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Opening Arguments

Bye, bye, Miss American Pi

Math nerds rejoice:

The U.S. population has reached a nerdy and delightful milestone.

Shortly after 2:29 p.m. on Tuesday, August 14, 2012, the U.S. population was exactly 314,159,265, or Pi (π) times 100 million, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.

Pi (π) is a unique number in multiple ways. For one, it is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It is also an irrational number, meaning it goes on forever without ever repeating itself. Are you remembering how much you loved geometry class? You can check out Pi to one million places here.

But the population at any given time is just a rough estimate, right? Why not say we reached pi times 100 million at 3:14 p.m. instead of 2:29 p.m.?

In other math news, during my weekend trip to Indy, I noticed the new mile markers and exit signs going up on I-69. They started at Mile 0 at I-465 and are working their way north:


While the new stretch of interstate is expected to add about 184 miles to I-69, officials are trying to reduce confusion by simply adding 200 to the long-standing mileage designations along the Indianapolis-to-Michigan stretch of the highway.

Hey, this is Indiana -- we like "not confusing" a lot more than "accurate." This seems like a good place to remind ourselves of the time our General Assembly actually tried to pass legilation to simplfy pi:

Although the attempt to legislate pi was ultimately unsuccessful, it did come pretty close. In 1897 Representative T.I. Record of Posen county introduced House Bill #246 in the Indiana House of Representatives. The bill, based on the work of a physician and amateur mathematician named Edward J. Goodwin (Edwin in some accounts), suggests not one but three numbers for pi, among them 3.2, as we shall see. The punishment for unbelievers I have not been able to learn, but I place no credence in the rumor that you had to spend the rest of your natural life in Indiana.

Just as people today have a hard time accepting the idea that the speed of light is the speed limit of the universe, Goodwin and Record apparently couldn't handle the fact that pi was not a rational number. "Since the rule in present use [presumably pi equals 3.14159...] fails to work ..., it should be discarded as wholly wanting and misleading in the practical applications," the bill declared.






Posted in: Current events


Fri, 08/17/2012 - 7:55pm

It's nice to see you have a sense of humor about this. It shows you're well-rounded.

But seriously folks, the speed of light really has caused problems for some folks on the religious right. Among other problems, it implies that God placed light from very distant stars on its way to Earth just 6,000 years ago, when, as we all know, our planet was created.

Next time you're perusing Conservapedia, look up Einstein. Turns out he and his silly theories of Relativity are left-wing plots. Just like that Nazi Darwin. Darn those smarty-pants scientists.