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 approximation 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
This year (2015) is a once-every-100-years pi year: This post was published at 9:53 am USA Central time. To find out exactly (or approximately perhaps) why today is a particularly special Pi Day, go here.
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.