Monday, March 12, 2007

Pin-point, A Spot, A Sharp Placement

I will deal with the somewhat strange looking and sounding title in a little while. But first, the inspiration for that. My brother has alerted me to the online story, Pi fans have their day, which falls on March 14. Written in numerals, it’s 3.14. If you really want to get it down to the second, then it’s 3.14 1:59 pm, since its am counterpart would seem rather unworldly. Does 3.14159 ring a bell? If not, read on.

Some interesting Pi vignettes from the story:

a) The beauty of Pi lies in the fact that “the number seems to go on forever and yet has no discernible pattern to it”.

b) Pi spots a mind-boggling string of numbers that trails after the point and is known — so far — to be more than one trillion digits long.

c) The world record for reciting (b) belongs to Chao Lu, a Chinese chemistry student, who rattled off 67,890 digits over 24 hours in 2005. It took 26 video tapes to submit to Guinness.

d) A software engineer in Virginia named Mike Keith wrote a poem to pi, a "piem." where the number of letters in each successive word corresponds to pi's digits. To whet your appetite, here are the starting verses:

One
A Poem
A Raven
Midnights so dreary, tired and weary …

If you keep a tally as instructed, then the above should translate to 3.1415926535 … Not a bad mnemonics to memorize Pi by.

So by now you would have realized that the title is my feeble attempt at the same word play, which actually incorporates the decimal point (in word), but only till the 5th decimal place, which is the approximation I use daily in my work.

Pin-point, a spot, a sharp placement
3 . 1 4 1 5 9

Like everybody else, Pi entered my life when I was in secondary (middle) school. It’s that constant of proportionality between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. Those day, calculators had not evolved beyond the size of a table top machine and so we were asked to use a fraction approximation, 22/7.

Later in high school, I learned that it’s part of the Greek letter system (alpha, beta, and so on). Then in University I was introduced to it as the symbol for the product of a series of numbers in statistics.

Then in grad school, I used the Buckingham π theorem in my analytical work. According to Wikipedia, the Buckingham π theorem is a key theorem in dimensional analysis. The theorem loosely states that if we have a physically meaningful equation involving a certain number, n, of physical variables, and these variables are expressible in terms of k independent fundamental physical quantities, then the original expression is equivalent to an equation involving a set of p = n − k dimensionless variables constructed from the original variables.

Then one of my favorite TV detective series is PI Magnum, where PI stands for private investigator, starring Tom Selleck. Till now I still can vividly remember the way he twitched his eye-brows in the opening credit.

Then my wife loves apple pies. I guess that’s the closest she would ever get to Pi, Pi-themed food that is.

I recall a trick question once asked by a professor in a class in UF. Say, you enlarge the Earth’s diameter by one foot, what would be the increase in the earth’s circumference? Lest you think it’s an astronomical number, think again. It has everything to do with the innocuous looking Pi.

I’m no pi fan(atic), so I will stop my self-acclaimed Pirotechnics right here.

1 comment:

Kitty Girl said...

Oh, man, those puns!!! lol Pi is indeed a popular number!