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Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California

Rep. McNerney Statement on International Pi Day

Mar 13, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09), the only PhD mathematician in Congress, today issued the following statement in honor of International Pi Day, March 14, 2015:

"As the only Mathematician in Congress, I would like to recognize a day of growing acclaim in America and around the world: π-Day, March 14, or 3.14. This day brings acknowledgment to the most famous number, which represents, among other things, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter of the circle. 

"Approximately 3.1415926, π has captured the imagination of thinkers since antiquity. The concept was discovered in Ancient Greece, referenced in the Bible, and has been refined over the millennia. π is in a class of numbers, called transcendental numbers, that cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers or as the root of a polynomial, but has a infinite, non-repeating decimal expression. π pops up all over the place in modern mathematics, so much so that people wonder if it has some sort of mystical property. 

"Though its roots date back thousands of years, Pi is still very relevant today. It can be used to calculate the size of tornadoes and waves in meteorology, for example.  And as we learned around the time of the Super Bowl, it can even be used to help us figure out the volume of an inflated football.

"π has become a part of pop culture, too. There’s an episode of the original “Star Trek” series in which Mr. Spock asks the computer to calculate π to the last digit – driving the computer crazy. On The Simpsons, a character jokes “What’s the fastest way to get a group of babbling scientists’ attention? Shout ‘Pi is exactly three!’”  And of course in the recent movie Life of Pi, the young protagonist memorizes hundreds of digits of π.

"A state government even once tried to legislate Pi. In 1897 some Indiana state legislators tried to pass a bill that defined Pi as 3.2. As a mathematician, I am still embarrassed on their behalf nearly 120 years later.

"What makes π-Day so special this year is not only the date March 14, but the year is 2015, and since in the United States we usually express the date as MMDDYY, that means this year Pi Day falls on 031415. As you may notice, this constitutes the first 5-digits of π. Let’s take it one nerdy step further and add time to the equation: that means that at 9:26 am on Saturday we will have 31415926, which just so happens to be the first eight digits of Pi. 

"I hope that at 9:26 am on Saturday, March 14, 2015, everyone pauses for a moment to recognize π and appreciate the importance of this number and of mathematics in general for providing civilization some of the tools upon which society was built. 

"Personally, I will enjoy some pizza pie and some of my wife Mary’s delicious peach pie on Saturday."