Retired Exploratorium experimental scientist Larry Shaw is credited with starting the museum’s annual Pi Day celebration. On March 14, the 22nd annual Pi Day will feature science, music and — of course — pies.
What is Pi Day? Pi Day has become many things. Before it became Pi Day, it started out as a discussion between myself and a mathematician friend of mine about the mysterious relationship that pi has between one dimension and the next.
What’s that relationship? Multiplying by pi is how you get from a linear radius to a circumference, and from there to a sphere. And what’s funny about this is it isn’t an exact number; it’s a transcendental number. I think we’ve calculated it to 3 trillion digits and have yet to find it repeating itself.
So what happened during this discussion with your mathematician friend? We wanted to build a pi shrine that was solar-powered, and it would have a computer that woke up every morning with the sunrise [to] start calculating pi. And then it would go to bed at night when the sun set, and wake up the next morning and do it again.
Are other people as into pi as you are? People find it very mysterious and interesting. There was a man who memorized the first 20,000 digits of pi and said them all in 24 hours for a world record.