All around the globe science and Einstein fanatics everywhere are rejoicing. Today is known in America as Pi day. As if science needed any headline additions to go along with the Pi day celebrations, it is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. Einstein is a man who needs little introduction and is something of a household name. Born in 1879, 135 years ago to this day, he was perhaps the most influential scientist of the 20th century.
His achievements in science are un-measurable. Some of his greatest contributions include theories which describe matter as equivalent to energy, his photoelectric effect and his contributions to special and general relativity, which describe space-time in relation to each other. Mny of our scientific and conceptual definitions of the world, are related to the works of Einstein.
Perhaps he is most famed for his formula, E=MC2. This mathematical equation demonstrated that huge amounts of energy could be converted and harnessed, from the tiniest of atoms; knowledge that would later be applied to nuclear science, for better or worse. The date of Albert Einstein’s birthday happens to be March 14th, or 3/14, the first three digits of the number Pi, making today a double-whammy and a special celebration for science fans everywhere.
Pi has long fascinated mathematicians and physicist for many reasons, not least of which is that the number seems to have no end. It is instead suspected to spiral endlessly into decimal places, without ever becoming a recurring pattern.
Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle, to its diameter. It has many functions in the world of mathematics and can be applied, by those who speak the language, to geometry and trigonometry. It’s functions include calculating the area, volume and circumference of shapes, especially circles and spheres.
It seems that humans have always been on the quest for Pi. Geometric geniuses of the far-gone past seemed to hold some knowledge and application, of the number. Early documentation show increasingly accurate interpretations of the sequence, beginning with ancient civilisations as far back as 2000BC.
In the Fifth Century A.D. Tsu Chung- Chi, a Chinese mathematician established that Pi was greater than 3.1415926 and less than 3.1415927, the most accurate level of its measurement to date. This accuracy was not attained in Europe until later, starting with Da Vinci in the 16th century. By 1666 Newton had found a method of calculating Pi to 16 decimal places, using his binomial theorem.
Recent introductions of heavy computational power and technical algorithms, has led to an unfathomable length of calculation of Pi. By 2012, over 10 trillion decimal places had been assigned to the number. That’s 3.141592653589793238462643383… okay, maybe that’s enough for now.
Today Pi day many people celebrate Pi day across the country, in museums, schools, and private groups. With pie, pizza, Einstein tours and parade style walks among the activities on offer, the day is not just a metaphysical celebration. One particularly notable event takes place in San Francisco’s Exploratorium, where the day originated back in 1988, as a small gathering between museum employees.
Now the event takes place annually and involves a procession of people each assigned a digit, who walk together forming the Pi sequence. The walk finishes at a “pi shrine”, a pavement with a spiral symbol engraved in it. The Exploratorium also holds a day of fireworks, music and educational activities.
So whether in a parade, or at a museum, or simply with a piece of pie at home, take a moment to celebrate Pi day and remember it’s Albert Einstein’s birthday as well!
By Matthew Warburton