The Weirdness of Pi

Image Credit: Flickr, sixtysymbols

Many have heard about it and to most it was a passing mathematical oddity that was taught early in our education.  More recently it became a subject of a motion picture movie release, “The Life of Pi” where both the mathematical underpinning for the concept and its philosophical perspective is explored. But if one looks more deeply into the essence of Pi and how it was discovered and perhaps what it may really represent, then we have indeed stepped into something that is weird and even somewhat bizarre. You see, there is a life beyond the symbol for Pi and what we make of it is altogether an individual journey.

Most of us know that Pi is one of those infinitely, never repeating string of digits starting with 3.14 but you can expand it out many more digits such as 3.14159265359.   But the truth and remember this not conjecture or speculation, but an underlying mathematical truth…this ratio continues on to infinity.  So what does this ratio comprise of and where did it get its start and possibly what does it mean?  What we know is that Pi is an irrational number.  Well, for those who are not mathematically inclined, what does that suggest?  Simply, it means that the computation of this golden ratio will continue to infinity and beyond (whatever that might mean!) without ever repeating itself.  The symbol for Pi comes from a Greek letter.  You see, back in the day the Greeks were synonymous for mathematical purity and other enlightened things.  Now what makes this ratio so golden and unusual?

Image Credit: Flickr, erraticism

For starters there is nothing like it.  You take any two things and calculate the ratio, it always, sometimes after a rather long calculation, leads you to a finite number.  It may very well be a very long string of numbers, but it will be a finite number.  Pi is not that way at all and the elements that one is asked to derive a ratio from is somewhat spook or at the least suggestive of larger things. This phenomenon whereas the the string of numbers never reaches a climax is not a function of using a limited calculator which cannot achieve the last decimal point for Pi.  No, not all.  The world’s super computers have put the Pi to the test and there is no end to the string of digits that fall out of the ratio.   OK, I realize this is getting a bit abstract, but I assure you nothing is more concrete, at least when we are dealing with infinities as this thing we call Pi.  It is a mathematical constant. It is transcendental.  It is infinite and quite spooky and weird.  And it is derived always from dividing the the circumference of a circle by its diameter.  The result is Pi, but you never arrive at the final answer.  So we are dealing with the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

In the Beginning There Was Pi

To help you get a grip on what we are dealing with, let us explore the beginnings. The earliest known person, a mathematician by the name of William Jones discovered this ratio back in 1706.  It took about thirty years before the mathematical community began making more frequent use of this ratio seeking to solve the riddle of its infinite reach.  No one has been successful.  The infinitely long string of digits continue uninterrupted without pattern.  Chaos reigns supreme in Pi.  But perhaps it really does not, but more on that later.  For thousands of years, mathematicians, philosophers, religious experts have tried to understand the significance of Pi.  After all, there is no other ratio of the kind that exists in math.  And the tantalizing truth is that it begins with a circle which in itself is considered a symbol of infinity by many.  Just about one year ago, scientists worked on cracking the code of Pi and took the string of digits out to over 10 trillion without any luck.

Pi In the Sky

Some people look into the face of the symbol of Pi and they see God, the maker.  It is as if the great creator has left us a thumb print to remind us of our mortality and his infinite wisdom.  At the very least, just about everyone would acknowledge that Pi is a most peculiar ratio and it is not lost on many that the circle is in the middle of this riddle.  Compounding the mystery and oddness of it all is that Pi is used throughout cosmology to derive mathematical truths about our universe.  Because of the infinite string of digits that follow 3.14, everything contained within this number includes everything that is contained in the known universe mathematically speaking.  Let me elaborate.  If one looks long enough in the right place of this infinite stream of digits (numbers), everything will appear.  Your social security number, drivers’s license number, birth date, and etc will at some point appear consecutively within this ratio.  That is just you.  Everything else about everyone will also appear.  If the numbers are used to correlate with letters of the alphabet, irrespective of language, every book that has been written and everything that has been said will appear in Pi.  Indeed, an entire universe of things is Pi.

Many schools across the globe recognize what is known as Pi Day.  March 14 (3.14) to be infinitely exact.  Carl Sagan, quite a great and well know scientist, authored the book and screenplay for the movie “Contact”.  In this work he suggested that the Creator himself authored a message within the construct of Pi for humanity to decipher.  Interesting is it not!   Whatever comes of attempts to understand any special communications that may have been included in this string of endless digits, it would appear that if any such message should ever be revealed, the prospect is that the message will have no end.

4 Responses to The Weirdness of Pi
1. kuron
January 14, 2013 | 9:05 pm

Π is a philosophy. I think so too.
Thanks for the kindness of infinite:))

2. Woody
January 18, 2013 | 9:36 pm

Great post on PI….. we all lose track of ourselves in the finite sometimes. The finger of God is everywhere and mathematics seems to be His way of speaking to us today in a very current manner, especially through the numbers represented via PI!

Thanks to the author for this wonderful post! It has really brought me back to center this morning…… I had lost my faith due to a recent tragedy in my life. This simple post has helped me get back on the correct path.

Thank you so much!
Woody

3. Tom Nicols
January 20, 2013 | 2:58 am

A Euclidean triangle contains 180 degrees but on a spherical surface that number can change.
In our universe as we know it C/d = pi, but could that be just a happenstance of the character of our universe? Maybe in a more ‘fundamental’ universe C/d is an integer, say 3 or why not 6 etc.? A circle on a sphere could have a continuum of values for C/d depending if you draw a small local circle on an almost flat patch or make it to be a great circle so that ‘d’ becomes half the circumference. Could there then be some unknown property, analogously to how gauge transformations are noted abstractly to affect subatomic particles, that causes the ratio in this more fundamental level of reality to ‘deviate’ from C/d being 3 to C/d=pi?
Maybe, in the sense that Einstein had to give up absolute space and time for more basic fundamentals like spacetime and constant speed of light, we have to look at a relation between translation and rotation plus other possible phenomena to better understand pi? I sure would appreciate any feedback about this idea as I don’t have much idea if and how to approach it.

4. Rod
March 8, 2013 | 8:39 pm

A Pythagorean awakening for March 14, 2013:

The following geometric designs relate to an ongoing study of squared circles which suggests that Pi is actually constrained by Pythagorean geometry.

First, click on the “Free Will” design and consider the trigonometry discussion on the first page of the attached PDF file. This design conceptualizes the circle-squaring properties of two inscribed squares, perfectly placed within the circle.

“Three Points” focuses on the scalene triangle that is always present in a squared circle. Try a diameter of 2 (with zeros if preferred) to see how the square roots of 2 and of Pi are expressed by this geometry.

“The Essence” design displays “circular siblings” (two sets of squared circles) amongst the many colorful, supporting lines and objects. That the “essence of Pi” appears to float upon a pedestal is intriguing and symbolic!