Somerset Times

111. Pythagoras, Pi-lates and Pies




Somerset Times Edition

Week 8, Term One 2019

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The middle of March is a busy time on the calendar. The Ides of March takes place on the 15th, St Patrick’s Day arrives on the 17th, Storyfest begins on the 19th and the Autumnal Equinox occurs on the 21st.

But their significance pales in comparison with what all mathematicians (and the US Congress) recognise as Pi Day on the 14th March. (3/14)

The annual celebration of π was again hosted by the Somerset Mathematical Society (∑M∑). Their motto is “Encourage, Enlighten, Entertain” and they certainly lived up to their maxim on the night. The Captains, Zara Smith, Mitchell Hamilton and James Guy directed the evening and somewhere between 31 and 314 people gathered in the SLC to honour this remarkable number, which is both irrational and transcendental.

The event began with everyone receiving free gifts to celebrate the year 2019 which is a Pythagorean triple as follows:

20192 = 11552 + 16562

Zara and Mitchell outlined the program of events and, as an acknowledgement to Storyfest, narrated some mathematical poetry which both rhymed and scanned, going against the modern poetic discourse.

Clare Hong, Vanessa Lee and Ellie Shen then performed some Maths tricks making a playing card disappear and showing that the audience (including some maths teachers), were unable to add up! Another trick duplicated people’s age on their calculator while yet another showed quite convincingly that when you add up all the numbers from 1 to infinity, the result is ⎻1/12. How can that be? Jessica Jeffries, Anna Hodgson and Aadi Rai in Year 6 then gave a wonderful overview of Pi and included another great poem.

Momoe Gondo delivered a biography of Albert Einstein who was born on Pi Day in 1879 and she included a quiz which really tested the audience as there were some surprising answers.
Mr Wrigley then discussed some confusing Pie charts and reminded the audience of Mathonyms, an invention of the SMS, which was launched last year and has been a big hit around the mathematical world. Just go to to enjoy them for yourself.

Anna Georgeson and Cindy Xue then rattled off a number of maths jokes which led into James Guy and the Life of Pi. His presentation was certainly entertaining and gave a very complete history of the number 3.14159… During his talk, former SMS member and pendulum advocate, Matthew White, was beamed into the room via satellite from Sydney and regaled us with his unique recitation about the Grandfather Clock.

Zara and Mitchell then led the audience in a Pi-lates session to stretch their bodies, instead of their minds, using mathematical relations.

Pi reciting rounded off the formal part of the evening and this was ably organised by Mia and Victoria Huang who also presented the certificates.

Pi Reciters (all from Year 6)

Jamison Webber 25, Mia Richards 26, Emily Nickels 26, Holly Hembling 27 and Jessica Jeffries (who recited 28 forwards and backwards).

To conclude proceedings, the audience all sang the Pi song (to the tune of American Pie) and then moved to the kitchen to partake of refreshments (including pies) in the aftermath. One word is enough to rationalize the entire evening; ePic.

The next ΣMΣ public lecture will be held in August and will celebrate another important ratio, Phi (ϕ), known to some as the Golden Ratio. Phi, like pi, is also irrational so start learning those digits for the phi recital exhibition. It will be phi-nomenal.

My thanks go to Mrs White, Mr Turner, Mr Brodar, Mr Grocott, Mr Abdou and Mr Hawtin for their support. It was also enlightening to see former SMS captains Jason Adams and Michael Guy in attendance.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge Archimedes of Syracuse, who set the ball rolling in the search for a value of pi over 2000 years ago, and whose last words before being slain by a Roman soldier were “Do not disturb my circles”.

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