Let’s begin this one with a disclaimer: I’m writing this laid up in bed, missing out on what looks to be an excellent #mathsconf2015 organised by La Salle. Mathematicians everywhere (or maths teachers, at least) are celebrating π day today because the date can be made to read 3/14/15 9:26:53…. So why am I being the party pooper?
And please don’t take my gripes too seriously. I’m not that grouchy really. Enjoy your apple π, pork π, gammon and π-napple… (Oh, by the way, the Greek pronunciation is more like ‘pee’. Bon appetit.)
Gripe 1: Date Format
To read today’s date as a decimal approximation to π requires us to write the date the ‘American way’ month/day. Ask Brits’ opinions about writing dates this way at any other time of year and I doubt you’d get such an enthusiastic response. Two nations separated by a common calendar.
Gripe 2: Approximations
In fact, 22nd July – written 22/7 on our side of the Atlantic – has been designated by some as ‘π approximation day‘. It is a more accurate value of π than 3.14. It is only this year that we can include the extra decimal places.
Gripe 3: π is ‘everywhere’
Is π really a ubiquitous mathematical constant? Well, I’m happy to be corrected on this but I’m fairly sure it only crops up whenever a circle is involved. Admittedly, circles appear in a fair amount of mathematics: geometry, trigonometry and even calculus (volume of revolution involves π, but it’s just an infinite sum of cylinders which are fat circles). But – and maybe I took the wrong options – I don’t remember writing π often, if at all, throughout my Maths degree. I’ve just never got too attached to it as a pure mathematician.
Gripe 3.14: Typing π
How do you get the symbol π when you need it? Find it from where you last used it. Search for it online and copy/paste. Open up that Insert-Symbol table. Or equation editor? Change your keyboard layout to Greek? Or maybe you just use Latex and can type \pi. It’s easier to type it on my calculator than on my computer.
Gripe 4: All numbers are equal, but some numbers are more equal than others
What about e or ϕ and √2 and i? When can we celebrate those?! Actually, we should start planning the parties. With e=2.718… and ϕ=1.618… we should designate 2nd July 2018 and 1st June 2018 as e and phi day, respectively! (Or 7th Feb and 6th Jan for our American cousins.) I guess we missed the boat with √2. Did anybody make offerings to Pythagoras on 1st April 2014? And when can we celebrate i day?!
Gripe 5: There’s no Google doodle
If Google don’t see π day as thing, then it’s not a thing :-p