Happy Pi Day, math lovers!

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

March 14 is a day for math lovers everywhere–Pi Day!

A quick refresher: Pi (or π if you want to get technical) is defined as the distance around a perfect circle, or the circumference, divided by the distance across it, or the diameter. It is also involved in calculating the area of a circle, the volume of a sphere, and many other mathematical formulas you might need in the sciences.

Throughout history, people have been captivated by this number because there is no way to calculate it exactly by a simple division on your calculator. What’s more, its digits go on infinitely, without any pattern in the numbers. 3.1415926535897932 … etc.

It’s also an awesome excuse to eat pie! Check out a few recipes here.

You could celebrate Pi Day in a casual way by grabbing a slice of pastry, or pizza. If you’re in enrolled in school, your math class or math department might be doing something special already.

According to Allison+Partners, these are the top pies around the world:

Where Pi Day began

If you want to go where the day is said to be “invented,” look no further than San Francisco’s Exploratorium. Larry Shaw, who worked in the electronics group at the museum, began the tradition in 1988. Last year was Pi Day’s 25th anniversary there.

Pi Day began as a small gathering with mostly museum staff. Now it’s a public pi extravaganza featuring a “Pi procession,” whose attendees get a number — 0 to 9 — and line up in the order of pi’s digits: 3.14159265 … you get the idea.

The parade ends at the “pi shrine” — a pi symbol with digits spiraling around it embedded in the sidewalk, which was unveiled last year.

For those who can’t attend in person, the Exploratorium has a Second Life Pi Day event that includes “irrational exhibits, fireworks, cheerleaders, music, and dancing.” The museum also lists a bunch of educational activities to teach about the concept of pi.

 

How did Pi Day become such a big thing?

David Blatner, author of the comprehensive book “The Joy of Pi”, says that Pi Day has become a hit for the same reason the new “Cosmos” TV show is getting so much attention.

“People all around the world are hungry to make science and math fun and interesting,” he said in an e-mail. “We know math and science is important, we know that it’s fascinating, but we often don’t know how to make it fun and interesting. Pi Day gives us a great excuse to throw away our fear of math and say ‘Hey, it IS kind of neat!’ “