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Celebrate Pi Day with 31.4 trillion digits

Emma Haruka Iwao writes down pi
Google’s Emma Haruka Iwao dashes across a whiteboard to write down the first digits of pi. She used Google Compute Engine, powered by Google Cloud, to calculate pi to an accuracy of 31.4 trillion digits. (Google via YouTube)

What’s the best way to celebrate Pi Day? That’s the geeky holiday that takes place on 3/14 … in other words, today. For some, it’s a day for baking geeky pies, or getting a $3.14 deal on slices of pizza. For Google, it’s a day for breaking a world record, by calculating the irrational number’s value to 31.4 trillion digits of precision.

31,415,926,535,897 digits, to be exact.

Pi enters into every walk of life, if that walk happens to be circular. On one level, it’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. On another level, it’s a mystical number to contemplate, because the digits just go on, and on, and on …

Physicist Larry Shaw invented a ritual to celebrate that mystical value, and that ritual was first celebrated at San Francisco’s Exploratorium for the first time 30 years ago. It involves walking in a circular procession on 3/14 at 1:59 p.m. (in honor of 3.14159), singing happy birthday to Albert Einstein, and reveling in a pie feast (fruit and/or pizza). The ritual is celebrated at the Exploratorium to this day.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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