Monday, June 21, 2010


If you asked my family and friends what I'm most well known for, they'd probably answer reciting pi.

Back in high school I was fascinated by the Guinness Book of World Records having an entry for some guy reciting pi to a large number.

I liked the idea of learning pi and so my first step was actually finding pi listed to a large number of decimal places. This is pre-internet days so it's not as easy as it sounds. Anyway I finally tracked down a page with pi to 10000 places on it and set about learning it.

My method was to add a few digits every day. The "few" tended to be in groups of 3, 5 or 7 digits. It depended on how they sounded.

I memorise pi by the way the digits sound. The flow of the words. For example:

3.14 15 926 535 89793 238 4626 433 832 795 0288

with the spaces showing my natural groupings. Interestingly I find other pi reciters always have different groupings.

At my peak I got to 250 decimal places. Without checking I could probably knock off 150 now without error - but if I had ten minutes learning time I reckon I could briefly get back to 250. Interesting how the mind recalls such things and how it fails with time.

There's a book called pi to 1000000 decimal places and when I started University I looked it up and the library had it. But it was on permanent loan to a staff member. So I tracked him down and asked if I could see it. He wouldn't even show it to me. Bastard.

Strange how these things stick in your mind - I have never forgiven him.

So a few years later I decided to write my own book. Computers had got powerful enough that I could write some code that would generate pi to 1000000 places in about three days.

After that I printed it out and went and had it professionally bound. Cost me $30.

So finally I had my own copy of Pi to 1000000 places and it sits on my shelf with pride.

Oh who was that bastard of a maths lecturer who wouldn't let me look at the book?

Princess Mary's father.

No comments:

Post a Comment