Happy Pi Day!

As a graduate student in the sciences, especially one so heavily involved with mathematics as physics is, it’s quite natural to set aside today, 3/14, as a memorial to the number that math nerds seem to love so much. In celebration, I’ve already sampled three different kinds of pie: blueberry, peach, and egg/cheese (technically that last one was a quiche, but it was circular and had a crust, so that makes it a pie in my book). And that might not be the end of it.

As an aside, let me share something I heard once. If you take the length of the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza and divide it by its height, you get a number that is very nearly equal to 2pi, to a greater precision than the ancient Egyptians could have possibly known. At first this is a little baffling – how is it possible for them to have managed such a mathematical and architectural feat without advanced technology (perhaps given to them by some visiting extraterrestials?)

It turns out to be due to the peculiar way that the ancient Egyptians measured heights and distances: by using a wheel. Distances along the ground (such as the width of a pyramid) were measured by rolling the wheel along the ground. Heights were measured by standing the wheel on its side. Since pi is equal to the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter, anything constructed using this method will automatically have the number pi in its proportions.

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