The incredible life of pi

March 14: International Pi Day at The Old Rectory

Pi (π)  A constant (sometimes referred to as Archimedes’ Constant) that represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. More simply stated as 3.14, pi is what is known as an irrational number as its calculations can continue infinitely without repetition or pattern, and has so far been computer-calculated to 105trillion digits beyond its decimal point, or 3.141592653589793238…………… (I’m sure you get the point).

N.B. The official Guinness world record for a human memorising and recalling pi’s value stands at 70,000 decimal places, although the unofficial record is 100,000 places during a public performance lasting 16 hours.

First attempted by the ancient Babylonians almost 4000 years ago, many have tried to pin down the true value of pi, including the ancient Egyptians, Archimedes (287-212 BC), and Chinese mathematician / astronomer Zu Chongzhi (287-212 BC). But it was a Welshman named William Jones who first introduced the use of the Greek letter π during the 1700s by including the now iconic symbol as part of his theorems on differential calculus and infinite series in Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos (1706) — a publication intended for ‘beginners’ in the subject!

It is easy, therefore, to comprehend the historical importance of pi, but harder, perhaps, to contemplate its current relevance and the impact it has on everyday life at The Old Rectory.

Although…actually…it’s not that difficult at all.


Slices of pi

Imagine, if you can, a life without circles, because every time you see one pi is present in all its understated glory. From gaming to garden design and architecture to aeronautics, pi plays its part in ways you may never have previously considered. You can even use it to calculate your hat size (head circumference in inches ÷ π = hat size).

So, we decided to put our new-found arithmetical appreciation to work by embarking on an activity calculated to celebrate the wonder of pi.

Creativity, community, and connectivity

Drawing our inspiration from William Jones’ pioneering work, and the importance of pi in the development of accurate time measurement, each resident was provided with a plywood clock to decorate. But this was no ordinary crafting session.

By use of vibrant colour and the incorporation of the pi symbol (π), we created artworks to honour the timeline that connects historical events with the present day — uniting us all in a shared sense of acquired knowledge and pure enjoyment.

Anyone for pi(e)?

To help sustain our efforts and boost concentration, a splendid, themed lunch was served that paid tribute to all things circular.

Residents partook of a delicious selection of tempting treats, including pork pies, mincemeat pies, and cupcakes, as conversation flowed freely between anecdote and arithmetic in amazement at the previously unimaginable importance that pi plays in our daily lives.

Time to reflect

Fanciful as it seems, experts have even suggested that pi may possess almost magical qualities, due to its ability to occur in places you may never have expected to find it. Well, it was certainly an activity with a difference, that’s for sure, but we still managed to complete all our clocks before time ran out and the day’s endeavors came to an end.

As a result, our crafts will serve as an enduring reminder of William Jones, his predecessors, and the ground-breaking nature of pi’s discovery, while also providing the ideal reminder to put International Pi Day firmly on the calendar for next year.