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Pi Day Live: Interactive online event with Marcus du Sautoy - Today!
On 14 March at 1.59pm GMT, Professor Marcus du Sautoy will host Pi Day Live, an interactive exploration of the number which has fascinated mathematicians throughout the ages. We need your help to rediscover pi using ancient and intriguing techniques in this online event that is open to all.
Mathematicians (and the American House of Representatives) have christened 14 March Pi Day because the date, when written in the US date format, is 3.14. Add the 1.59pm time of the Pi Day Live experiment and you get 3.14159, or pi at around the accuracy Archimedes calculated it about 2260 years ago using simple geometry.
Pi has obsessed generations of mathematicians for millennia because it is integral to one of the most important and elegant geometric objects in nature, the circle. Attempting to calculate an accurate value for this never-ending transcendental number (simply the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) has been one of the big themes running throughout the history of mathematics.
Even though you only need to know pi to 39 decimal places to calculate a circumference the size of the observable universe to the precision comparable to the size of a hydrogen atom, mathematicians have pushed the limits of computing technology to calculate the number to over one trillion digits. But can we still calculate pi using ancient techniques?
At Pi Day Live we want you to use marbles, pins and maps to discover pi using methods that range from 3500 to around 250 years old. It’s not all low-tech, though, as we will be using the web to gather everyone’s results live, combining them to find out if we can collectively calculate a more accurate approximation of pi. Will it be possible for us to derive pi to one, two, three or more, decimal places? Can we do better than the ancient Greeks or have we lost the ability to rediscover this amazing number without using computers?
You can connect with Marcus and Pi Day Live via our online lecture theatre or by watching online on the ‘big screen’. If your computer can run YouTube videos then you have what’s required to get involved. The event will be recorded and will be available on YouTube afterwards for anyone who can’t take part on the day. Further details and information on how to register are available at www.conted.ox.ac.uk/oxfordconnect. Get live updates and all the pi facts you could ever want on Twitter at twitter.com/OxUniConnect and Facebook at www.facebook.com/OxUniConnect.
For editors only:
Marcus du Sautoy is a mathematician, best-selling author, broadcaster and the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. Pi Day Live is run by Oxford Connect, an initiative of the Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning Unit of the Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford, designed to connect the public with concepts, ideas and research from the university. The event is supported by JISC Netskills.
David White, Director Pi Day Live