillion decimal places, and mathematicians continue to calculate further digits.
Pi Day was started at the Exploratorium, a San Francisco-based science museum known for its interactive exhibits, by staff physicist Larry Shaw in 1988. Staff and visitors celebrated the day by holding a circular parade and then eating fruit pies. The Exploratorium continues to hold an annual Pi Day Celebration, which has gotten larger each year. In 2012, the celebration expanded to the Internet, with both a webcast and a Second Life-based event.
It was in 2009 that Pi Day became a national event, with official recognition from the House of Representatives through Resolution 224. The hope is that official recognition of Pi Day will help to increase interest in math and science among the American public. Schools are urged to use the day to teach their students about the importance of pi and other mathematical concepts.
Fun celebrations for Pi Day have the somewhat pie-in-the-sky goal of showing students that learning about math and science doesn't have to be boring. Interestingly, however, some mathematicians want to say goodbye to pi.