Happy Pi Day! (Teach the controversy…)

pi tau eHappy Pi Day! Indeed, today is 3/14 — a day we set aside across the globe to remember that beautiful number π = 3.14159265…, the ratio of every circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Yet, it isn’t a day without its controversies. [Imagine music turning ominous…]

As I have mentioned before, there is a very good argument out there that pi (π) should not be the famous “circle constant” and that, rather, the ratio that should garner praise and attention is the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its radius, not its diameter. Since the radius is half the length of the diameter, the ratio would be twice as large (2π = 6.283185307…) and has been quasi-officially dubbed tau (τ).

I find the argument hard to resist. Read about it yourself on the tauday.com or in the Tau Manifesto. Personally, one of the most winning arguments is the effect on circle-related equations. For instance, the formula for the area of a circle changes from…

A = π ²


A = ½ τ r ²

Now this may not seem like much of an improvement (not to mention it would ruin a lot of “pie are round not square” jokes). But, when you consider how well it matches the form of many other standard equations in nature (e.g., Kinetic Energy: E = ½ v ²; Rotational Kinetic Energy: E = ½ I ω ²; Position of a body falling from rest: x(t) = ½ t ²; Work done stretching a spring: W = ½ x ²; et al.). [My apologies if the spacing in any of these equations looks odd on your computer (line breaks in the middle, etc.). Not adding spaces crammed everything together too much and I didn’t want to take the time to jump into Latex for the formatting.]

I don’t necessarily like what changing from π to τ does to the universe’s most beautiful equation (explained here), but I admit that I am warming up to it as time goes on. (Sometimes, you just have to let go, you know?)

And, I find it irritating that the number e doesn’t get near the publicity that π does, as I am a much bigger fan of e than π. At the same time, begrudging one number’s success and attention just because another is more neglected than it should be seems a violation of 1 Cor. 12:26. 🙂

So, if Pi Day has you in the mood to peruse some blog posts of the mathematical variety, feel free and explore those below. And enjoy the rest of the day!

Here are some links on some math-related questions:

“Any thoughts on fractals, the Bible, and the mind of God and stuff?” Well, I’m glad you asked! Here’s a host of links, some with more material than others. (I’m too lazy to look and see which ones are worth reading and which ones are worth ignoring. 🙂 ):

“Any videos on the pi/tau controversy I could watch?” Indeed! I present the always delightful Vi Hart not the topic…

Actually, a YouTube search would net you several such videos. But, as always, caveat navita stans.

Regardless of how you celebrate it (or don’t), have a great Pi Day!


11 thoughts on “Happy Pi Day! (Teach the controversy…)

  1. Reblogged this on The Chronicles of Johanan Rakkav and commented:
    Sorry, Mr. Smith… for me and for many the most beautiful equation in the universe is (1 +/- the square root of 5)/2, which is how one derives the most wonderful number (again, for me and for many) in all the universe, phi and its inverse. 😀 Maybe I should celebrate June 18 as Inverse of Phi Day… 😉 Tau instead of pi? I couldn’t care less. The natural logarithm e? Well, maybe I *could care less. 😛

  2. John Wheeler: OK… For one, (1±√5)/2 is not an equation, so it can’t be anyone’s “favorite equation.” And adding “φ =” to the front of it (and, of necessity then, specifying “+” instead of “±”) wouldn’t help, because that, in essence, would be more of a definition, and not really what we mean by an “equation” in the sense we’re using it. Perhaps, you mean that (1±√5)/2 is your favorite constant. And then, I suppose, you’d have to mean your two favorite constants, since you used the “±” (to make two numbers, as you mentioned, phi and its inverse).

    All of that nitpicking done (and enjoyed!), I can sympathize your interest and fascination, and I believe that June 18 should be set aside if you like. I’m sure you wouldn’t be alone. However, since φ is generally understood to be 1.618…, you’d have to call January 6 “Phi Day” and June 18 “Inverse Phi Day.” Two days for the price of one is a pretty good deal, I would think. 🙂 No hard feelings there, to each his own, etc., etc.

    Texasborn: Not necessarily fractals, at least not one that quickly comes to mind, but this one about broccoli and other plants and the Fibonacci sequence (and, thus, the golden mean, which Mr. Wheeler will appreciate) might interest you (again, courtesy of Vi Hart). She might mention the self-similar nature of it all, which is at the heart of fractals, and the golden ratio, to boot.

