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Pay no attention to those Ides, 3.14 is the true March holiday for geeks. Pi has been around for nearly 4000 years. The ancient Babylonians and Egyptians knew about it, and Greek mathematicians refined the concept.

Supposedly the concept is even mentioned in the Bible, prompting the Indiana legislature to submit a bill setting the value of Pi at 3, in accordance with these scriptures – in 1897. As recently as 1998 there was an Internet meme stating that Alabama was trying to do the same thing. According to Snopes, this was actually an April Fool’s joke that got out of hand, based loosely on the historical fact of the Indiana action.

But, should you desire a bit more Pi trivia, I leave you with this quiz, created by *Eve A. Anderson* and Carolyn M. Morehouse, and gleefully ~~stolen~~ harvested from The Math Forum …

- Who, in 1706, first gave the Greek letter “pi” its current mathematical definition?

a. Albert Einstein

b. William Jones

c. Attila the Hun

d. Archimedes

e. Napoleon Bonaparte - Pi is transcendental. What does this mean, in mathematics?

a. It is equal to the ratio of two integers

b. Its square root is imaginary

c. It cannot be expressed as an integer, or as a root or quotient of integers

d. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s favorite number. - 1f you calculated the circumference of a circle the size of the known universe, requiring that the answer be accurate to within the radius of one proton, how many decimal places of pi would you need to use? (i.e., 3.14, or 3.1415, or 3.1415926, etc.)?

a. two million

b. 39

c. 48,000

d. 6 billion - What is the earliest known reference to pi in history?

a. The Rosetta Stone, approx. 200 BC

b. The Bible

c. An Egyptian papyrus scroll, written approx. 1650 BC by Ahmes the Scribe

d. Euclid’s Elements, written in the 3rd century BC - People tried for centuries to “square the circle”. What were they trying to do?

a. Construct a square that perfectly circumscribes (surrounds) a given circle

b. Determine the value of pi squared

c. Multiply a circle by itself

d. Use a straightedge and compass to construct a square exactly equal in area to a given circle

e. Alter a recipe intended for a round pan so that it would fit exactly into a square pan - Some people became mentally deranged when trying to “square the circle”. What was this illness named?

a. Impossibilius Fittus

b. Morbus Cyclometricus

c. Repetitionatis Decimalus - Are pi’s digits periodic? In other words, do the digits ever repeat themselves in any pattern?

a. Yes. The digits repeat themselves every 6,000,000 decimal places

b. No. Every periodic number is rational, but pi is irrational

c. Yes. Every infinitely long number repeats itself

d. Perhaps. Not enough digits of pi have been calculated to know yet - What is the current world record for memorization of the decimal places of pi?

a. 1000 places, by Alexander Craig Aitkin

b. 4096 places, by Simon Plouffe

c. 31,811 places, by Rajan Mahadevan

d. 42,000 places, by Hiroyuki Goto

e. 56,789 places, by Alfred E. Neuman - Pi is an irrational number. What does that really mean?

a. Its digits cannot be rationed out evenly

b. Nobody with sound judgement has anything to do with it

c. it is a real number, but can’t be expressed as a ratio of two integers - Among the digits of pi currently known, the concentration of each of the digits 0-9 are pretty close to equal. However, in the first 30 places of pi’s decimal expansion, which digit is completely missing?

a. 7

b. 2

c. 0

d. 8 - What is the “formal” definition of pi?

a. the surface area of a sphere of diameter 22/7

b. 3.1415926

c. the radius of a circle

d. a delicious dessert

e. the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter - Imagine if you wrapped a rope tightly around the earth at the equator. How much longer would you have to make the rope if you wanted it to be exactly one foot above the surface all the way around?

a. 2 feet

b. 2r feet, where r is the radius of the earth

c. r^{2}feet - How many hours did it take a supercomputer to calculate pi to 51.5 billion digits, in 1997?

a. 78 hours

b. 3 hours

c. 29 hours

And finally, a couple of videos…

…and supposedly there are LOTS of Pi songs out on YouTube.

But maybe you could relate the Ides of March to Pi Day and celebrate both days.

The Ides (from Latin “idus”) meant the middle, half-division, of a month in the Roman calendar; so if you draw March as a circle (31 days), then drew in a diameter with each half 15.5 days (“Ides”), couldn’t you sneak “pi” into a formula to represent the Ides of March?

1/2 (pi times r-squared), or half the area of a circle.

is there an answer key?

The answers are hidden below. Drag your mouse across the line below this one to highlight the answers.

Answers:

1b, 2c, 3b, 4c, 5d, 6b, 7b, 8d, 9c, 10c, 11e, 12a, 13c

Have you considered tau day? (http://tauday.com) I especially like Vi Hart’s video at the end.

Susan – I’m up for any excuse for a party, mathematical or otherwise. I’m just not sure I want to celebrate Omega Day.

BTW, I love Vi Hart’s videos. She has some great ones.

“Morbus cyclometricus” may translate to “sanitas cyclometricus” if this new perspective of Pi confirms the value of ongoing effort to “square the circle”:

http://www.aitnaru.org/images/Pi_Corral.pdf (file attached to web page).

Perhaps, by the next Pi Day celebration, the new mantra will be:

“Some Pi are square, some are round, but no Pi is triangular”.