25 jul. 2017

Weird scientific celebrations

Some time ago when I revised my niece’s homework I explained her how to obtain the perimeters and areas of some plane geometric figures. There was no problem in the calculations of the square, rectangle and triangle areas. But the problem was the calculation of the circle’s area because of the number pi. How to explain pi to her? In those days, she hasn’t seen even the decimal numbers and notation (those things about the decimal point and the cyphers on the right). It was really difficult to make her understand those numbers and to explain her pi and the perimeter and area formulas. However some scientific celebrations helped me and I would like to tell you about them.

To explain my niece the number pi, we measured the perimeter and the diameter of many circles. Then we divided the perimeter of each circle over its diameter. The result was close to 3 plus a little quantity. I explained her that the decimal point was used to put that little quantity. By those days she has seen fractions already so this helped in some way. Using a similar procedure from the Greeks old culture we arrived to our own pi concept finding the approximated value of 3.1416. Then I tried to explain her again how to calculate the perimeter and the area of the circle but she didn’t like it. There was something in her brain like a wall not allowing her to understand that irrational number. So I told her about the day of pi.

The story is that since 1988, on March 14 of each year we could celebrate the number pi party. Why? Well because of the idea of the physicist Larry Shaw who decided to dedicate this approximated day to pi, one of the most useful and known irrational numbers of the world. The first celebration was carried on the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, California. And the cake was a pie! A pi cake that is prepared each year to celebrate the number pi.

Now, why to make a party on March 3? Well because March is the 3rd month of the year. So, following the logic of the cyphers appearing in the number pi, the day 14 is the best selection, isn’t it? And then you can enjoy your pie at 16 hours, righ? Or if you like more exact numbers, maybe you take the first slice at March (3), day 14, at 15 hours, 9 minutes, 26 seconds and 53 decimals of second, 58 centesimal of seconds… and then till your own clock allows you because irrational numbers as pi never end.

If you forgot to celebrate pi in its day, don’t worry about that because you will always have the 22 of July to cook a pie (or even a pi zz a) because the fraction 22/7 is a good approximation of the number pi. So July 22 is the ‘Day of the approximation of pi’.

My niece was so glad with the idea of cooking a pie for pi in any of those days that she started to understand the formulas and modified a nursery song talking irrational numbers for some elephants…

On the other hand, pi’s day is not the only irrational math number themed celebration in the year. There is one day dedicated to the squared root but it doesn’t have a particular day and there some years without the celebration. In order to obtain a date, you have to take the last to cyphers of the year and then to calculate the squared root to know the corresponding month and the day. Ron Gordon was the first person to celebrate ‘The day of the squared root’ on September 9 of 1981 and invites people to join him in the party when the year allows them to do it. Last celebration was on April 4 of 2016 and the next one will be on May 5 of 2025. I’m pretty sure that you can obtain the next dates.

If you imagine some other numbers maybe you can start other celebrations as T day commemorating the Student’s statistical T-test on the 19 of August taking a cup of tea, can’t you? or maybe taking a beer as William Sealy Gosset (Student), the mathematician who invented the T-test and worked in an English beer factory.

Any other suggestion?

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