Today is Pi Day. In case you’re not familiar with this newly minted holiday, it’s based on today’s date in numerical form: 3/14. Now the number Pi, which is the good old ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, begins with the digits 3.14 and then continues. Here’s a link to a billion digits of pi if you want them.
I could proudly say that I got into Pi Day on the ground floor, so to speak. Way back in March of the year 2000, I was a senior in high school, and a very geeky senior in a very geeky high school at that. My friends and I were just beginning to explore the recesses of the internet, using Netscape and AltaVista and other things that today’s youngsters have probably never heard of. One of us stumbled across a website devoted to the number Pi, featuring sonnets and other poems to Pi, the Hunt for Intelligent Life in Pi, and advocacy for the holiday of Pi Day.
Ah, we were young and innocent in those days. We thought that the idea of spending a day celebrating a transcendental number was simply the greatest thing, a perfect way to show off our geekiness and eccentricity and the dedication to math and inside jokes that defined our identity as separate from the hoi polloi. Little did we guess that in a few years, Pi Day would go mainstream. That every school in the country would soon be hosting a celebrating of this day, complete with demonstrations involving hula hoops and consumption of many flavors of pie.
Yes indeed, our private little geeky activity has no been swallowed up by America’s mainstream culture. It no longer outlines the brainy set as distinct from everyone else. If today’s high school math nerds want a holiday to show off their differences, they’re going to have to pick a different non-repeating decimal. I would suggest February 24. (It’s square root of 5 day, needless to say.)