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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!

1 comment:

ivi8ivi said...

Ben, I hope you see this. I found this blog through a link from 'hurtstotalktoyou'. You don't know me, but I am trying to get hold of a copy of your song 'Gone Tonight'. You see, many many years ago you had a website and it had 3 songs on it: Psycho Girl, Caliban's Charms, and Gone Tonight. I have been able to find the first two due to the Nirvana compilation - there are some mp3s floating around online. But Gone Tonight still eludes me. I haven't heard it in about ten years and I can still remember the melody - it's that good. In 2009 I emailed you but you didn't respond, then your site disappeared. I am contacting you for two reasons: 1) Would it be possible for you to please email me an mp3 of that song? My email address is jackkavanagh@gmail.com . 2) I would expect you to say no to this, but it's probably worth a shot. I was wondering what you've done / are doing with that song. Is it just sitting idle? If it is, would you mind me using it? You'll still get credit for it, and if I ever become successful I'll work out payment. I'll understand if you say no, but I feel it's such a good song that it deserves to live again.
Let me know what you think. Many thanks,
-Jack