Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pipher -- Math experiments, Pi

     'Tis a favorite project of mine
     A new value of pi to assign.
          I would fix it at 3
          For it's simpler, you see,
     Than 3 point 1  4  5  9.

     In The Lure of the Limerick, editor William S. Baring-Gould attributes this popular limerick to Harvey L. Carter, a professor at Colorado College who is said to have composed it to help students remember the value of pi.
      Monday evening (4-30-12) at the Carriage House Conference Center of the MAA (Mathematical Association of America), I much enjoyed a presentation by mathematician Jill Pipher.    Pipher, a Brown University mathematics professor and Director of ICERM (The Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics) spoke about experimentation within mathematics -- including computation of digits of pi .  Using the PSLQ algorithm (on at least one list for the "Top Ten Algorithms of the 20th Century") new formulas have been developed that permit calculation of a single (binary) digit of pi  (such as the millionth) without calculating all of the preceding digits.  AMAZING!  
      My amazed thoughts drift to a poem by Wislawa Szymborska (1923-3012), "A Large Number," posted earlier -- on 24 February. Here are the opening lines. 

   A Large Number     by Wislawa Szymborska

   Four billion people on this earth,
   but my imagination is till the same.
   It’s bad with large numbers.
   It’s still taken by particularity.
   It flits in the dark like a flashlight,
   illuminating only random faces
   while all the rest go blindly by,
   never coming to mind and never really missed.
   But even a Dante couldn’t get it right.
   Let alone someone who is not.
   Even with all the muses behind me.
  . . .

More poetry of pi may be found in the posting for  15 March 2011 and in these postings from 2010: September 6, September 2August 23, August 18, June 7, May 12, April 26, and April 19.

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