by Paul Arnote (parnote)
Geek. Nerd. Dweeb. Dork. Use whatever name you wish, but March 14 is
a day of celebration for many intellectuals.
First, that day -- 3.14 -- is the first three significant digits of
the mathematical expression more commonly known as π, or pi. The
first large scale, organize Pi Day was in 1988, by physicist Larry
Shaw when he worked at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Staff and
public visitors marched around one of the Exploratorium's circular
spaces, consuming fruit pies. In 2009, a non-binding resolution was
passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, recognizing March 14
as "National Pi Day."
Over the years, the celebration of Pi Day has taken on various
celebratory themes. Those include pie throwing, pie eating,
discussing the significance of pi, and holding contests to see who
can recall pi to the most number of decimal places. Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) has been known to mail application
decision letters to prospective students so that the recipient
receives them on March 14.
Here's how Wikipedia
sums up pi:
The number π is a mathematical constant that is the ratio
of a circle's circumference to its diameter and is approximately
equal to 3.141592654. It has been represented by the Greek letter
"π" since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes
spelled out as "pi" (/paI/).
Being an irrational number, π cannot be expressed exactly as a
common fraction. Consequently, its decimal representation never
ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern. The
digits appear to be randomly distributed, although no proof of this
has yet been discovered. Also, π is a transcendental number -- a
number that is not the root of any nonzero polynomial having
rational coefficients. The transcendence of π implies that it is
impossible to solve the ancient challenge of squaring the circle
with a compass and straight-edge.
Fractions such as 22/7 and other rational numbers are commonly used
to approximate π.
For thousands of years, mathematicians have attempted to extend
their understanding of π, sometimes by computing its value to a
high degree of accuracy. Before the 15th century, mathematicians
such as Archimedes and Liu Hui used geometrical techniques, based
on polygons, to estimate the value of π. Starting around the
15th century, new algorithms based on infinite series revolutionized
the computation of π. In the 20th and 21st centuries,
mathematicians and computer scientists discovered new approaches
that -- when combined with increasing computational power --
extended the decimal representation of π to, as of late 2011,
10 trillion (1013) digits. Scientific applications generally
require no more than 40 digits of π, so the primary motivation
for these computations is the human desire to break records, but
the extensive calculations involved have been used to test
supercomputers and high-precision multiplication algorithms.
Because its definition relates to the circle, π is found in many
formulae in trigonometry and geometry, especially those concerning
circles, ellipses, or spheres. It is also found in formulae from
other branches of science, such as cosmology, number theory,
statistics, fractals, thermodynamics, mechanics, and
electromagnetism. The ubiquitous nature of πmakes it one of the
most widely known mathematical constants, both inside and outside
the scientific community: Several books devoted to it have been
published, the number is celebrated on Pi Day, and record-setting
calculations of the digits of π often result in news headlines.
Attempts to memorize the value of π with increasing precision
have led to records of over 67,000 digits.
π is commonly defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference C
to its diameter d.
The ratio C/d is constant, regardless of the circle's size. For
example, if a circle has twice the diameter of another circle it
will also have twice the circumference, preserving the ratio C/d.
This definition of π implicitly makes use of flat (Euclidean)
geometry; although the notion of a circle can be extended to any
curved (non-Euclidean) geometry, these new circles will no longer
satisfy the formula π = C/d. There are also other definitions of
π that do not mention circles at all. For example, π is twice
the smallest positive x for which cos(x) equals 0.
Albert Einstein's Birthday
Is it any wonder that March 14 is the birthday of the greatest
physicist ever known to mankind, Albert Einstein (1879 -- 1955)? In
fact, some have tried to make some great cosmic connection out of
Einstein's birthday being on the same day as the first three
significant digits of pi.
Einstein is best known for his theory of relativity. His works are
still a guiding force in modern day physics. Born in Ulm, Germany,
he emigrated to the United States in 1933 to escape the persecution
of those born with Jewish heritage by the Nazis. By 1935, he
decided to stay permanently, and became a U.S. citizen in 1940.
Undisputedly, he is very well known. He is one of the best known
scientists to have ever lived, if not the best known ... period.
