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Video: The Aperiodical’s π approximation challenge

As part of our massive π day celebrations, The Aperiodical has challenged me with the task of assembling a group of mathematicians, some bits of cardboard and string, and a video camera, and attempting to determine the exact value of π, for your entertainment.

The challenge, which was to be completed without a calculator, involved using known mathematical formulae for π and its occurrence in the equations of certain physical systems. In the video below, seven different methods are used – some more effective than others…

If you reckon you too can ineptly compute a value in the region of π (in particular, if you can get a more accurate approximation than the date of π day itself, which gives 3.1415), feel free to join in the challenge and see how close you get.

Happy π day

People celebrate today as “π day“, an official designation in the US*


Do you know how we know those digits? If you’d like to find out, I’ve written a blog post over at Second-Rate Minds: “How to calculate π“.

* This is not necessarily the best day. “3.14” is a very crude approximation for π and translating 14th March into this number requires a month/day dating system. 22/7 gives 22nd July in day/month format and gives a slightly closer approximation for π: 3.142857… (3.14 is π-0.00159…, while 22/7 is π+0.00126…). Having said that, 14th March has the tantalising prospect of 1:59 and 2.65359… seconds giving an actual value of π… Perhaps we need a fourteenth month…