Pi Day: Celebrating The Math Gods Who Made IT Possible - InformationWeek

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3/14/2015
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Pi Day: Celebrating The Math Gods Who Made IT Possible

A celebration of math and IT in honor of Pi of the Century Day.
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We invite you to join us to celebrate Pi Day of the Century. In case you don't know what this is, today at 9:26:53 the date will be Pi to 9 digits past the decimal point, 3.141592653. This is the only time until March 14 2115 that you will be able to celebrate this.

Not only is Pi Day of the Century just cool, but Pi, mathematics, and information technology have a long and illustrious history together. Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. The interesting thing about Pi is that, when represented as a decimal, it never ends and it never repeats a pattern (unlike, for example, 1 divided by 3 which is .3333 with the 3's going forever in an obvious pattern). You can keep adding digits to Pi with increasing accuracy. The current record for calculating pi is 13.3 trillion decimal places.

Obviously, we don't need to calculate Pi to 13.3 trillion decimals for any function. Even astrophysicists use a more manageable number of decimal places. But calculating Pi for speed is a great way to check a supercomputer for speed and accuracy. It is a good benchmark for the state of computing power, in general. Recently we've been upping the record for calculating Pi by about a trillion places per year. It took 208 days to make the current record.

The relationship between computing to Pi, and math in general, deserves recognition. So in honor of Pi of the Century Day, we're celebrating the mathematicians who got us closer to understanding Pi, and those who laid the foundations for the modern computer. As you'll soon see, many did both.

Have a slice of pie, flip through the following pages, observe the clock at 9:26:53, and celebrate math and IT with us by remembering these math Gods that made it all possible.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/16/2015 | 5:31:27 PM
Re: John von Neumann
@Jerry- Believe it or not, I didn't forget him so much as he didn't quite make the cut. When I had a list of 12 I was going to cover, von Neumann was on the list. When I cut to ten, I dropped him not because he isn't important, but because I felt like I had skewed toward the mid-20th century. You can definitely argue I made a bad call. I feel like I could do at least another 10, if not another 100 and it would be worthwhile.
grasmussen330
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grasmussen330,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/16/2015 | 3:38:13 PM
John von Neumann
You forgot the man who is considered the father of modern computer programming.  He fathered the idea that mathematical processes could be represented as numbers  and stored in the same memory space that held data.  He has a huge legacy in many areas of mathmatics and physics.  Check out his name in Wikipedia.  He is probably the mathematician I admired the most throughout my studies through graduate level mathematics.  Jerry Rasmussen
anon1668279033
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anon1668279033,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/16/2015 | 2:39:04 PM
How on Earth did you miss Ramanujian?
I'm a geologist, what do I know? But I do know about Srinivasa Ramanujian's formula for calculating Pi that was used by some crazy Russians in NYC years ago to calculate Pi to some obscene quantity of digits. You were writing about calculating Pi and saw fit to include Babbage and Ada Lovelace (and Ramon Llull), how did Ramanujian fall off your MS? 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/16/2015 | 1:57:43 PM
Re: Thanks for including Ramon Llull
Thanks, Pablo. I'll take a look. I tried to explain by to my 8 year old daughter this weekend. Made me realize how hard it is to explain, and how incredibly interesting it really is. Made me feel a little closer to a unviersal perfection (call it god or not at your choice).
Pablo Valerio
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Pablo Valerio,
User Rank: Ninja
3/16/2015 | 3:20:21 AM
Re: Thanks for including Ramon Llull
@Dave, at the MWC when I was talking with Eve Andersson, Google's Accessibility chief, she told me about her obsession about Pi, and the upcoming Pi day.

It was really interesting... she has a website dedicated to Pi: http://www.eveandersson.com/pi/
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/15/2015 | 8:48:21 PM
Re: Words of Appreciation
@ianR186- Thanks! Always happy when my article gets shared. Tell your friend who memorized 40 digits to stop by especially. It is a fun party trick, and the best part is few people can test you. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/15/2015 | 8:46:49 PM
Re: Contributions to Pi Day
@Technocrati- Glad you liked it. I tried to bring some news names to the party. The one thing i regret is not mentioning anyone from China. Several genius mathmeticians from China from 200 AD to about 500 AD calculated Pi very accurately. but I couldn't tie them back to IT in any way. China's isolation made for some brilliant advances, but sometimes it means that kept knowledge to themselves in ways that prevented others from adding to it. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/15/2015 | 8:38:21 PM
Re: Who Knew ? What Einstein and Pi Day have in common ?
@Technocrati- Well, i suppose it is possible that Einstein's parents were fans of pi and decided to plan ahead 9 months before, but otherwise, I think it is just a fun coincidence. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/15/2015 | 8:37:01 PM
Re: Thanks for including Ramon Llull
@Pablo- My pleasure. I think it is important to make sure we realize this little endeavor we call IT has a long and storied history that features contributions from around the world. It is easy to get bogged down in the early 40's advancements in the US and Britain and assume we made the only contributions. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/15/2015 | 8:29:22 PM
Re: Don't forget Mr. Spock
@Gary_El- Forgot about that. Nice call. Nice to be able to give Nimoy one more send off. :)
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