Since we are PI (Potomac Indexing), we’ve always held the mathematical constant, π, close to our hearts and use it in our logo. So, today being π day, we are duly celebrating the usefulness of this great and ultimately impossible-to-pin-down number (more on π’s wonderfully irrational and transcendental qualities at Wikipedia, here).
As indexers and taxonomists, we work with natural language every day (the kind used to write this blog and discuss with friends and colleagues). We also live with the “imperfect subtlety” that is natural language and which creates the many judgment calls we make about what subjects are being discussed in a book or what keywords people would really look up in a search function. We know that there is no way to always provide an exact correlation between a term and the concept it belongs to, or even to know if this mention of a name provides a complete reference of that person’s role in a book. And often there are multiple options to come up with the “best” term for something. Natural languages just provide so many nuances and options as a semantic target that getting a bullseye still requires the also-nuanced intelligence of the human mind.
And so with pi: it helps us to measure a circle, but we can never make it completely accurate. There will always be a bit of a “guesstimate” involved. But pi’s usefulness continues to allow us to better understand the geometry of our universe, even without absolute accuracy. 🙂
Celebrating Pi Day
From today’s UK Mirror:
If you hold a mirror to a circle, it looks like a circle. If you hold a mirror up to 3.14, it spells PIE!
The symbol (Greek letter “π”) was first used in 1706 by William Jones. A “p” was chosen for “perimeter” of circles, and the use of π became popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.
If you type “pi” into Google the calculator will appear with 3.14159265359 already entered.
Want to see pi calculated to one million digits? Click here.
Only 39 digits past the decimal are needed to accurately calculate the spherical volume of our entire universe.
Two trivia games for you: For the ambitious, this longer pi trivia game (25 questions), and for those with a bit less time to spare, this shorter pi trivia game (13 questions). Test your knowledge of π!
To see how space scientists use pi in their work, check out this Pi Day report from NASA.