Colin McEnroe Show: Pi - A Window On Infinity

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Colin McEnroe Show: Pi - A Window On Infinity
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Colin McEnroe Show: Pi - A Window On Infinity

It's Pi Day, and we have to ask, can numbers be sexy?

Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia is being revived on Broadway right now. I saw it Friday night. Much of the play is about a young math genius, a girl living 200 years ago, who writes in her notebook:
"I, Thomasina Coverly, have found a truly wonderful method whereby all the forms of nature must give up their numerical secrets and draw themselves through numbers alone."
She asks her tutor:
"God's truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?"
Well, numbers are written in nature, especially our friend Pi. As Richard Preston wrote in the New Yorker 20 years ago:  Pi hides in the rainbow, and sits in the pupil of the eye, and when a raindrop falls into water pi emerges in the spreading rings. 
Leave your comments below, e-mail or Tweet us @wnprcolin.



Circles in nature?

"Besides, there are no true circles in nature, are there?" The shape of the pupil of the human eye is a circle. Here is an example of a circle created kinetically in nature out of ice floating over a whirlpool in a river or stream:

E-mail from Dan

Does our inability to nail down pi mean there is no such thing as a perfect circle?

Does it show that the perfection is not to be found in the finite, only in the infinite?

E-mail from Bill

Any relationship between Pi and Uncertainty Principle i.e. structure of universe? Does it point to infinite universe?

E-mail from A Different Kevin

you mentioned the disk of the Sun as an example of pi's prominence in the natural world, but did you know that the Sun's mass bends space in such a way that its radius is greater than what it ought to be given its circumference?

In the case of black holes, for example, the radius is infinite.

Besides, there are no true circles in nature, are there?

E-mail From Jay

Prof. Michael Neumann, Chmn of the UConn math dept. gave a presentation to our group a few years ago about how the rabbis 1,500 years ago approximated "Pi." It's fascinating how they did it.

E-mail from Kevin

Moving from one mtg to the next. Surprised and a little embarrassed at how fascinating i find this. Thanks.