Happy Pi Day


It’s a spectacularly beautiful day in south Louisiana, the sun is bright, the air is still crisp, there’s a bit of pollen in the air. It can only mean one thing. It’s Pi Day, the annual celebration of that magical number that helps figure out how to do pretty much everything.

And why today? Because it’s 3/14 (at least in the US, in Europe it’s 14/3 – they have no pi day – pity). And while my son and I can both recite the number to the eighth decimal place by heart, one of my colleagues can ramble it off for hours (or so it seems).

Why do I like pi so much? Maybe it’s just the inner nerd in me coming through. Maybe it’s because I use pi every time I compose electroacoustic and computer music.

But what really appeals to me is a reduction of Euler’s formula in which the variable x is set to pi. When this happens, you get what is called Euler’s Identity.

And while this may seem somewhat innocuous or trivial, it is probably the most elegant mathematical formula ever conceived. In the formula, you have the three fundamental mathematical operations (add, multiply and exponentiation) each used just once, and you have the five fundamental constants (0, 1, e, π, i – the square root of -1) each also just used once. There are no variables in the equation, only constants.

It is not useful for anything other than the beauty and elegance of itself. It is art manifest within math. It is a reflection that world around us is filled with intrinsic beauty. Whether we are admiring the birdsong on a sunny spring morning, or the color green as it radiates from the leaves of water oaks in the Louisiana bayous during the summer. Whether we are admiring the beauty of the Milky Way in the starlit night sky or the curved arc of a frisbee thrown long across the field to your friend at the other side.

Pi is with us wherever we go, whatever we hear and whatever we see. It is all around us always, in ways we see and not see.

That is why I like pi.

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