Find a Slice of Math Fun on Pi Day
Honor Pi Day by visiting some mathematically nerdy places.
By MJ Wilke
March 14 is Pi Day. Pi—an irrational number containing an infinite number of digits that can only be represented by three or more—is most commonly seen as 3.14, aka March 14. The first formal celebration was held by San Francisco’s Exploratorium staff in 1988, and it immediately became an annual event. In 2009, Pi Day became a national holiday through a resolution by the House of Representatives. Coincidentally, 3/14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday, and celebrating his birthday is a perfect addition to Pi Day events.
Pi Day is about more than just eating pie, not to say the Pi Day pie isn’t pi-tastic. So, how can you be infinitely irrational on this mathematical national holiday? See below. (And although “infinitely irrational” sounds a lot like the Infinite Improbability Drive in Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, that is a different holiday: Towel Day, May 25.)
Visit Nerdy Places
San Francisco Exploratorium. The birthplace of Pi Day celebrations. During the first celebration, at 1:59 pm on 3/14, a parade of Exploratorium staff followed a circular path, thus representing the first six digits of pi (3.14159) in time and space. And, pie was served. Now a tradition, this year marks the 31st irrational celebration, and has expanded to an all-day public event with activities for all ages, pie and the famed pi parade.
Princeton, New Jersey. The US home of Albert Einstein, the city celebrates both the birthday of their famous resident and Pi Day together. Events include a Surprise Birthday Party for Albert Einstein by the Historical Society of Princeton, an Einstein in Princeton guided walking tour, Pi recitation contest and Pi-rade, a tour of Landau’s Albert Einstein Museum, and a Nerd Herd guided pub crawl.
Griffith Observatory. In the Gunther Depths of Space Exhibit at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles is an Albert Einstein seated statue on a bench with a space for visitors to sit. Celebrate the coincidence of Albert Einstein’s birthday by sitting with his statue and pondering the infinite nature of pi. Also, stop and see mathematics in action by watching the giant pendulum swing or Tesla’s Coil operate.
Wrap a trip ’round Pi day. For nerds of all sorts, vacationing in mid-March (spring break)— encompassing Pi day (3/14), the Ides of March (3/15, Shakespearean reference) and St. Patrick’s Day (3/17) —seems a perfectly rational way to celebrate the infinitely irrational. The West Coast has the birthplace of Pi Day, the holiday, at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, and the East Coast has Princeton, New Jersey, home of Albert Einstein, where they celebrate both with citywide festivities. If you can’t take a trip this year, spend the day planning a trip for next year’s transcendental date, whether on either coast or the seemingly infinite possibilities in between.
Explore the Universe
NASA-JPL. Join NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in their Rocket Science You Can Do With Pi – Pi in the Sky Challenge. It’s an online challenge of scientific problems that require the use of pi to solve. Take on this year’s challenge or any of the previous year’s problems. A favorite is the Habitable Hunt. You can dream about traveling to a distant planet while finding a habitable zone around TRAPPIST-1 using pi. Don’t worry, the answers are revealed on March 15.
For more information about these and more Nerdy Places, visit the Nerdy Places section on our website. Many other science museums, libraries, and of course pie shops around the country have activities as well. Go get mathematical.
MJ Wilke is the founder of Wayward Nerd. She is a road warrior. A nerd. A trekkie. A whovian. A Star Wars fanatic. She will go where no one has gone before, come back and post it here.