iReport: Pi(e) Day around the globe
March 14th, 2013
06:00 PM ET

Eatocracy: Exploring geometry in food

By Emily Smith, CNN

While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.

Flour power! March 14 is Pi Day, or if you're us, National Pi(e) Day.

Today is the day where we can celebrate the logical left brain and the creative right brain. Pi(e) Day is just that – a time when math and science folks can indulge their sensory side.

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On Pi Day, finding strength in numbers
Daniel Tammet painted this picture of how he sees the first 20 digits of pi.
March 14th, 2013
09:03 AM ET

On Pi Day, finding strength in numbers

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

In Daniel Tammet's mind, three is a dotted green crescent moon shape, one is a sort of white sunburst and four is a blue boomerang. Every number has a distinct color and shape, making the number pi, which begins with 3.14, unfold like a beautiful poem.

For math enthusiasts around the world, March 14 (3-14) is Pi Day, honoring the number pi, which is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle. On Thursday, Tammet is promoting France's first Pi Day celebration at the Palace of Discovery science museum in Paris.

Tammet's relationship to this number is special: At age 25, he recited 22,514 digits of pi from memory in 2004, scoring the European record. For an audience at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, he said these numbers aloud for 5 hours and 9 minutes. Some people cried - not out of boredom, but from sheer emotion from his passionate delivery.

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Pi Day: 25 years in San Francisco
Young pi fans prepare for the Exploratorium's annual parade, holding handmade signs.
March 14th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Pi Day: 25 years in San Francisco

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Happy Pi Day, everyone! Pi Day honors the number pi, the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle, which is approximately 3.14. It is also Albert Einstein's birthday. And it sounds like "pie."

It's hard to know who was the first person who decided to bake a pie on March 14. These days, there are celebrations worldwide - on the Internet, in schools and among friends who like to eat sweets. But the San Francisco Exploratorium takes credit for the first Pi Day in 1988. The day was "founded" by Larry Shaw, who worked in the electronics group at that time.

The Exploratorium is going all out for its 25th anniversary of pi parties. It just so happens that the museum is moving to Pier 15 next month. Thursday, in front of its new location, the museum is unveiling a circular "pi shrine" where Pi Day will be celebrated. The shrine consists of a pi symbol with digits spiraling around it that will be embedded in the sidewalk.

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Largest prime number yet discovered
Here are the first digits of the newly identified prime number.
February 6th, 2013
01:01 PM ET

Largest prime number yet discovered

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

You know you're a geek if you felt all warm and fuzzy inside when you read that headline. If you got here by accident, here's the news: The biggest prime number yet has been discovered.

It is indeed massive, more than 17 million digits long. A text file of the entire number contains more than 22 megabytes of information.

Here's an audio interview from CNN Radio about this newly identified number:

For those who have been out of school for a while, let's review: A prime number is a positive integer that cannot be divided evenly by any number except itself and 1. The first 10 prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29.

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For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says
October 31st, 2012
06:38 PM ET

For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says

You're at a big group dinner and it's time to pay up, to divide the total and multiply a certain percentage for the tip. How many people tense up and say something like, "Oh, I'm so bad at math"?

Fear of math is everywhere - in the adult world where there aren't official pop quizzes, and in schools where the next generation of scientific problem-solvers are struggling with homework.

Researchers report in a new study in the journal PLoS One that this anxiety about mathematics triggers the same brain activity that's linked with the physical sensation of pain. FULL POST

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Pi-hundred million people live in U.S.
August 14th, 2012
05:24 PM ET

Pi-hundred million people live in U.S.

If you are a fan of the number pi, you'll love this: The U.S. Census Bureau announced that the American population reached 314,159,265 Tuesday.

That's exciting for math geeks because pi is 3.14159265... But it doesn't stop there. The digits continue in an apparently random fashion infinitely.

In a perfect circle, pi is the ratio of circumference (the distance around) to diameter (the distance across). Fans celebrate pi on March 14, Pi Day, by eating pies, reciting digits and engaging in other pi-related activities.

Pi has many uses - for instance, in constructing a building or analyzing the geometry of DNA.

The digits of pi have proved fascinating enough for some people to memorize thousands of them. Musical nerds have even written pi songs, one of which led to a copyright dispute that was settled this year on Pi Day.

Now the U.S. population can be added to the list of pi-related oddities - at least briefly. The government's current population counter was already well past pi-hundred million as of this writing.

"This is a once in many generations event...so go out and celebrate this American pi," Census Bureau Chief Demographer Howard Hogan said in a statement.

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Want more kids to take calculus? Convince mom first
July 13th, 2012
03:51 PM ET

Want more kids to take calculus? Convince mom first

Math and science educators across the country spend their summers learning how to make calculus more engaging and biology more relevant, but there's a problem: What if high schoolers never even signed up for those classes?

What if a tough ninth grade algebra class meant they hopped off the high-tech train, and couldn't find a way back on later? What if nobody answered when kids asked, "But if I'm not going to be a chemist, why do I need this?"

For all the reasons teens find to stop taking math, science and technology classes, a study published online in the journal "Psychological Science" found a relatively simple way to make them continue: Convince their parents first.

FULL STORY from Schools of Thought

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Tau Day: Why you should eat twice the pie
June 28th, 2012
07:30 AM ET

Tau Day: Why you should eat twice the pie

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.

Michael Hartl

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.

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How professors' dads made math fun
Heather Lewis at her Ph.D. graduation with her father.
June 15th, 2012
09:53 AM ET

How professors' dads made math fun

Editor's Note: Matthew Lane is a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at UCLA and is the founder of Math Goes Pop!, a blog focused on the surprisingly rich intersection between mathematics and popular culture. Follow him on Twitter at @mmmaaatttttt. 

There are many misconceptions about mathematicians in popular culture. For example, windows and mirrors do not make for the best writing surfaces, despite what you might assume from "A Beautiful Mind" or "Good Will Hunting."

Mathematicians are also frequently portrayed as painfully socially awkward. And while this is sometimes the case, the true range of personality types is much more varied. Even among the more socially awkward, it is not uncommon for mathematicians to fall in love, marry and start a family.

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Filed under: Dear Old Dad • Math • On Earth
Disco ball-inspired mirror gets rid of driver's blind spot
The new mirror uses a disco ball technique to show a much wider view compared with a standard side-view mirror.
June 8th, 2012
12:10 PM ET

Disco ball-inspired mirror gets rid of driver's blind spot

Ever had trouble checking behind you while driving? Now there's a newly patented side-view mirror that claims to eliminate that pesky blind spot.

The math professor who came up with the "wide angle substantially nondistorting mirror" says it works kind of like a mirrored disco ball - although it doesn't look anything like one.

"Imagine that the mirror's surface is made of many smaller mirrors turned to different angles, like a disco ball," said R. Andrew Hicks, a Drexel University math professor.

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