>> The Math Museum In New York City
>>— Mar. 4, 2013.
Next Thursday, at least in the U.S. (and maybe in Canada, though I am not sure whether they actually have calendars up here), it is 3/14 or 3.14. In the rest of the world, in the U.K. and Sri Lanka, it is 14/3 or 14.3. But, since the U.S. rules the waves 3.14 is World Pie Day — and for those of you who are not into pi, just celebrate it as World Pie Day and have a pecan or meat pie and think of POOR me.
I love Pi. Always have since I was introduced to it when I was about 8. I also love pie, both sweet and savory — but alas and alack I haven’t touched a pie, not even nibbled on the crust of one, in 6 weeks! Yes, I have managed to lose 11 pounds. I am down to 178 pounds. So, I am no longer as obese as I used to me, but that at the expense of apple, pecan, lemon and cherry pies, not to mention savory meat and French pies. Getting old sucks. Being pre-diabetic just makes it worse. But, I will celebrate Pi.
Pi is one of the two most important, pivotal, sacrosanct, physical constants in the Universe. The other ‘c’ – the speed of light (as in e = mc²). But, most people can’t remember c. c = 186,282 miles per second. I am not sure how many people even remember ‘G’ — the gravitational constant.
Pi is neat. Very neat.
When I want to have fun with my brain, I try to imagine early philosophers, who believed that all things in nature, divinely inspired, had perfect order. Just think of them, laying out little pieces of string trying to correlate the circumference of a circle to its radius. They must have thought that they were doing something wrong. How could it not be a exact number. Was God playing games?
I try to imagine whether in another world, another planet, in another galaxy, or even in the Milky Way, Pi might be different? I don’t think so.
Having been born a Buddhist, I was never expected to believe in an almighty, all seeing, all powerful God. Thank God. But, Pi to me, was yet another example that there is no all knowing, all seeing creator ‘up there’. Because, nobody with even a modicum of sense would have come up with Pi! Pi is chaotic. That is its abiding, never ending beauty. Infinite, mysterious, beguiling and beautiful. Pi.
Growing up, given my age, we didn’t have electronic calculators. I got my first electronic calculator, a bulky Casio, around 1972. I think it cost my father U.S. $200. I started with using 22/7 for Pi.
In 1971, in my first year at University, doing computer technology, one of the assignments we had was to calculate Pi to as many digits as we could in 3 seconds of compute time. No, we didn’t have dedicated computers. The PC was exactly a decade out. We used time-sharing systems. Computer usage was measured by the Milli-second and billed. 3 seconds compute time, which might equate to 5 minutes of elapsed time, was a lot. Oh! We also programmed using punched cards. They were batch jobs. You submitted a deck of cards and waited for that job to be run and the printout to be delivered to your pigeon hole. I can’t remember what algorithm we used. We programmed it in Fortran IV. I do remember spending 2 weeks refining and polishing my code, 3 to 4 times a day, to get more digits in the 3 seconds we got. Yes, I have to confess, I beat the rest of the class. I was a zealot. Total maniac. I worked on my programming like a man possessed. It was beyond an obsession. I had a very unusual 3 years at University for my 1st degree. To say it was WILD would not even capture 10% of it. There were those that claimed that I was horizontal for 75% of time at University — and it wasn’t inebriation because I didn’t take up alcohol until I got my 1st degree (though the drinking age was 16 or lower) and I never did drugs (though my inseparable best friend, 1968 to 1969, when living in Paris, was Charlie ‘Byrd’ Parker Jr., yes, THE Byrd’s son). [I think they exaggerate. It was probably only about 60%, though it might have looked longer to others.] Yes, I could program while horizontal and always had a notebook by my side to write down algorithms that would come to me in my sleep or in moments of inspiration. Yes, I was strange, even more or than now. Plus, I had a shaggy, uncut head of curly black hair, and an unwashed, smelly genuine, bona fide, from Afghan coat. No wonder IBM offered an ‘unconditional’ job when I was 19. With or without degree. Whenever. Just call this number. And I spent 10 months trying to avoid that … writing letters to all the African game reserves asking for a job as a game warden! Just think. If I had got ONE offer, I would have been gone. None of this. All their fault.
Anyway, next Thursday. MATH DAY. Pi day. Alas I will still not indulge with a pie. But, lets celebrate.