Why pi is wrong

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Why pi is wrong

Unread postby dr210077 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:20 pm

My wife just came across this article and I have to say that I think, at least on the surface of it, there may be something to the approach.

Pi or Tau


"By Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

The mathematical constant pi is under threat from a group of detractors who will be marking "Tau Day" on Tuesday.

Tau Day revellers suggest a constant called tau should take its place: twice as large as pi, or about 6.28 - hence the 28 June celebration.

Tau proponents say that for many problems in maths, tau makes more sense and makes calculations easier.

Not all fans of maths agree, however, and pi's rich history means it will be a difficult number to unseat.

"I like to describe myself as the world's leading anti-pi propagandist," said Michael Hartl, an educator and former theoretical physicist.

"When I say pi is wrong, it doesn't have any flaws in its definition - it is what you think it is, a ratio of circumference to diameter. But circles are not about diameters, they're about radii; circles are the set of all the points a given distance - a radius - from the centre," Dr Hartl explained to BBC News.

By defining pi in terms of diameter, he said, "what you're really doing is defining it as the ratio of the circumference to twice the radius, and that factor of two haunts you throughout mathematics."

The discrepancy is most noticeable when circles are defined not as a number of degrees, but as what are known as radians - of which there are two times pi in a full circle. With tau, half a circle is one-half tau.

Dr Hartl reckons people still use degrees as a measure of angle because pi's involvement in radians makes them too unwieldy.

He credits Bob Palais of the University of Utah with first pointing out that "pi is wrong", in a 2001 article in the Mathematical Intelligencer.

But it is Dr Hartl who is responsible for the Tau Manifesto - calling tau the more convenient formulation and instituting Tau Day to celebrate it.

Kevin Houston, a mathematician from the University of Leeds, counts himself as a convert.

"It was one of the weirdest things I'd come across, but it makes sense," he told BBC News.

"It's surprising people haven't changed before. Almost anything you can do in maths with pi you can do with tau anyway, but when it comes to using pi versus tau, tau wins - it's much more natural."

Dr Hartl is passionate about the effort, but even he is surprised by the fervent nature of some tau adherents.

"What's amazing is the 'conversion experience': people find themselves almost violently angry at pi. They feel like they've been lied to their whole lives, so it's amazing how many people express their displeasure with pi in the strongest possible terms - often involving profanity.

"I don't condone any actual violence - that would be really bizarre, wouldn't it?"
"
"If we go back to the beginnings of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture and deception embellished them; that weakness worships them; that custom spares them; and that tyranny favours them in order to profit from the blindness of men."

"What has been said of [God] is either unintelligible or perfectly contradictory; and for this reason must appear impossible to every man of common sense." ~ Paul-Henri baron d'Holbach
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Re: Why pi is wrong

Unread postby Azmodan Kijur » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:53 pm

Damned straight - it's all about the cake, baby. Rich, chocolaty cake, smothered in whipped cream and some raspberry sauce ...

Then again, I am reminded of the internet meme - Save your Fork, there's pie" :)

Seriously, this looks to be somewhat common sense, but I don't think it'll take hold really. Too many books and other places that quote pi for their circular workings.
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Re: Why pi is wrong

Unread postby UnwantedSunbeam » Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:27 pm

Surely the revision of mathematical principals in inevitable. As our understanding of other sciences changes and grows, so must basic math. In every culture you will get those who are intolerant of change and insist that the old ways are the only correct path.
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don't know", Alice answered. "Then", said the cat, "It doesn't matter.”
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