Pi Is Still Wrong, And Math Is Still the Foundation of Computing

We recently celebrated Pi Day to commemorate that elusive number that cannot be fully expressed. Do you know why? Because it's an irrational number. Pi is remembered on March 14. Why? Because Pi is most commonly approximated as 3.14.

(Did you know, there's also Pi Approximation Day? Can you guess when? It's July 22. Can you guess why? Because 22/7 is a common approximation of Pi.)

Most of us working in the endlessly challenging field of information technology don't often get to deal directly with math during our daily working lives. Math is that unsung hero, quietly making it all possible.

It is, however, useful (and humbling) to remember occasionally that math is, in fact, the foundation of computing. And there are so many fascinating mathematical problems still waiting to be solved.

Therefore, without further ado, let me whet your appetite with this intriguing blog post by a young mathematician at MIT, explaining why Pi might actually be WRONG!

And if you're keen on further exploring this vast subject, I recommend Introduction to the Theory of Computation by Michael Sipser, a crisply (and simply) written expose on the math that forms the bedrock of computing.

Our computing community churns out new programming languages at a fairly healthy rate. Often these new languages hope to replace Java (1995) or C# (2001) as the new standard. But even when they don't achieve the pinnacle, one cannot help but marvel at the ingenuity that goes into writing a new language, often creating a new programming paradigm. Recent gifts to the computing community include Perl (1987), Python (1991), Visual Basic (1991), Ruby (1993), Delphi (1995), JavaScript (1995), PHP (1995), Scala (2003), Clojure (2007), Groovy (2007), Go (2009), and most recently Ceylon (2010). Sipser's book contains a wonderful "big picture" treatment of the topics one must understand in order to truly comprehend (or perhaps create) a programming language.

If you're interested (and are a glutton for punishment), here are some recommended links for further reading.


Enjoy, and don't forget to thank math for making computing possible!

Comments

  1. Celebrate tau day instead! http://tauday.com

    ReplyDelete

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