Get irrational: 3.14 things to do on Pi Day

3. Learn more about pi

"Pi" by NJIT is one of several lectures and collections iTunes U offers about the mathematical constant.

Ever wonder why pi continues infinitely? Why there’s so much mystery behind the number? How much of it is actually necessary?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone.

"What’s interesting about it is that it’s technically irrational and transcendental," David Blatner, author of "Joy of Pi," told Time in 2011. "The exact digits of pi cannot ever truly be known. There’s no way for us to figure out what pi is and that’s kind of an odd and curious thing for science. At its simplest, pi is the measurement around the circle, divided by the measurement across the circle. The idea that something so simple should unfold in something that is unknowable is baffling."

Scholars around the world gather on Pi Day to learn and teach about the history, methods, and mysteries of pi. The University of Technology Sydney, the University of Western Ontario, and the University of Rochester in New York are just a few universities that have scheduled lectures.

In Greece, stand-up mathematician Matt Parker will be holding lectures on numbers in light of Pi Day. Parker, who works at the mathematics department at Queen Mary, University of London, will speak in Athens and Thessaloniki (and probably give a few jokes).

Other lectures, like Oxford University’s “Pi Day Live,” will be open to anyone with Internet access. The Oxford lecture will be led by professor Marcus du Savoy and focus on “rediscovering pi” by exploring ancient techniques. The event, which is scheduled for 1:59 p.m. GMT (8:59 p.m. EST), is free.

Those who cannot attend a lecture can learn more about the mathematical constant through iTunes U. Several lectures and collections delve into the meaning of pi and its usefulness. There’s a lecture from an MIT computer science and programming course, entitled “Monte Carlo’s simulations, estimating pi,” and one from the University of Central Missouri, called “Pi – the mathematical dessert," to name a few.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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