Pi Day – 31.4 Things About Pi You Probably Did Not Know

By Anupum Pant

“International” Pi day?

Today is pi day. Pi day is celebrated on March 14 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (March 14 is 3/14) at 1:59 PST which is 3.14159.

Since pi day is today’s date written in the mm.dd (03.14) format, it could not be a pi day for most of you because dd.mm is the format used for writing dates in most countries around the world. In fact, those countries where more than half of the world’s population resides, will never have a pi day because you know, we can’t have a 14th month! Pi day is a valid celebration for people living only in the United States (including the 49th and northernmost state, Alaska and Hawaii of course) and Belize. Everywhere else people get zilch today?

 date format map
Only the purple parts in the map use the mm.dd.yy format to write dates

 

Firstly, there is always the pi approximation day, which is celebrated on 22nd July (22/7) and uses the dd.mm format. Talking about March 14th, there is much more to pi day than just the date format itself. Let’s see…

Birthdays

I know, Eugene Cernan – The NASA astronaut who was the last man on the moon, and the one you can hear speaking in a popular Daft Punk Track – is one famous man who was born on pi day, 79 years from now, is an American too.

But guess what? Albert Einstein, one of the most genius men of recent times, was born on pi day too. He was a German born physicist (He did live in the US for more than 15 years and in fact, even took his last breath in New Jersey)

 pi day birthdays
Left to Right: Albert Einstein, Gene Cernan and the commander of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, have their birthdays on March 14, Pi Day.

So, you see there is a little bit of pi day for every one around the world today. It is not just an American thing. Now moving on the most amazing things about pi.

Irrational pi

Firstly, pi, unlike what we all are taught in school, isn’t 22/7. 22 divided by 7 is just an approximation of pi – it is only 99.95975% accurate. As we all know, pi is actually the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. A slightly better approximation of pi would be 104348/33215 – which is 99.99999998944% accurate. But, since it is an irrational number, it can never be written in the form of a fraction.

Exact Value

The exact value of pi is impossible to write in digits because the number of digits needed to write it would be infinite and could never be fit inside the known universe.

To think of it in another way, if you divided the whole universe into the smallest possible volumes (plank volume), you’d end up with a mind bogglingly large number of volumes. Suppose you started writing the digits of pi inside these little volumes, you’d finish up the universe and would be still left with infinite more digits to write.

The Digits of Pi

The latest record for the maximum number of known digits of pi is 12.1 Trillion digits (December 28, 2013), as calculated by Alexander J. Yee & Shigeru Kondo.  They have run out of disk space to store more numbers. Here you can have a look at the first 100,000 digits of pi. And One million digits, if you need more than that.

In these first one million digits, the sequence 12345 occurs 8 times!

The Feynman Point: If you’d like to hear what pie would sound like if you mapped a couple of pleasant sounding notes to each of the digits of pi, try listening to this. If you kept listening for a while and made it till the 762th digit, you’d hear a series of (6 of them) high frequency notes (the ones mapped to the digit nine) that get played continuously. This place in the digits of pi is called the Feynman point where six 9s occur one after another. Isn’t it incredible for six same numbers to be there consecutively in a random irrational number!

Feynman point
The Feynman point – series of six consecutive 9s highlighted in red.

Practically useful pi

Pi can be used in real life to make a couple of things easier. For instance, if you were to find the size of your hat (usually measured in diameters), you’d have a hard time measuring the diameter of your head. This is what you can do to get a good approximation:
Measure the circumference of your head and divide it by π.

Another one trick is used by forest guards: To estimate the height of an elephant the Diameter of an elephant’s foot is multiplied by 2 π.

Pi Jokes, facts and Coincidences

  • It is an impressive coincidence that 3.14 if horizontally flipped, looks like the word “Pie”. You can check this in the mirror.
Pi looks lie pie in the mirror
Pi looks lie pie in the mirror
  • Another one is that, the 16th Greek letter is ‘Pi’ and the 16th letter in the English alphabet is ‘P’.
  • The famous comedian John Evans once made a joke: “What do you get if you divide the circumference of a jack-o’-lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin π.

