Pi Day 2019

Today was a very pi-saturated day for me (which is wonderful!). After waking up, I took a shower behind a pi shower curtain:

(that’s right, I have a shower curtain filled with the digits of pi, which are colored differently to make the shape of the pi symbol stand out…)

I dressed with a pi day t-shirt as my undershirt, and a pi tie (the same pi tie I wore last year).

On my way into work, I did a few pi day routines:

  1. reciting pi to myself to make sure I still know the digits (I usually falter in the mid 100’s and need to refresh my memory the day before so I’m solid at 200 like I was in high school, then I continue to practice that morning)
  2. buying some pies from the grocery store for my students
  3. decorating my board with pi digits and facts

We had been invited on a field trip to have our students celebrate Pi Day in Annapolis at the Maryland State House Office Building, with legislators, the lieutenant governor, and representatives from other schools and STEM education organizations. So we brought six students and three bins full of projects and things to show off, from our engineering program, our computer science program, and our STEM after-school clubs. We brought a 3D printer, which was a big hit, in constant operation producing little raven figurines which we gave away to visitors to our table (many of them younger children). We brought a laptop with Python and Java programs coded by my students that simulated flipping coins, drew a beautiful geometric flower, merged two photos together (a primitive Photoshop), and an “artificial intelligence” program that interacted with a weather API to obtain the current weather and give advice to humans on what to wear. Also some tablets with student-coded apps, and electronic devices like a robot butterfly, a random-number-generator dice LED board, and a soda-can lamp. There was also a solar-powered car, a hovercraft, and designs and blocks and shapes carved out by students using CNC mill and lathe.

For lunch there was pizza pi(e) and mini dessert pi(e)s, as you can see in the following picture of the students each holding up a slice of pie, a pie, or a pi:

Returning to school for my last period class and our after-school makerspaces club, we celebrated in the traditional way by eating more pie. šŸ™‚

When I got home, my neighbors invited me over for a pi day and birthday celebration for their kid. So even more pizza pie for dinner, lemon meringue and key lime pies for dessert, and some discussion of pi day trivia at the dinner table, as well as anecdotes of how the neighbors celebrate pi day at their offices. A wonderful time!

Overall, lots of pi and pie from morning ’til night. A great way to celebrate a great day!

Here are some pi-day tidbits of news, information, and links about pi:

  • Today, Google announced that one of their employees, Emma Haruka Iwao, together with the Google Computing Engine, calculated pi out to 31,415,926,535,897 digits (i.e. pi times ten trillion digits, some self-referential humor in their choice of where to stop). This shatters the previous world record of 22 trillion! (sources: BBC, Forbes, 538)
  • Here are some ways NASA uses and celebrates pi.
  • As pi day gets more and more popular, I’ve seen more backlash of pi day skeptics recently (though nothing like the great pi / e wars and debates of my Williams College days, nor the great Pi/Tau Debate of 2011). I am still a pi fan, but here are some other numbers you might enjoy and wish to celebrate as well!
  • Since we handed out 3D-printed ravens as Maryland-themed souvenirs at today’s event, I feel like I need to re-post this link to the renowned retelling of Poe’s “The Raven” which has words of lengths equal to the digits of pi. Poe, E. Near a Raven.
  • In honor of my new neighbor’s birthday, there are some other famous folks who share a birthday with pi day: Many people know about Albert Einstein, but also Waclaw Sierpinski, the Polish mathematician famous for fractals, and also Alexey Pajitnov, the developer of Tetris. (h/t to Michael Lugo for the latter fact).

And finally, a few pi day jokes. Each image is linked to its source:

Hope you all had a wonderful pi day, and continue to celebrate math all year long!

Nick the Pi Guy

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Filed under computer science, engineering, math, teaching

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