Somerset Times

Celebration Time

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 7,
Term One, 2017

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“Pi day is approaching fast, And we must celebrate the past. Three point one four one five nine; On that number we shall dine”.

Next week, Somerset College showcases a wonderful annual celebration. I am talking, of course, about the annual Celebration of Pi, which occurs on Tuesday 14 March. This day (3/14), each year, has been officially designated by the United States Congress as Pi Day. The Somerset Mathematical Society will be hosting a free public event and it is open to all ages – from zero to infinity (but not beyond).

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Our last three Pi day celebrations have been particularly ePic. In 2014, Pi Day was 14/3/14 which was both Pi day (3/14 in US format) and Pi month 3/14 (in non US style). For a brief moment in time in 2015, the date and time aligned perfectly as the first ten digits of Pi; 3/14/15 9.26:53. There will be a repeat performance of this phenomenon in 2115. 2016 was not so precise, so we called it Rounded Pi day with the date representing Pi to five significant figures (3/14/16).

But why do we make such a fuss about a number? Surely it would seem more rational to just state it as 22/7 or maybe a little more radically as ∛31 and leave it at that? However, these values are mere approximations of π and its true value has far more significance. It allows us to reach out to the infinite and explore the connection between the randomness of its digits and the order of a perfect circle.

π features in Euler’s identity e + 1 = 0 which unites all branches of mathematics and is present in any equation involving periodic motion like those of musical notes, orbiting planets and even our own bodily rhythms. Furthermore, π is also found in both Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the Schrödinger wave equation which describe the fundamental behaviour of subatomic particles. Consequently, the innermost workings of our universe all revolve around π.

The Somerset Mathematical Society will celebrate this arithmetic anniversary with mathematical talks and tricks from its members together with Pilates and the ever popular Pi-reciting competition. If you can recite 25 digits you must enter! Can you believe that the current world record for reciting pi is 67,890 digits? It took Chinese college student Lu Chao just over 24 hours to perform this feat.

The evening finishes in the aftermath with pie-eating, although this is not staged as a contest. The evening starts at 5.30pm in the Pi-forming Arts Theatre and I look forward to seeing you there. (Did I mention that it’s free?) Please register your attendance on the College website and if you would like any further details, please email me.

Oh yes, and I nearly forgot! The day after Pi Day sees the start of that other Somerset annual celebration – The Celebration of Literature – it’s about words and stories. Nullius in verba!

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