  3. Texasborn

    Now if today was National Pecan Pie Day (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream optional), then it would be a REALLY happy Pi(e) Day for me, natural born Texan that I am! (For the uninitiated, the Texas state tree is the pecan–“pee-can” to the outsiders and “puh-cahn” to us Texicans!)

  4. Dave Machanick

    So when is Pi day in God’s calendar? (And will they be keeping it in your part of the Kingdom?

  5. Ha! It’s funny that you mention that, Mr. Machanick — earlier today when I was making this post, I thought to myself that it would be fun to celebrate Pi Day on the 14th day of the 3rd Hebrew month. Well, maybe not fun for everyone, but I thought it would be fun. 🙂

  6. Steven

    Mr. Smith, I wanted to make an off topic comment on your recent TW program entitled “Christianity vs. Christ”. In one word, this program was “Brilliant!” Moreover, you even exceeded the quality of your best presentation to date: “Diagnosis Christianity”. You hit the bulls-eye once again. Congratulations and keep up the great work!

  7. Mr. Smith:

    Here are a couple of items or maybe two couples.

    I came up with a couple of Latin phrases (which I claim, to protect someone else from being blamed) for you about surfing the web.

    Yours was Caveat navita stans. That was pretty good, but you mentioned that if someone else came up with something, to post it.

    Here are a couple of others. I hope you like them even if they are not useful.

    Caveat exquisitor in aetheram (in navicula parva de fluctibus).

    Beware, searcher of the ether (in a small waves boat).

    Caveat exquisitor in aetheram (in tabula de fluctibus).

    Beware searcher of the ether (on a waves board).

    * * * * * * *

    Another item, or a couple of them, is/are as follows, relating to your favorite numbers, #1 & #2–in reverse order below, of course.

    1 Tim. 5:4: But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.

    “Piety” is Strong’s Greek word 2151 eusebeo (from 2152, Godliness, holiness).

    It means (toward God) “to worship” or (towards parents) “to respect (or support)”. A definition in Webster’s dictionary for the English word is very much the same, from the Latin meaning “dutiful conduct, scrupulousness.”
    So the word “piety” has a double facet to it.

    Let’s analyze it mathematically:

    piety = pi et ē By the redistributive law.

    pi et ē = π and e (“et” means “and” in Latin and is also commonly used in English phrases.) This is by the law of translation.

    or π + e

    Therefore, piety = π + e By substitution

    P = π + e

    The conclusion is that “piety” is related to spiritual well-roundedness and to exponential spiritual growth. It is doubly transcendental.

    [A picture of baby boy here wearing sun glasses; It did not paste.]

    You got it, didn’t you buddy?

    Yes you did!! You’re a good little boy!!

    See, a baby can understand this with shades on.

    Larry Bruce

  8. Howdy, Mr. Bruce. On your phrases, very nice! None of them have the economy of the caveat emptor I was seeking to emulate, but they are imaginative! Also, your “piety” take is very creative — a tip of the hat to you!

  9. Mr Smith:

    I took 2 years’ Latin in high school long, long ago, so I am kinda rusty at it. There is another phrase that could be used:

    Caveat viator.

    Let the traveler beware.

    You could even combine the two:

    Caveat navita stans, caveat viator.

    Let the standing sailor beware, the traveler beware!

    I think that “caveat navita stans” ought to be declared an idiom, and everyone could start using it. The word “nauta” also means “sailor.” The Latin pronunciation is not as pretty, though. “Navita” is “naweeta” and “nauta” is “nowta.”

    The Russian language has some Latin. An example is “vodka,” correctly pronounced “wadka.” And you guessed it: it means “water.” How it transmuted from “agua,” I don’t know. “Ivan” should be pronounced “eewhawn,” which means the same as Juan, or John. The j’s were not existent in Latin; the letter i was pronounced like a “y,” a short “i” or an “e” : Yooleeus Kyser for Julius Caesar. Caesar was pronounced like Kaiser.

    The only kind of j used was when the I was elongated to avoid confusion. Julius Caesar was really Iulius. Notice that the l and L looked alike. So it was written as Julius, with the j sticking down below the line like our lower case j, but the “j” was an “i.”

    Veni, vidi,vici should be pronounced “waynee widee wickee.”

    Such are the vagaries of Latin. It is a most complicated language with its conjugations, declensions, and other grammatical forms.

    Sorry for rattling on. All done.

    Larry Bruce

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