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The Life of Pi

The Internet provides access to a wealth of resources previously not available, such a interactive demonstrations, a plethora of blogs, and "instant" information. Another interesting resource includes copies of presentations (in either Powerpoint or pdf form) given by speakers at some conference that I did not attend. One can learn alot from them.

For example, consider the presentation The Life of Pi: History and Computation, given at a 2007/08 colloquia. I learned many things by browsing through it.

The presentation was created by Jonathan Borwein, a Canadian mathematician noted for both his prolific publications and his advocacy of experimental mathematics. He currently holds mathematics and computer science positions jointly at Simon Fraser University and Dalhousie University.

The gist of Borwein's talk is to provide an overview of our "desire, and originally need, to calculate ever more accurate values of pi," and how this quest has been a catalyst for other "fascinating examples of computational math."

The 79-page talk includes ideas and tidbits such as:

  • Google buying "pi"
  • Pi on Jeoparady
  • Pi the song
  • Pi in crosswords
  • Why pi is not 22/7
  • A quick history of encounters with pi
  • The transcendance and irrationality of pi
  • Pi computations in the digital age
  • Determining the dth digit of pi without first generate all of its preceding digits
Be forewarned that the mathematics gets increasingly complicated, but that is expected. At the very least, browse and glean.

If you like the information, you might consider the text Pi: A Source Book (Springer, 1997), authored by the Simon Fraser trio of Jonathan Borwein, Lennart Borwein, and Peter Borwein. The tome uses originally sources to document the full history of pi, providing interesting bedtime reading and resources for student projects.