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A Little Slice of Pi

By Peter Price
is the number given to the ratio between the diameter and the circumference of a circle. It is one of those fascinating constants that have intrigued mankind for years. The discovery of this number is unknown but it has been around for some time. The Babylonians (1900 1600BC) and Egyptians (1900 1680BC) are the first civilizations that are documented to have used pi. The Babylonians found that the area of a circle can be found by taking three times the square of the radius which gave them a value of three. There is also one tablet that shows a value of 3.125. Documentation shows that the Egyptians used 22/7, also they found that to find the area of circle you can square a side that is 8/9 the size of the diameter which gives you a value of 3.16045. The first theoretical calculation of pi was done by Archimedes of Syracuse (287 212BC). One of the most brilliant mathematicians of the ancient world, he discovered that if you inscribe and circumscribe two polygons around a circle you set bounds that the area of the circle must be between. Using this method he found that 223/71 < < 22/7 with the average of these bounds being 3.1418, an accuracy of 3 decimal places. This method was so successful that it would be used by mathematicians for years to come. About 700 years later a man named Zu Chongzhi (429 501) improved on this accuracy. He came from a family of court officials that served the Liu-Sung Dynasty. Their astronomy and mathematical background also assisted in generating calendars for the new emperor. These skills would be passed down from father to son. Without being aware of Archimedes method Zu wrote an approximation in his text Method of Interpolation of 355/113 where if you have a circle of with a diameter of 10,000,000 units the circumference is somewhere between 31,415,926 and 31,415,927 units giving a ratio of the abovementioned fraction. This accuracy was phenomenal for its time that it would not be bettered for almost a millennia. Persian Astronomer and mathematician, Ghiyath al-Din Jamshid Masud al-Kashi (1380 1492) produced a piece titled Treatise on the Circumference in 1424 in which he had calculated two times pi to 9 sexagesimal places which equates to sixteen decimal places. It took another 200 years before this accuracy was then again increased. Two friends, Adriaan van Roomen (1561 1615) and Ludolph van Ceulen (1540 1610) both found more accurate results for pi than ever before. In 1593 Adriaan used a 230 sided polygon to find pi to 17 decimal places. Three years later Ludolph publish On the Circle in which he used a 15 x 231 regular polygon to obtain pi

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correct to 20 decimal places. Both these methods would have needed large amounts of calculations taking months to complete. Another advancement was made in 1706 by John Machin (1680 1751). In a book written by William Jones called A New Introduction to the Mathematics, Containing the Principles of Arithmetic and Geometry Demonstrated in a Short and Easy Method Designed for Beginners he explains how John calculated pi correct to 100 decimal places. The method he used to obtain such accuracy would be used for the next 200 years. In 1946 D.F.Ferguson calculated pi to 620 decimal places in which saw the end of an era. There was no longer any need to calculate pi by hand because man had invented the computer which in 1947 he used to calculate pi correct to 710 decimal places. From this point on the rate of accuracy was excelled to almost an exponential rate over the years. These days pi has been calculated to 5 trillion decimal places. Today pi can be seen in more trivial usages such as Pi Day which falls on the 14th March (3/14) every year where everything relating to pi is celebrated as well as memorising Pi. The World Record Holder for this amazing feat recited pi to 67,890 in 2005. So when you sit down to work out the circumference or area of a circle, the volume of a cylinder or push that button on your calculator, stop and think about all the long, tedious calculations that went into evolving pi into what it is today. Bibliography http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/Search/Details/Most-accurate-value-ofpi/47055.htm http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/Search/Details/Most-Pi-placesmemorised/48804.htm http://www.exploratorium.edu/pi/history_of_pi/history_of_pi.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Pi_through_the_ages.html http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Ptolemy.html http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Zu_Chongzhi.html http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Al-Khwarizmi.html http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Al-Kashi.html http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Viete.html http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Roomen.html http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Van_Ceulen.html http://www.exploratorium.edu/pi/history_of_pi/index.html

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