Pi will always have special meaning in our household.

In high school my younger brother was getting remedial tutoring in math from a math professor at Whittier College.

About this same time I made the most important scientific discovery of my life. Maybe the most important of the century. I might not get a Nobel prize, but I’d be a shoo in for honorable mention and immortality in math circles forever.

My discovery: The printed digits of pi in a math book were erroneous.

Solving the formula 22/7 the quotient never agreed with the text book. I repeated my division several times, over and over, to make certain I wasn’t missing anything. Even more horrifying, upon careful and diligent research, this monumental error was seemingly being repeated again and again in other reference works and text books. Boy, talk about plagiarism. How embarrassing.

Exhilarated and overjoyed by my brilliant observation, I couldn’t wait to share my discovery with my brother’s tutor. Surely, I thought, this learned man should be one of the first to inform. I made a special appointment to see him. And brought along a couple of those erroneous books to show him.

It wasn’t clear to me how dangerous those wrong decimal digits might prove to be. If they were needed in our race to the moon, we might miss the darn thing by miles. This kind, patient, wise old man smiled. Then, without the merest trace of condescension, he gently led me through the error of my ways. He will always be fondly remembered for this.

This enlightenment likely explains why I persist in being able to recall the first 20 decimal digits of pi to this day. Those and the square root of two, as well; and the base of the natural logarithm also. Important stuff, baby.

I don’t ever want to be that naïve and embarrassed again.

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Novelist. Follower of Jesus. Advocate for Orphans, Sex Trafficking Victims, Poverty Aid, Hunger Relief, and iconoclastic views of the traditional organized church.

March 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm

I don’t remember 20 digits of anything. Has this strategy saved you from embarrassment? It’s difficult for me to imagine any situations in which knowing pi with such precision would be helpful. 🙂

March 11, 2015 at 2:00 pm

I sought to downplay division in the mathematical community. Indeed, a large group insists on celebrating Pi Day on the 22nd of July (22/7). This fraction insists it’s closer to π than 3.14. Personally, I go for cherry pie in March and apple pie in July.