Many books have been written about him. "Einstein" has even become
a synonym for genius. Below are some -- a baker's dozen, to be
precise -- interesting facts you might not have known about him,
Albert Einstein played the violin. Albert became passionate
about the violin after hearing Mozart. In fact, his favorite piece
was Mozart's Sonata in E Minor. Albert would play the violin
whenever he got "stuck" in his thinking process. He was also known
to play privately for friends, and would join in with his violin
when Christmas carolers came to his door. He even named his violin
Albert Einstein hated socks. In fact, he rarely (if ever) wore
them. He didn't like them, because they were always getting holes
in them. He also figured why wear socks and shoes, when only one
Albert Einstein loved sailing. Back when he lived in Germany,
Albert owned a boat. But on a trip back from the U.S., he found out
that his cottage and boat in Germany had been confiscated by the
Nazis. Once back in the U.S., Albert pursued his love of sailing.
He would often take a sailboat out on days with very little wind,
relishing the challenge of capturing even the smallest amounts of
power that was available.
Albert Einstein had an illegitimate daughter. Although not much
is known about her, letters from Albert refer to her as Lieserl, a
shortened name for Elisabeth. She was born in 1902, and either was
either put up for adoption, or died of scarlet fever during
infancy. Her real name and fate are unknown, and it is suspected
that Albert never saw his daughter.
Albert Einstein was married -- twice. With his first wife,
Mileva Marić, Albert not only had his illegitimate daughter,
but he also had two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard. Married in January
1903, they divorced in February 1919, after having lived five years
apart. His second wife, Elsa Lowenthal, was also his first cousin on
his mother's side and his second cousin on his father's side. They
were married in 1919, and Elsa emigrated to the U.S. with Albert in
1933. However, she died in 1936 after experiencing heart and kidney
Albert Einstein has five surviving great-grandchildren. Eduard,
nicknamed TeTe by Albert, never had children, suffered from
schizophrenia and spent parts of his life in an asylum. Hans
Albert, however, had a son named Bernhard Caesar Einstein. Bernhard
had five children, who are all surviving. They live in California,
France and Sweden. Despite the fame associated with the family
name, the Einstein family is in shambles.
Albert Einstein didn't talk until he was four years old. Afraid
that their son was "retarded," Albert's parents' fears were put to
rest when he broke his silence at the dinner table one evening. He
uttered the words, "the soup is too hot," according to all
accounts. When his parents asked why he hadn't said anything until
now, Albert is reported to have replied, "because up until now,
everything was in order."
Albert Einstein was not a straight "A" student. Despite his
very high intellect, Albert was not a straight "A" student. In fact,
he failed his first college entrance exam and had to go to a trade
school for a year before reapplying for admission to the
university. At the trade school, Albert got pretty good grades
(above), and attended Zurich Polytechnic the following year with a
major in mathematics and physics.
Albert Einstein was a pacifist. But he wasn't blind about it.
In 1939, a group of Hungarian scientists attempted to warn
Washington, D.C. politicians and policy makers about Germany's
attempts to build an atomic bomb. Their warnings were dismissed and
not taken seriously. One of the group's members urged Albert to lend
his name and credibility to the cause, and Albert signed a letter
to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It warned him of the German
atomic research, including the possibility of developing an atomic
bomb, and urged Roosevelt to do likewise. As a result, the U.S. was
the only country during World War II to develop an atomic bomb
before the end of the war. We now know that Hitler and the Nazis
weren't far behind, either. In 1954, a year before his death,
Einstein said to his old friend, Linus Pauling, "I made one great
mistake in my life -- when I signed the letter to President
Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some
justification -- the danger that the Germans would make them ..."
Albert Einstein may have hastened his own demise. Albert died
on April 18, 1955. He had a second abdominal aortic aneurysm (he
had one previously treated, surgically). The doctors suggested
surgery, but Albert refused and replied, "I want to go when I want.
It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share,
it is time to go. I will do it elegantly."
Albert Einstein was a member of the NAACP. Even before Albert
emigrated to the U.S. in 1933, he corresponded with W. E. B. Du
Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP (National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People). He campaigned for the civil
rights of African Americans. In 1946, Albert called racism
America's "worst disease." He later added, "Race prejudice has
unfortunately become an American tradition which is uncritically
handed down from one generation to the next. The only remedies are
enlightenment and education."
Albert Einstein had a bad memory. Albert could not remember
dates and phone numbers. In fact, he didn't even know his own phone
It all started with a compass. Albert's fascination with
science is rooted in a simple compass. When Albert was five years
old and laying sick in bed, his father showed him a simple compass.
He wondered about what force exerted itself on that tiny needle to
make it always point in the same direction. That question would
haunt Albert for many years, providing the catalyst for his
scientific curiosity that would blossom and last a lifetime.
Well ... it's probably way more than you wanted to know about
π Day or Albert Einstein, but now you can see why
March 14 is such a glorious day for geeks everywhere.