a burgundy zine

Get a Slice of This: Pi Day

By: burgundy bug

June 28th, 2017

I believe math is proof humans are very bored & naturally obsessed with trying ot invent a purpose for their potentially “pointless” life. 
I love math. I also love journalism. I think I should minor in it.

Source: Journal Tour // June – September 2017 | Penelope Peru Photography P3

Ah, pi (Π, π). The delicious 16th-letter of the Greek alphabet and the infamous, endless, irrational mathematical constant – also known as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, 3.14159.

Mar 14th is the annual observance of the 4000-year old constant, as the date “3/14” are the first three digits of pi, “3.14”. That leaves us with just one question that, unlike the question “how many digits are in pi?” actually has an answer: how does one celebrate Pi Day?

A Bit of Context…

The existence of pi has been known for about 4000 years, according to Exploratorium.

Originally, ancient Babylonians had calculated the area of a circle by taking the square of its radius and multiplying it by three. Therefore, pi was equal to three. One tablet from ancient Babylon (ca. 1900-1680 B.C.) had equated the value of pi to 3.125.

On the other hand, the ancient Egyptians had devised a formula that equated the value of pi to 3.1605.

Finally, Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212 B.C.) shed a little light on the subject.

Archimedes was the first to calculate pi, which he did via clever use of the Pythagorean Theorem. However, he equated the value to a variable within the range of 3.1408 and 3.1428.

In the 15th century, Indian mathematician Madhava of Sangamagrama discovered an infinite series that converges to four, allowing him to calculate pi to 11 decimal places, according to PC World.

This series was rediscovered in the 17th century by German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz. It is now referred to as the Madhava-Leibniz series.

In 1706, Welsh mathematician William Jones began denoting the calculation as pi or “π,” which was popularized by Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.

In 1945, D.F. Ferguson calculated pi to 620 digits, which was the most accurate calculation prior to the invention of computers.

After the technological revolution, Shigeru Kondo used Alexander Yee’s y-cruncher program to calculate pi to 10 trillion digits on Oct 19, 2011. This remains the longest calculation to date.

Mar 14, 2015 was hailed as “super pi day” (ViHart) as it is a once-in-a-century occurrence for the date to read “3/14/15” – which are the first five digits of pi, “3.1415”

Super Pi Day explained by ViHart

Source: Anti-Pi Rant, 3/14/15 | ViHart

Some math lovers were particularly excited about 9:26:53 on Mar 14, 2015, as “3/14/15 9:26:53” are the first 10-digits of pi, “3.14159265,” PBS Reported.

Needless to say, mathematicians all around the globe have taken a slice of pi throughout history. They say too many chefs spoil the pot, but I guess the same isn’t true for pi.

How Do You Celebrate Pi Day?

Thanks to capitalism, Pi Day has become more of a commercial holiday for geeks and consumers alike to enjoy.

Many restaurants, pizza joints, and bakeries celebrate Pi Day by running specials on their pizzas and pies.

7-Eleven, Cici’s Pizza, and Pieology are a few places running $3.14 specials on their pizzas, according to Thrillist.

Additionally, Whole Foods, Cantina Laredo, and California Pizza Kitchen are running pi-themed specials on pies at their establishments.

Once you’ve copped yourself a slice of pizza or pie (or better yet, why not both?), it’s time to kick back with a little ViHart marathon.

Pi Day? More like “Vi Day”

Every year, the YouTuber and “mathemusician” ViHart releases an “Anti-Pi” rant.

Pi is (still) Wrong

Source: Pi Is (still) Wrong | ViHart

As ViHart bakes and slices into a pie, she demonstrates why she believes pi is wrong in the first Anti-Pi Rant video.

“You might think this [pie] should be one pi, but it’s not,” ViHart says. “The full 360-degrees of pie is actually 2Pi.”

As ViHart explains, 2pi/8 would be 1/16 of a slice, not 1/8. You could compensate for this through a little multiplication or division, but ViHart holds that is just an excuse; a mere bandaid over a bullet wound.

“When you complicate something that should be as simple as 1pi = one pie by adding all of these conversions, something gets lost in translation,” ViHart says.

ViHart then goes on to demonstrate that you could cut out the calculations by redefining pi as 2pi, 6.2831, but that would create even more confusion.

Instead, the mathemusician turns to the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet, tau (Τ, τ), which is also the mathematical constant for 2pi.

Then, ViHart demonstrates how substituting tau for pi not only smooths out the conversion between constants and slices of pie, but also makes graphing and other mathematical equations more digestible.

ViHart’s Anti-Pi series has been going on eight years strong. True to form, she has released another installment in celebration of Pi Day 2019.

Pi Day 2019

Source: Pi Day 2019: 6 Digits of Pi!!! 🍰 | ViHart

In this year’s installment, ViHart teaches us how to count 1,000 digits of pi by only counting the nines.

“We can all empathize with skipping a digit of pi here or there,” ViHart says. “We’ve all done it, right?”

Bug’s Two Cents

Although I’m not too found of pizza or pie, and I don’t resent pi to the same extent that ViHart does, the inner egghead I’ve suppressed in lieu of my love for writing still glimmers with glee every Mar 14th.

In 7th grade, I taught myself how to memorize 21-digits of pi (which is basically the same as remembering two and 1/3 phone numbers). The trick is all in grouping – or “chunking” as psychologists call it.

Chunking is essentially taking smaller bits of information and compiling it into one large bit. That way, you only have to remember one large bit, or a series of large bits and chunks.

The principle behind chunking is it’s easier to remember multiple series than many individual units in a series. Of course, it also helps if there is a pattern or mnemonic device associated with the chunk.

In my mind, the first 21-digits of pi aren’t “3-1-4-1-5-9-2-6-5-3-5-8-9-7-9-3-2-3-8-4-6.” Instead, I’ve memorized the first 21-digits as: “3-14-15-9265-3589-79-323-846”

While it’s never proved useful or handy in anyway, it certainly made for a neat party trick throughout my adolescence.

Happy Pi Day 2018

Source: Happy Pi Day 2018 | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Interested in having content featured in an upcoming blog post or issue of The Burgundy Zine? Head on over to the submissions page!

For all other inquiries, please fulfill a contact form.

burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

View more posts from this author