Happy Pi Day!

I love math, though I always wish I were better at it. The first time that I really saw its beauty was studying Euclid’s elements my first year at St. John’s College. This wasn’t enough to keep me from dropping out after that year, but it remains one of my most important points in life.

After I stopped going to St. John’s (for the second time) and became a saddle maker, I still had a hankering for math. We were living in a tent, and my wife was the sole breadwinner in her nearly minimum wage job while I was a saddle maker apprentice earning nothing. However, I also decided that I wanted to learn to program and to do math, so I went out and purchased a $200 HP41C programmable calculator. We had this in our cabin with no running water or electricity, but since it ran on batteries, we were fine.

Art_Logan

Me riding Logan (with my saddle!) shortly before leaving Santa Fe.

After playing around with my HP41C, I went to Los Alamos National Labs (just up the road from Mr. Ginder’s saddle shop in Cuyamungue). I stopped into the first office that I could find that was outside of security to ask how I could go to graduate school there and learn math and physics. I think they were laughing pretty hard to themselves, but they humored me and said that if I entered UNM they could figure something out…

March 14 is Pi day, and this particular one is significant, because 16 (2016) adds two more digits to Pi. This is all an introduction to what I consider the most beautiful equation in all of mathematics, and perhaps one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. It is the relationship between 3 of the strangest numbers:

Pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter): 3.141592654…

e (another famous irrational number): 2.718281828…

i (one of the most bizarre numbers): the square root of -1, or i^2=-1

A mathematician named Leonhard Euler realized that these three numbers in the following equation are equal to -1. Exactly -1, not some rough approximation.  eipi

This is one of those things like looking at the stars or listening to Bach that never ceases to amaze me. There is deep truth in this. Happy Pi day!

2 responses

  1. Hey Art:

    I’ve enjoyed your blog over the years. FYI I just took possession of an 11 speed belt driven SPOT Wazee bicycle. I’m in love. Very, very different from the conventional bike. Thanks for directing me towards belt drives.

    Oh, re: your blog. I believe your definition of Pi as given in the blog is incorrect. It’s the circumference of a circle divided by the diameter — ☺.

    All the best,

    Dick

    • Dick,
      Many thanks for the correction to my stupid error! (I knew I must have messed up when I saw that you commented that fast!).

      I still LOVE my Spot Brand bike, and I’m very happy that you got yours! Quiet and smooth! Good way to enjoy Pi…

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