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Thursday, March 14, 2013

happy pi day!

Yes, today (3/14) really is pi day. So have a happy one!

Usually I celebrate pi day in the office by eating things I should not eat. However on this particular pi day, we are all on spring break and so very likely nobody is in the office, at least not enough to celebrate with a collection of tasty pastries and pies.

So instead I'm writing a blog post to pay homage to the venerable ratio. It gives me an opportunity to discuss an amusing pair of wackos. : )

Ralph René is deceased, but while living he made quite a stir (well not really) with his claim that $\pi$ is actually an algebraic number, in particular the value $\sqrt{2}+\sqrt{3}$. This is about 0.0046717 larger than the actual value of $\pi$, well outside the estimate $223/71 <\pi < 22/7$ proved by Archimedes in the third century BCE. Talk about setting knowledge back! René was not himself a mathematician, but he apparently got at least some of his ideas from a mathematician by the name of Dan W. Gaddy, who reportedly authored a book called Quadrature of the Circle. As a result, René used the term "Gaddy's pi" for the new value $\sqrt{2}+\sqrt{3}$ which he believes is the actual value of $\pi$. I haven't read Gaddy's book, but my guess is that it is nothing crazy. Gaddy allegedly gives a geometric construction which René misunderstood to imply that $\pi=\sqrt{2}+\sqrt{3}$. But the error is René's not Gaddy's---or so I presume. Admittedly I don't have hard information on this.

I would be curious to discover whether or not Gaddy is still alive, and if so, what he has to say about René's claims.

As for René, he is a nutjob of the highest order. He sold his "proof" that $\pi=\sqrt{2}+\sqrt{3}$ in the form of a 12-page pamphlet. Elsewhere on the net I have seen this pamphlet called Squaring the Circle, and misattributed to Gaddy. I don't think the pamphlet itself is freely available, but you can watch/read a "refutation" of René's claims here.

Another pi day wacko is a man by the name of Mohammad-Reza Mehdinia, who claims that $\pi=3.125$. I can't find a lot of information on this guy, but at least one random person on the net suggested that Mehdinia is motivated by the fact that 3.125 is closer to the Biblical value $\pi=3$. Frankly, I don't know what to make of his motivation. At first I thought he was in it for the money, since he has tried to sell a book on the subject. But then I discovered that he makes his book freely available on his website. On the other hand, there is no mention of the Bible or Qur'an in his book, so he's apparently not motivated by religion either. I guess the guy is just the old fashioned kind of crazy.

Anyway, I welcome further info on either of these two fellows and their work. Or if you know any other pi-conspiracists, let me know about them too! (Just use the comment box below.)

Happy pi day!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

two useful firefox extensions

Here are two neat firefox extensions I think are worth sharing.

1. Google/Yandex Search Link Fix (as of 2013 Mar 07, not compatible with the latest version of Firefox)

You may notice that Google does not directly link you to its search results. This is particularly problematic for non-html links (e.g. pdf files). Suppose I'm looking for a pdf file of the paper "A New Method for Constructing Invariant Subspaces." If I type that into Google it comes up as a search result, but the link it gives me is as follows:,d.aWc

Needless to say, this is not the actual address of the pdf file. In order to fix this situation, I'm using the so-called Google/Yandex search link fix. The Google link I get for the paper is now:

Glorious! The only problem is this extension is not currently compatible with the latest version of Firefox. Still, it works for earlier versions---and it works well!

2. Lazarus Form Recovery

Have you ever typed up a response to a blog post only to have it get lost when your browser crashes or the blog eats it? Man, that gets me! But it turns out that there is a firefox extension called Lazarus form recovery which automatically saves what you type and gives you the chance to recover it later if you want.