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The Universe and π

LiteratureThe Universe and π

Here is something for you to read.

Part One By C. Froegher

Pi is in the sky somewhere. Above our heads, floating around and between the infinite circles of the universe, Pi is hidden in atoms, in the orbits of planets and stars. It is even in the perfectly circular spectacles of God, the only being who can see Pi for what it truly is. 

We search for Pi as we would search for a magical island we have only heard stories of. We worship Pi, thinking of it as the nearly-attainable, inscrutable, irrational glue that holds our lives together. After all, life is a circle: we begin without existing and then, suddenly, we return to nonexistence. Like Pi, we exist between the benchmarks of reality. As Pi is between 3 and 4, similarly we are between bad and good, between right and wrong.

A person might have thought we came close to Pi when we discovered that 22/7 is equal to 3.14. This is a paradigm of human naivety: we think we can hold everything in our hands – that maybe, even though Pi is irrational, it is somehow not irrational enough to be beyond us. If we could only somehow find all the digits of Pi and write them down on a piece of paper, our human journey would be complete. 

But Pi is infinite in breadth. 

Shambini Lucas is a Piologist (as he calls himself)  at the University of Bedinford – the home of the fastest Pi calculator in the world. Lucas has one of the three keys to the room that holds the computer. His office is right next to the computer room, and at night when he’s exhausted and depressed by how few discoveries he’s made, he’ll slump in his chair with his forehead on the desk and listen to the hum of the superconducting processors. He knows that if he listens for long enough, if he reads the newly found digits every day, he’ll find something. He desperately ponders the idea of his name being immortalized in the scientific world, after he discovers that Pi really is rational. As he scans the day’s digits he looks for the repetition of ‘31415’ that would herald the rationality of Pi. Maybe the sequence of digits repeats after a few billion. Maybe the yet-to-be discovered ratio is something we haven’t guessed yet. 

Lucas is exhausted by the end of his work week; he hopes so hard that he’ll discover something more than what we’ve known since ancient times, but it seems that there is nothing to discover. Pi is either beyond our grasp, or so simple there is nothing more to be said about it. 

“I’m tired,” Lucas says to his receptionist, Redge. 

“Go home. It’s been three days.”

“I want to find the truth of Pi.”

“We all do, but it won’t happen today. Go home, so I can lock up this office and get a decent night’s sleep.”

“Redge, I need my life to amount to something.”

“You’ll die a lot sooner if you never sleep.”

“I sleep facing the new digits on my computer screen.”

“You’re going to die of it, Shambini. I’d rather that didn’t happen.”

“I need to understand Pi.”

Pi, Board, School, District, Diameter

C. Froegher is the resident author of One Billion Digits of Pi.

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