Editor's note: Michael Hartl is the founder of Tau Day and author of The Tau Manifesto. He is also the author of the Ruby on Rails Tutorial, the leading introduction to web development with Ruby on Rails. Previously, he taught theoretical and computational physics at the California Institute of Technology, where he received the Caltech Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Earlier this year, the admissions office of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology related an odd tale of a conflict over, of all things, a number.
They described "two warring peoples: the people of Pi, and the people of Tau," and proposed a compromise between the supporters of pi (the number 3.14…) and tau (the number 6.28…). As in previous years, MIT would announce its admissions decisions on 3/14, or "Pi Day," but this year they would also acknowledge adherents of tau by sending out their decisions at 6:28, or "Tau Time."
It was a noble attempt to broker a peace - and yet, the two tribes fight on. The truth is it's mostly my fault. Here's how it all happened.