More To Say: How I wish I could calculate Pi

On Tuesday (two days late for Pi Day), Veritasium posted the video below about calculations of Pi, from the days of Archimedes to the present.  Some methods of calculation and approximation can be done on pen and paper, but like many things in mathmatics, massive breakthroughs were purely 20th century solutions made possible by computers.

“How I wish I could calculate Pi.” 

3 . 1 4 1 5 9 2

How have I never heard that before tonight?



  1. says

    Cute mnemonic for pi! There are plenty of others, of course. The one I like is How I want a drink? Alcoholic, of course, after the heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics.

  2. jenorafeuer says

    The mnemonic I remember is actually rather poetic, and also longer than many:
    Now I, even I, would celebrate in rhymes unapt the great
    Immortal Syracusan, rivaled nevermore
    Who in his wond’rous lore, passed on before
    Made the way straight, how to circles mensurate.
    There’s a version of this on the Wikipedia Piphilology page, though the first half of the last line uses different words. This is the one I learned, and it rhymes better.

  3. jrkrideau says

    IIRC some mathematician persuaded his father to calculate pi to several hundred thousand decimal places. I had not realized that mathematicians were that sadistic.

    • Rob Grigjanis says

      The 39 digits is to calculate “the circumference of the known universe to the width of a hydrogen atom”.

      The diameter d of the observable universe is about 8.8×10^26 metres (93 billion light years), and the hydrogen atom is 5.3×10^(-11) m across, so the universe is 1.7×10^37 hydrogen widths across, and its circumference is about 5.3×10^37 hydrogen widths.

      So yeah, we could know the circumference to the width of an H atom with 39 digits of π, but only if we also knew the diameter to 39 digits. Which I’m pretty sure we don’t know.

  4. blf says

    @3, “[S]ome mathematician persuaded his father to calculate pi to several hundred thousand decimal places”.

    Whilst I have a vaguely-similar recollection, according to Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge, the most digits ever calculated by hand is 620 (1946, DF Ferguson). Since then, calculators (Ferguson holds several records here also) or computers have been used. Broadly, no-one has ever calculated π to “several hundred thousand decimal places” without using a computer. Whatever it is we(? I?) believe we are remembering, that ain’t it.

  5. dangerousbeans says

    That works if you can remember how to spell calcuelate. though i suppose being off by 0.00001 won’t affect anything i actually do 😛