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Senior Moments – for week of March 10

Spencer3-300x2001In case you don’t realize it, this week contains a special date of great significance. First of all it’s my wife’s birthday but while that is of personal importance, I’m referring to something of even more cataclysmic consequence if that’s possible.

Besides my spouse, looking at the names of others born on March 14 it’s certainly an impressive list containing such luminaries of varied backgrounds as Johann Strauss (composer), Paul Ehrlich (bacteriologist), Michael Caine (actor), Kirby Puckett (baseball player), Billy Crystal (comedian), and even the not quite human though equally famous J. Fred Muggs (TV chimp personality). Surely the most illustrious of all March 14 babies is Albert Einstein, whose birth on this date seems almost too prophetic to have happened by mere coincidence since, if you haven’t already guessed by now, the date March 14 (3.14) is also a mathematical constant that’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, universally represented by the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, π (Pi). Yes, this coming Friday is Pi Day.

Is it any wonder that this period of the year is also known to all horoscope aficionados as Pi-sces, the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac, although some might consider that fact a bit fishy.

Actually as all math enthusiasts are aware, Pi Day occurred on March 14, 1592 at precisely 6:53 AM and will never come again since Pi carried out to 10 digits is 3.141592653, perhaps the most well-known irrational number whose digits never repeat no matter how far out the relationship of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is figured.

“So what” you say, “what has all that have to do with me or the price of tea in China?” Well for one thing you never would have passed a high school geometry test without knowing the formulas to calculate the circumference of a circle (2 π r) or a circle’s area (π r r). Additionally, Pi is used in calculating the area of part of a circle, the volume of a cylinder, and of even greater importance is used in Calculus equations to compute the change, motion and acceleration of bodies whether on land, sea, in the air or outer space. Without Pi we’d all have to walk everywhere, perish the thought, and be shackled to earth.

So, giving Pi its due, March 14 should be observed as an international holiday, with festivals celebrating its significance by having math contests, physics seminars, and ending with the ever-popular “pi-rotechnics.” Of course not everyone would participate and those who don’t would still appreciate the importance of Pi for, if nothing else, having given them a day of rest and recreation, with perhaps even a pi-eating contest for fun. Who knows, maybe it’ll even spawn some future “Pi-romaniacs.”

So who’d like to head up this project, pi-ioneering the pi-lot program? It may sound like a pi-pedream I know, but it’s really not as much of a “pi” in the sky idea as it sounds.

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