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Happy Pi Day!

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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 ...
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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?

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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