Why We Should Care About Pi

Mar 14, 2019 | Lafayette CA

 There are many reasons to care about pi! It can be found all over the natural world, in the physics that describes waves, and it even appears in the spiral of the DNA double helix. Find out why this exceptional, irrational number deserves a day of its own!

Why should we care about pi? The number 3.14… may be irrational, but it can be found all over the natural world. It appears everywhere there's a circle, such as the disk of the sun, planets, and even the earth. Pi is in the physics that describes waves, such as light and sound. Pi even appears in the spiral of the DNA double helix!

On Pi Day you’ll see a lot about pie-eating contests, and hear about competitions over who can memorize and recite pi to the furthest digit (the mathematician’s equivalent of a spelling bee), but taking a day to honor this number is about much more than this. Perhaps the most poetic description of why we celebrate pi comes from Steven Strogatz in The New Yorker:

“The beauty of pi, in part, is that it puts infinity within reach. Even young children get this. The digits of pi never end and never show a pattern. They go on forever, seemingly at random—except that they can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle. This tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi.”

Pi is infinitely useful and also, apparently, infinitely unknowable. A number with this kind of contradiction begs to be remembered and respected. Does the fact that it can be found in the spiral of our DNA—in the very foundation of our genetic makeup—make us infinitely useful and unknowable as well?

This is why we care about pi, and why we think you should too. We invite you to appreciate and honor this exceptional number with us today!

Read the rest of the article on the Mathnasium Number Sense Blog!