CLOSE
Original image

Happy Pi Day!

Original image

Happy Pi Day, everyone! March 14 (3.14) at 1:59 (you get the idea) is the peak of Pi Day, a celebration of the Greek letter which represents the irrational number by which the diameter of a circle is multiple in order to obtain the circumference ... but you guys knew that, right?

The sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, p, was first used for the familiar value 3.1415"¦ in the publication, "Synopsis Palmariorium Mathesios," authored by William Jones in 1706, though the fact that "the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle is the same for all circles, and that it is slightly more than 3, was known to ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian and Greek geometers." 2006 was the 300th Anniversary of the introduction of the mathematical symbol pi. (Here's more on the history of Pi.)

Be prepared for 3.14.2009 by ordering a mental_floss "Simple as 3.141592..." shirt (men's or women's). Keep reading for more pi facts.

pi2.jpgWhen I was in high school, my math teacher, Ms. Coffield, encouraged us to celebrate Pi Day for extra credit, but it always turned out to be much more. Some students made necklaces, I wrote a poem, and others competed to see who could memorize the most digits. In this video, savant Daniel Tammet discusses with David Letterman how he recited 22,514 digits of pi from memory on Pi Day 2004.

From our Amazing Fact Generator: "In 1897, Indiana tried to pass a bill stating that pi is equal to 3.2 as opposed to its truly infinite value, but it never became law due to an intervention by a Purdue University professor."

Unfortunately, even in 2008, some people are confused about pi. Check out this picture below taken by a student at Georgia Southern (sent to me via my high school math teacher), where someone thought Pi Day was March 13, and that the digits were 3.13 ...
pi-313.jpg
When I was asking for Weekend Links awhile back, Brian from San Francisco sent in this gem regarding pi that I saved until now:

"A work I am continually impressed by is "Poe, E.: Near a Raven," a constrained writing experiment that encodes 740 digits of Pi in a poem evoking Poe's 'The Raven.'" It's pretty cool, and helps illustrate that the concept of pi is all around us!

So today, try and have more fun with pi! Find out if your birthday is in the first 1254543 digits. And if you think you know all there is to know about 3.14, try your hand at this quiz. For those who are huge fans of pi, you can now smell irrational, too.

How many digits of pi do you know? This song may help. Does anyone else celebrate Pi Day? What are some of your activities or memories from it?

Original image
FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
Original image
FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

Original image
Courtesy Murdoch University
arrow
Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
Original image
Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios