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Happy Pi Day!

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Math geeks and school children everywhere are wishing each other a Happy Pi Day today: that's right, it's March 14th, or 3/14, the first three digits of the mathematical constant π, which represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. (Math geeks everywhere are also scoffing at the Saganian/Aronofskian notion that the numbers in pi reveal some esoteric, kabbalistic secret, while those school children are all happy just to be measuring and then eating pies they brought in to class).

Today is also, appropriately enough, Albert Einstein's birthday (okay, so the connection is tenuous at best, but the Gregorian calendar doesn't really allow for easy expression of the cosmological constant or the metrics of space time). The number does, however, appear in his field equation of general relativity, and he's not the only math guy is say interesting things about pi: others who worried over the problem include Newton, Euler, Leibniz, and even super-badass-mathematician Ramanujan.

Pi is often called an "irrational" and a "transcendental" number, which are terribly silly words used to describe simple concepts. (Mathematicians also have a tendency to call mathematical concepts "beautiful," which also tickles me). Numbers are irrational if they cannot be stuck in a fraction (er, expressed as a fraction) and therefore can be calculated to infinity. Transcendental basically means...uh...means that I have to refer you to the Wikipedia page for "transcendental numbers" and hope you understand it better than I do. Ever heard of imaginary numbers? They're buckets of fun too, but that'll have to wait for some other time.

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Anyway, people like to celebrate Pi Day by reciting as many digits as they can in front of live studio audiences, like this guy on the David Letterman show. The record for most digits ever calculated (by a computer, not a human) is currently 1,241,100,000,000 decimals, a feat that required a Japanese supercomputer holding 1 terabyte of main memory.

Then again, you might just agree with this Toothpaste For Dinner cartoon about people who enjoy calculating pi: they're all just a bunch of dicks.