Somerset Times

Rounded Pi Day

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 6,
Term One, 2016

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The Somerset Celebration of Literature is an iconic feature of our calendar and its importance cannot be over-estimated. However, it is surely rivalled in the following week by the Somerset Mathematical Society’s (∑M∑) Celebration of Pi, a number that represents the oldest, unsolved mathematical problem, which has been worked on since antiquity.

But why should we make such a noise over a number? Surely it would seem more rational to just state it as 22/7 or maybe accept it radically as ∛31 and leave it at that? But 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.

Generic - Add Infinitum

One infinite series representing π is the 14th Century (Indian) Madhava series;

π/4 = 1 - 1/3 + 1/5 - 1/7 + 1/9 ...

This connects all odd numbers to π and therefore links number theory to geometry. π also features in Euler’s identity e + 1 = 0 which unites all branches of mathematics.

π 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.

Last year was certainly epic, as for one instance in time the first five digits of π appeared in the date 3/14/15 and at the right moment we had another five with 3/14/15 9:26:53 appearing on the clock. This year, the SMS has dubbed 14 March as ‘Rounded Pi Day’, with the date being 3/14/16 and the number approximated to 5 significant figures (or 4 decimal places).

There will be a Pi celebration at Somerset College in the Performing Arts Theatre on Monday 14 March starting at 5.00pm and everyone is welcome. You will be entertained by mathematical talks and tricks, together with a miscellaneous mixture of maths activities including graph dancing and pi reciting. You can have your name written in maths (as a mathonym) and enjoy eating pies in the aftermath. The first 50 people to arrive even receive a free gift and if that doesn’t tempt you to come along, just look at the price - the whole evening is FREE!

I look forward to seeing you there.

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