Essay on The History of the True Value of Pi

Pi, by definition, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to the diameter, but there is so much more that it represents. This number is a mystery to all that research it and is being discovered to hold significance in other areas as well. Pi is also relevant in advanced mathematics as well, dealing with periodic functions and continued fractions. No one will ever know the absolute full number, because pi is irrational, meaning that its decimal places go on infinitely without repeating or ending in zeros, but as technology advances we may see a day when pi has an ending. This irrational number has fascinated the world since the beginning of thought, and throughout its history the expected value of pi has always been surprisingly close to the value we know today. Pi throughout history and today, defines the universe for us and brings order to the chaos we would have without this knowledge.

There are discrepancies on which culture first started using pi. The Babylonians, around 2000 BC, calculated the value at 3 1/8. There is also evidence that Ahmes, an Egyptian scribe around 1650 BC, he calculated the value at 256/81=3.16049, which is only 1 percent off the value we know today. It is not mentioned how the Babylonians came about these numbers, other than simple observation and knowledge os ratios and proportions. The Egyptians however, came to their number (3.16049) by this equation [(8d)/9]2, d being the diameter of the circle.

The Holy Bible also mentions the ratio of pi, although their value was the whole number 3. There is a reference to a molten sea, “a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about” ( I Kings 7:23). This puts the value of pi at the whole number of three. Skeptics of the bible and it’s validity, use this information to try and disprove the accuracy and truth of the bible. The Book of Kings, in which this is located, was edited by ancient Jews as a religious work around 550 BC, at that time pi was already known by a much more accurate number. Perhaps the editors of the bible were just not aware of the discovery of Ahmes’ number, but this doubt puts pi in a rather unexpected place, in religion and science.

Around 469 to 399 BC, two of Socrates pupils tried to square the circle by theorizing that if you double the number of sides in a polygon enough, it will become a circle. It failed to a degree (it must be because Archimedes has taken the credit for this discovery), until Archimedes came in 287-212 BC. Archimedes is considered one of the most brilliant mathematicians in the known ancient world. He worked out that 223/71<22/7, which was the first theoretical calculation of pi. His results were measured by approximating the area of a circle based upon the area of a regular polygon inscribed within the circle and the area of a regular polygon within which the circle was circumscribed. During the dark ages of medieval times, nothing much happened in the way of math in general. All that the Romans, Greeks, and Chinese had found in their respective times, had been declared not very important. The Nobles and Kings of the time had created such poverty among their people that no one could concentrate on education, they were busy trying to feed themselves and their family. Even if one or two enlightened individuals had found they loved math and tried to find out more about the mysteries of the universe, they probably would be looked down upon and probably killed. In around 1794, as the dark ages receded, pi was proven to be both irrational and infinite as well, because people had been searching for some kind of pattern in the numbers of pi after the decimal place. No discernable pattern comes out of this number what so ever, the first time 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0 shows up in pi, is 500 million numbers past the decimal place. Now comes the computer age and revolutions when it came to calculating as many numbers as possible for this ratio. Data is contradictory on exactly how many numbers had been discovered, the highest number is 200 billion, also found is 51 billion. Regardless of the exact number computers have a fast and reliable computing ability that would take humans years to compute themselves. There are two sets of people in competition over who can get the most numers after the decimal. The Chudnovskys brothers from Russia and Tamura and Yanada from an unknown country. As far as research says the Chudnovskys won that competition and continue to calculate as much as they can. Pi is all around us, it can be seen in physics, astronomy, probability and statistics. This magical ratio has always been seen as the most important number in existence and mathematicians have remained intrigued by it’s many uses and it’s mystery of never ending numbers of no relation to each other. Many different people from each time period have been an integral part of calculating pi and discovering new and more efficient ways to find the true value. Although it’s absolute true value will never be known, unless someone finds an ending, the circle will always be the most important shape in the world.

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