  • There is a cologne named pi and is sold with the following marketing mantra: “highlighting the sexual appeal of intelligent and visionary men.”
  • The height of the Great Pyramid of Giza multiplied by 2 π is equal to the perimeter of its base.
  • The 90841th place in pi is 122189 – which is also my birth date in the mmddyy format. Find yours here and tell me in the comments below.

Download the PiDay wallpaper here.

Do share with me in the comments, other facts about pi you know and I haven’t covered them here.

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Dolphin Encounter – Touching and Mindblowing at the Same Time

By Anupum Pant

Like crows and humans, dolphins have an impressive brain-to-body ratio. Based on an assumption, intelligence of a creature is in proportion to the size of its brain, scientific research suggests that dolphins are the most smartest creatures on the earth, after human beings. H2G2 suggests the same!

  • Besides that, there are a couple of other evidences that say dolphins are incredibly intelligent creatures. For instance, the part of a brain where all the emotional and higher thinking takes place, is considerably larger among dolphins – in MRI scans. Also, dolphins show several human-like skills –
  • They can identify themselves in a mirror-reflection, displaying highly developed, abstract thinking and self-awareness – Like Elephants and Great apes. Although self-awareness is a highly debated topic, dolphins are definitely better than so many other animals out there.
  • To some extent, dolphins can understand numbers.
  • They are often found to be engaged in complex play – Like, they can make and play with water bubble rings (Video – It is mesmerizing to watch them play with the rings) They are also seen riding the waves. Just like humans surf on the waves.

  • It isn’t just that. Dolphins also live in social groups and have different names (Distinct whistles) they use to call out each other.
[More of Dolphin-intelligence feats here]

But, why am I talking Dolphins today?

Well, they are of course extremely interesting creatures. But there was a video I stumbled upon on the front page of Reddit today, which really touched me. Moreover, it made me appreciate the creature’s intelligence. This is what happens in the video:

A diver, Jack is seen swimming around with a couple of Manta rays in the Garden Eel cove, Hawaii. Out of some where, a Bottlenose Dolphin appears. It appears to be in trouble and then the diver notices a fishing line entangled on one of its fins. He signals the dolphin to come closer. It comes, and most amazingly it stays nearby and cooperates with the diver to let him cut the hook and the fishing line.

Dolphin comes near a human, turns upside down, as if saying “Hey human, I have a problem. Can you help?”

Just two things. Kudos to the human for helping it out. The problem is solved.  And cheers to the dolphin which leaves us mindblown, wondering about how intelligent animals can be! At times, even smarter than some people I’ve met. 

The Simple Difference Between Venom and Poison

By Anupum Pant

Venom and Poison are both toxic substances. Still, some animals are called venomous and others are poisonous. The only difference between being called poisonous or venomous is in the way these animals deliver the harmful substance.

Venom: When animals like snakes use their sharp fangs to bite into the flesh and let the toxic substance move into the body of their prey,  through the punctured skin, they are called venomous animals. To deliver venom an animal has to use tools like fangs or stingers.

Poison: Poison is something that can get inhaled, ingested or seeped into the skin directly. For example, if you accidentally touch a brightly colored poison dart frog, you will transfer the toxins it secretes from its skin, to your own skin. And then the poison will seep into your blood stream.

The same substance can be Venom + Poison: Some substances can be both venom and poison depending on how an animal delivers it. eg: Tetrodotoxin – an extremely toxic substance – is found in both puffer fish and in a blue ringed octopus. It is poisonous in a puffer fish and venomous in a blue ringed octopus.

The same animal can be both venomous and poisonous: One example for this is the pelagic sea snake – a snake related to cobra. It has a poisonous flesh and its bite can also deliver a venom.

Non-poisonous Venom: There are some venoms which can be ingested without experiencing any ill effects because it was not designed to survive the acids present in the stomach. These types of venoms won’t get a chance to get absorbed in the blood stream. Before they try that, they might get digested. This is the reason a snake doesn’t die when it swallows its own venom. That doesn’t mean you can try drinking snake venom.

So you can happily go around telling everybody that most snakes aren’t poisonous, because most snakes use fangs to deliver venom, not poison. [Video]

 

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