Friday, March 6, 2015

Pi Day is just around the corner, and...

Pi Day is just around the corner, and it's making me think about God.
We get an approximation of Pi Day every year, on March 14. But this year, we get Pi Day of the Century, because we can express Pi all the way out to the second. Saturday a week from now, the clock will tick forward, and for one, glorious second, it will be 3.14.15 9:26:53 and that's all the pi we can ever reasonably hope for. Of course those who own a cesium clock can claim to have Pi nanoseconds, or something above that, but for humans to be aware of an experience, it has to last longer than that. We could go to tenths or hundredths of a second, but let's just be thankful that a watch with a sweep second hand can celebrate the event, shall we?
Of course, Pi is not primarily a number. It's a relationship between two of the most common art works kindergarteners draw: the line and the circle. Drop of water hits the ground, get a circle (with splashes). And the line drawn from one point of a circle through the center of the circle to the other side of the circle is the diameter of the circle. And the relationship between the circumference of the circle (which is the part you draw in kindergarten) to the diameter of the circle is Pi to 1. Usually, we say 3.14, or 3.1416, but on this Saturday, we can experience Pi all the way out to 3.141592653 and on the strength of that goodness, last until Pi Day of the century 2115, sustained all along the way by the approximations of March 14. It's enough, really.
Now, why does that make me think about God?
It's because Pi doesn't stop even after a trillion digits. It never stops, and it never repeats. Doesn't that strike you as...weird? Why should it be that such a simple relationship contains infinity? Circles with lines through them. Infinity. They really don't seem to go together.
Now, I do not claim to be either a mathematician nor a mystic. I stopped taking pure math after my second course in calculus, and all of the math I took after that in college and grad school was statistics, and nothing about statistics gives you an 'oh, wow' moment, unless you find someone who plays the lottery and expects to win. And I never took philosophy much beyond Socrates.
But there is something about all these circles around me, and the lines through them, and the relationship which goes on forever, and never repeats, that makes me wonder if this isn't a clue left to us by God, to say, 'Here is something you cannot comprehend, which is so simple that a child can construct it."
Cut a pancake in half. Experience infinity.

1 comment:

  1. You must be a fellow scientist/mathematician. It is, indeed, a marvelous universe we get to play in.

    Glad I found your blog - lots of stuff to read.