Who says that scientists and mathematicians don’t know how to have fun? As a matter of fact, they devote one day a year toward celebrating irrationality.
In the mathematical sense, that is.
Make no mistake: Despite its delicious-sounding name, Pi Day isn’t about pizza or fruit-filled pastries.
Every year on March 14, math enthusiasts all over the world celebrate Pi Day. It is dedicated to the mathematical constant π (pi). The chosen date (3/14) corresponds to the number’s first three significant digits (3.14).
π is an irrational number. In math, irrationality means that a number can’t be expressed as a common fraction, and that its decimal form goes on and on with no set repeating pattern of digits. This also means that we can only approximate π’s value, which is why we treat π as having a value of 3.14 in mathematical equations.
Oh, and if you think this is just some unauthorized display of silly randomness on the part of those kooky math nerds, think again. Pi Day is an officially designated holiday, thanks to House Resolution 224 of the first session of the 111th Congress of the United States (from way back in 2009).
A slice of the Pi
Physicist Larry Shaw from the San Francisco Exploratorium is widely credited as the first person to officially kick off an actual celebration of Pi Day. Because scientists are all about fun and puns, he and the rest of the staff marked the day by marching around and eating fruit pies. (Now, doesn’t that sound like the kind of celebration you can get behind?)
Aside from coming up with reasons to consume sumptuous baked goods (as if anyone would need a reason to, right?), math whizzes also happen to be really, really good at spotting patterns and taking note of significant numerical sequences. That’s why some members of the math community celebrated Pi Month in 2014 (since in the MM/YY format, March 2014 was 3/14). One year later, math lovers paid even greater attention to Pi Day. On that day, at 9:26:53 AM (and PM), the date and time corresponded to the first 10 digits of pi (3.141592653). (Man, these guys will celebrate anything.)
It’s Pi Day or the highway
Kidding aside, there are many ways to celebrate Pi Day. By far, the most popular one involves a variety of pie-related activities. Most people bake, buy, eat, or even throw them (though the last one’s a waste of good pie). Some institutions even hold pie-eating contests. Others focus on the numerical significance of π , scheduling important announcements and decisions on March 14.
In the Philippines, we don’t really celebrate Pi Day. Still, it’s never too late to start the tradition! Spend the day coming up with π-related puns, or join a math quiz bee to test your math skills. Alternatively, you could just spend the afternoon with your friends, bonding over a pizza pie. (Or maybe you could hug a mathematician or something.)
If there’s anything to take away from Pi Day, though, it’s this: Celebrating the beauty of mathematics is far from irrational.
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.