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September 4th, 2007

We’re not going to finish this Pi

Consider the following mathematics fact on Sciensational about the value of Pi:

The digits to the right of the Pi’s (3.141…) decimal point can keep going forever, and there is no pattern to these digits at all.

Pi, represented by π , the 16th letter of Greek alphabets, has been considered the most mysterious and fascinating number in mathematics for thousands of years!

But what on earth is it? It is a number of course, and a constant value. In the simplest terms, a circle’s circumference divided by diameter always gives you the same number. That number, or ratio, is the value of Pi, ie 3.14159.

Yeah, but what does it do? You ask. What has Pi done to deserve this high and mighty position? So let’s roughly get right through it (literally!).

Take a circle, say a tree trunk. Now put your arms around it. The area that your arms are covering is called the circumference. Now drill a hole right through the tree trunk. Well, of course it’s not a very decent thing to do to a tree, but let’s suppose that for now! The distance from one point of the hole to the next point is called the diameter. Now suppose the tree was too big for you to put your arms around, but someone nasty had already drilled a hole. What you have now is only one measurement, that is the diameter, and you must find the circumference. SO, thanks to the delicious Pi, we can find out what the circumference is! Here’s the simple formula:

Circumference = Pi x Diameter

So if the length of the drilled hole was 5 meters (you checked by running your pet mouse with a string tied to its tail, for example), 5 multiplied by 3.14159 is…? You guessed it, a humongous tree only the giant King Kong could cover with his arms!

Who discovered this value of Pi? Well, to be sure, it’s been known to us for thousands of years, at least 4000 years. The ancient Babylonians were using it, so it could date much before that.

But that’s not the point. You see, the exact value of Pi is not known! That’s a pretty strange thing for a number that is a constant, right? So the bigger the circle, the bigger the value without any pattern emerging after the 3.xxx value. That means it never ends! A number that doesn’t end is called irrational.

Here’s another whopper: Pi is supposedly a ratio between two values, right? But since its value never ends, it is an irrational number. Irrational numbers cannot be fractions! That’s why sciensational visitor Tiff from Witherbee, USA sent this sciensational math fact:

Pi (3.14159…) is a number that cannot be written as a fraction.

To wrap it up, we paid our homage to the Great Pi by giving our sciensational math facts pages’ symbol designed after it. Hail to the Pi!

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