Courtesy Alan L. BaughmanWant to blow some minds, Buzzketeers? You’ve got a couple of options.
The first and most obvious route to some serious brain-blasting is to become a motorcycle stunt jumper. I don’t care if you aren’t into engines and broken bones; if you see a man in a cape riding a dirtbike fly over 30 flaming school buses, your brain will ooze out your ear holes (in the most awesome way).
The other option is to learn some math. It doesn’t have to be too much math—a lot of people couldn’t tell trig if it bit them in the calc, and so a little math can go a long way. And if you can combine that math with another skill…minds will be blown.
Take, for example, the latest, greatest crop circle. Now, we all know that crop circles are made by aliens, right? Duh. It’s a case of Occam’s razor—the simplest explanation is the best. So we have unusual patterns battered into fields of crops. What’s the explanation with the fewest assumptions? That beings we have never encountered traveled from a place we know nothing about, and use their very likely highly advanced minds and inter-stellar travel technology to draw circles and things in our food for reasons we can’t fathom.
For the sake of argument and education, however, let’s pretend that crop circles have a much more complex origin—that they come from dudes (and dudettes, undoubtedly) with an artistic bent, and too much time on their hands.
So, back to this particularly mind blowing circle. It appeared on a field near Barbury Castle (which, I’m afraid, isn’t much of a castle), and consists of a ten layered, jagged-looking spiral, with a few circles and dots and things. It looks pretty cool—check out the photograph—but it means nothing to me. Then again, I majored in the liberal arts. When the circle was examined by an astrophysicist (or a “professional cleverboots,” as they are sometimes known), however, something remarkable jumped out of the shape: it’s a mathematical code.
And what secret equation or figure is hidden in this alien thought bubble?
“The code is based on 10 angular segments with the radial jumps being the indicator of each segment,” says the astrophysicist on-call. “Starting at the centre and counting the number of one-tenth segments in each section contained by the change in radius clearly shows the values of the first 10 digits in the value of pi (3.141592654). The tenth digit has even been correctly rounded up. The little dot near the centre is the decimal point.”
How about that? I wouldn’t have noticed, but now that I’ve been told, my mind is hissing and steaming out of my tear ducts. Or are those just tears of happiness?
Very clever, crop circle-person, very clever. Consider all minds blown. And you couldn’t have done it without your old pals math and geometry.
Check out this page for ten of the most impressive crop circles to be seen on Google Earth (the new one isn’t on there yet
There are lots of songs about pi on You Tube. I liked this one best.
Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, or roughly 3.14. It's one of the most important numbers in all of mathematics, popping up in all kinds of equations. It even has its own day: March 14 (3.14).
Pi is an irrational number. No, that doesn't mean it gets upset easily. Rather, it never ends and it never repeats. "3.14" is just rounded off. You could carry pi to a couple more places -- 3.1416 -- which would make "Pi Hour" 4:00 pm today (3/14 16:00 hours military time).
And, since Gene is never one to leave well enough alone, we can go further. Carry pi to seven places -- 3.1415926 -- and the exact moment of pi is 3:55 pm and 35.5 seconds (15.926 hours since midnight).
Extra bonus fun: One year is 365.2425 days. If you had a circle 365.2425 inches in circumference, it's diameter would be 116.26 inches across. Which would make Diameter Day the 117th day of the year. This being a leap year, that would be April 26 at 6:14:50 am. Set your alarm clocks now!
Today's featured picture from Wikipedia is an animation demonstrating what relationship pi has to a circle's diameter and perimeter.
Remember this number, 3.14159? It's Pi, the natural number that describes the mathematical properties of a circle. Well, the digits for Pi go on and on and on (for infinity actually) and that makes for some fun competitions and great feats of memory. As a matter of fact a 59-year-old Japanese psychiatric counselor, Akira Haraguchi, has recently broken the world record for reciting the digits of Pi from memory. From the time he started at 3.14 to the time he ended 13 hours later he recited 42,195 digits of Pi.
Can you imagine memorizing that many numbers? Check out the first 10,000 digits of Pi to see how hard it is to remember that many numbers. And if that doesn't wear you out, try for the record by checking out the first 100,000 digits of Pi.
To learn more about the fun aspects of Pi, check out the Exploratorium's Ridiculously Enhanced Pi Page. Every March 14th, international Pi day, in San Francisco the Exploratorium hosts a Pi festival with lots of fun activities, including real pie.