What is Pi Day?

by Jillian Chertok

Every year on March 14 you probably hear or read about Pi Day – π –, see something about it in your Facebook and Twitter feeds, but might not be sure what it is. Well, you’re not alone.

The date of Pi Day – 3/14 – resembles the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, which is 3.14. Well, the actual number is 3.14159265359, but 3.14 is the accepted, shortened version. This Pi Day is extra special because when you round up the first four digits after the decimal point – 14159 – pi become 3.1416, which is today’s date. Some people get really wild and refer to today as “Rounded Pi Day.”

So why should we care, and why doe this warrant a celebration?

Good question. But there’s no good answer. Pi Day has been celebrated for the past 27 years, when a physicist named Larry Shaw started the tradition in 1988 at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, where he worked in the electronics group. Guess it was a slow day at work.

So, Pi Day isn’t really an important day that warrants a celebration, but who’s going to turn down an opportunity to celebrate? Every year on this day pizza places give out free pizza, or $3.14 pizza pies, and the same thing with actual pies. Who doesn’t love pizza and pie?! The only thing that would make this day better is if it was declared a national holiday and we got a day off work or school to properly celebrate.

What are some other ways people celebrate? Well, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (otherwise known as MIT), sends out acceptance letters to hopeful high school students. And they get pretty creative about it. Last year these letters were delivered via drone, and this year they’re using a droid that looks like the one from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Pi Day is apparently a very big deal for them.

And in Princeton, New Jersey, numerous events are hosted in a combined celebration of Pi Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday, which is also today (Einstein lived in Princeton for more than twenty years at one time).

So tell me, how will you be celebrating Pi Day?

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