Pi day is just around the corner… are you ready?

by Stephanie Chasteen on March 11, 2009

Gosh, I’m posting a pi day post just FOUR DAYS before pi day.  Heavens.  Well, any teachers reading this aren’t going to be preparing until the night before, right?  Besides, pi day is, sadly, on a Saturday this year, so you can always cheat and do it on Monday if you need to!

So, yes, pi day is 3/14 at 1:59 pm (and I just found out that square root day was 3/3/09 and I missed it!).  This is a wonderful chance for geekery in your classroom.  And it was invented by a fellow Explorite (the Exploratorium’s cheerfully eccentric Larry Shaw).  It also happens to be Einstein’s birthday.

The Exploratorium website has a nice page devoted to Pi Day, lots of history and limericks and some pi poetry (pi-ku).

The Year of Science has a nice resource website with a bunch of activities related to pi day, such as information about Einstein, Pi songs, and trivia.

The Exploratorium will be having a celebration (which I’ll miss, waah) in Second Life.  Visit this SURL to teleport to that location in Second Life.

Here’s a nice little story from the Exploratorium about how Larry started Pi Day:

The original Pi guy is Larry Shaw, a physicist with streaming white hair, a white beard and a transcendent glow. It was 1987, and a cacophony of cultural references and relationships of the time intersected in San Francisco at the Exploratorium, to this day an internationally acclaimed museum of science, art and human perception. Shaw was thinking a lot about the concept of rotation into another dimension — the sorts of things he was actually paid to do. To recapture the time and the place, imagine Shaw mulling over the metaphor of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, specifically the infinite improbability drive of the Heart of Gold Space Ship that is a major factor in the book. Turns out that the concept of rotation into another dimension is exactly what Pi describes. Pi represents the relationship between one dimension to another in the sense of the linear dimension and the plane; or the relation of the linear dimension and the sphere. Pi is key to these relationships. So for Shaw, Pi was in the air and definitely on his mind. He and his colleagues were talking about a Pi Shrine or a Pi Day, something to make the concept of rotation noteworthy. And so it all came together. For the first Pi Day, they installed a Pi Shrine (a small brass plate engraved with pi to a hundred digits) at the exact center of a circular Exploratorium classroom, a spot that also corresponds to the center-line of the museum’s building. And they walked around the shrine because as Shaw notes, “People go around things to show respect to them in many cultures and religions.” And they ate pie.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhett March 11, 2009 at 11:29 am


You made a mistake. It’s not Pi day, it is talk like a physicist day (to complement talk like a pirate day in sept).

Here is a talk like a physicist day FAQ – http://talklikeaphysicist.com/faq/

sciencegeekgirl March 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Heh, no, Rhett, no mistake. The Talk like a Physicist website clearly states

Why March 14th?
Because March 14 (also written as 3.14 in US), is the international Pi Day

So these are two non orthogonal sets. (Getting warmed up for TLAPD)

Fran March 11, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Last year I ate so much pie….this year I think I need to limit myself to just ONE piece. I’m thinking pumpkin.

Paul Mags March 12, 2009 at 5:32 am

And the best way to celebrate is to go to Pi(e) Town….


Just up the road from the VLA so you can really get your geek on.

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