Happy Pi Day & Women's History Month

Pi Day

Pi is pronounced just like pie.  Pi is a transcendental number, and  represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Why is March 14th Pi Day?  The 14th day of March is written, in the United States, as 3-14.  Three point one four is often how pi is abbreviated although it has been calculated out to 10 trillion digits.

Celebrate Reason & Women

I love science, and although math is not my strong suit, I love the concept of Pi Day in all its nerdy glory.
At this particular time in history, I think it is more important than ever to celebrate knowledge.
This month is Women’s History Month, and Makers is honoring Katherine Johnson, a mathematician – I like their film interview with her, and I recommend watching it at makers.com/katherine-johnson
If you don’t know who she is, you have been missing a wonderful story of  behind-the-scenes history that is the perfect melding of mathematical history and women’s history.  There are so many aspects of her story that elucidate unspoken, or glossed over, truths in our culture.  I am fascinated by this pioneering womann research mathematician.
But a series of video interviews with Mrs. Johnson are also available on You Tube.  I include two below.

Katherine Johnson: Working at NASA:
Katherine Johnson: America’s First Space Flight:


I knew I had run across found an image of woman mathematician while hunting through government archives for retro women’s stories.  But I couldn’t find it.  I knew it was a public domain photo I used for something last year.  It was driving me crazy.  So I went to Pinterest and I found the pic!

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This photo is of Melba Roy, NASA Mathmetician, at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland in 1964. II suspect that she worked with Katherine Johnson.

This is all so relevant today.  The talk of black men engineers having a hard time at Langley (pre-NASA ) while black women were preferred in their jobs and the talk of working on planes and black boxes in the early days of flight data recorders perfectly flowed with the news coverage, at least the MSNBC news coverage I was watching as I wrote this post.

And That Indiana Pi Thing

Oh and I almost forgot.  I always mention the silly Indiana slip-up where they attempted to legislate the value of  pi to the 3 in the late 1800s.  They would have done it and left it that way if not for a Purdue Professor.  (Go Boilers!)

Fortunately, this vote took place the same day the head of Perdue University’s Mathematics Department, Clarence Waldo was at the statehouse securing funds for the University’s budget. When he heard the assembly was discussing mathematics, he listened in and was amazed. He spent the rest of the day educating Indiana senators on geometry and properties of transcendental numbers. His lessons were effective enough that the bill died on the Senate floor on February 11. — on About.com

Now go enjoy Pi Day!

pi day

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