By John Tierney
If this is 3/14, it must be Pi Day. In fact, it’s the 20th anniversary of the first Pi Day, a feast that began at the San Francisco Exploratorium and has been rightfully spreading in a great circle around the world. Here are some ways to celebrate it and win a prize from the Lab:
1) Enjoy a piece of pie precisely at the Pi Second, 1:59:26 p.m. (3/14/1:59:26).
2) Calculate the value of pi by tossing needles on a sheet of lined paper — or, much simpler and quicker, watching your computer toss the needles and do the computation for you. Here’s a cool applet tha calculates pi before your very eyes by using Buffon’s Needle, an 18th-century math problem named after the Comte de Buffon.
You can also do this calculation using frozen hot dogs instead of needles, but it’s more of a production.
3) Compose a pi-ku or other poem about pi — and win a pie of your choice if you submit the best one here at the Lab. The Exploratorium has gathered a few genres on its Pi Day site, including the limerick:
If inside a circle a line
Hits the center and goes spine to spine
And the line’s length is d
The circumference will be
d times 3.14159
You can submit a traditional haiku about pi like this one:
Unending digits . . .
Why not keep it simple, like
Or, for the ambitious, you can try a pi-ku that’s both a haiku and a mnemonic device in which the number of characters in each word equals the value of the corresponding digit of pi. Here’s an example that enables you to derive 11 digits of pi (3.1415926535) by counting the number of characters in each of the 11 words:
Let C over D
(Wheel perimeter on height)
Equal its value.
Then, for the real purist, there’s a new form of pi-ku proposed by Ian Chillag of NPR: Instead of the 5-7-5 syllable pattern of haiku, honor pi with lines of 3, 1 and 4 syllables. Like:
Why is pi
As pie is round?
I welcome submissions in any genre, including sonnets and epic poems. And the winner can choose not only the kind of pie but the delivery date, which means you can arrange to get your prize on Pi Day 2009.