Pi Day 2013: An “Irrational” Day

The annual Pi Day event, sponsored by the Mathematics Department, is right around the corner!  Held every year on March 14th from 12:00 pm – 1:59 pm, activities and games will take place on Brigham Square (in case of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the Terrace Court in the Wilkinson Center).  The Math Department’s Student Advisory Council, along with the Mathematics Education Association, and Qualtrics, have partnered together to produce this year’s fun occasion celebrating the digits of Pi.


Popular activities such as Pie the Professor, Buffon’s Needle, and Pi Recitation will take place, as well as many new events like Pi Hoops, the Human Orbitron, Pi Count, Pi Face Painting, and Pi Story have been added to this year’s festivities.  Many prizes and lots of food will be served at the 14 different events and activities.  As usual, the traditional Pi Countdown will commence at 1:58 pm, thus completing the beginning Pi sequence of 3.14159 when the clock hits 1:59 pm.


Every year, a new and exciting Pi Day t-shirt is created, and this year’s design reflects the entertaining and whimsical fun that takes place on this “irrational” day.  This year’s Pi-Day t-shirts will be sold in the foyer of the Talmage Building, during the week of Pi Day, and in the Math Department Office (275 TMCB) for $5.  For more information, please contact Morgan at events@math.byu.edu.

Now, if you’re looking for a way to prepare for the festivities ahead of time, check out this cool and fun way to earn some extra cash…
A new system for encoding digits into words
Do you like math, creativity, and story telling?  Could you use an extra $20?
Learn the Math Department’s new memorization system and use it to write a story that creatively encodes the first 100 digits of pi.  Submit your story by email to Dr. Gary Lawlor at Lawlor@math.byu.edu.  Three winners will each receive the $20 prize.
The new system
The idea is based on the “Major System,” invented in its original form by the French mathematician Pierre Hérigone.  Consonant sounds represent digits from 0 to 9, and vowels are “free,” meaning that they do not represent any digits.  You can read about the Major System on Wikipedia.
Once you know the Major System
Dr. Lawlor of the BYU mathematics department has modified the Major system in a simple way that adds flexibility.  The result is a method with a great deal of freedom for creating words and putting them together into a story to encode a long string of digits.
What we do differently is to specify how many digits will be generated by each word.  A word must generate either zero or two digits.  If, according to the rules of the Major System, the word would only generate one digit, then we consider that word free.
The one exception is our rule that words that begin with W all generate either zero or one digit.
Finally, the common words “and”, “but”, and “for” are free, as are the consonant blends “th” and “ng,” which are not specifically addressed in the Major System.
As an example, the sentence
David washed his new bicycle with soap and water.
encodes the string of digits 18690091, as we explain below.
First, no digits are generated by the words his, new, with, or and, either by special rule (for the word and) or because the Major System gives them fewer digits than the digit quota.
The first 1 and 8 come from the D and V of David; the 6 comes from washed, 90 comes from bicycle, 09 from soap, and 1 from water.
Dr. Lawlor’s Pi Story
Here is Dr. Lawlor’s story that encodes 104 digits of Pi:  (Your story is not allowed to be about a whale!)
On a muddy road one day I helped an injured whale that two women had left wobbling there.  Yes, a couple of mean women forgot that they had chained it up.
A cheerful mathematician waved to me, and he and I managed to keep the whale happy.
Soon we had five workers taping it up, doing a good job of  impeding the wobbling.
You see, it makes whales dizzy if you leave their noses wobbling.
As they carefully prepared to relieve the wobbling, they named the skinny guy “fatty.”
I watched as they rescued the giant fish’s nose from weaving and wobbling, before it had a chance to fuss any more.
Finally, the whale miracle ended.  We took it to the seashore and we walked home before nightfall.