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[ The Useless Pages ]
The Uselessness of Pi: The Movie

Frustra laborant quotquot se calculationibus fatigant pro inventione quadraturae circuli.
(Futile is the labor of those who fatigue themselves with calculations to square the circle.)
- Michael Stifel (1544)

There is an even better (albeit much longer) quote about pi that I found from the same source.

This page is dedicated to Ludolph Van Ceulen.

Are you wondering why there's no Dilbert cartoon here?

For offline fun, read The Joy of Pi by David Blatner or go see Pi: The Movie.

Now you can even SMELL the part of pi by wearing Pi: The Perfume!

Pi. It's a number with some character, transcendental, irrational, difficult to pin down. The history of pi is fascinating, and I would find a web page detailing the events and intrigue surrounding pi a worthy effort. (Wow! Eve Andersson, pi watchdog extraordinaire, has informed me that such a page actually exists! Pi through the ages is the happenin' pi locale.) Pi's friends, e, the square root of 2, and others have similarly interesting backgrounds.

But how often do you need to view the numbers themselves??? Oh, Bob and I had this little wager about what the 367,129th digit of pi is. Rather than come to blows over the matter, we just zipped over to one of the many handy pi pages and checked for ourselves. Isn't the Web great?

Hey, kids! Don't forget March 14th is Pi Day!


There are so many pages about pi now (as well as pages about the digits of pi - really, they ARE two separate things!) that I have put them on their own page. You can, however, see numbers that are not pi.


Yes, other numbers have fan clubs, but pi has inspired such fanatical loyalty that people have formed violent street gangs. We at The Useless Pages abhor any form of violence not being done to Barney the Dinosaur, so parents, make sure your kids do NOT join any of these gangs:

Olle Mnemonic

Here's a tip if you want to join any of these elite organizations - "How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics!" is a mnemonic device for remembering the first 15 digits (including the first "3"). Note how the number of letters is the same as each respective digit. Clever, eh? A more clever way was submitted by A.Q. (Tony) King, who credits this to "I believe the source is "The World of Mathematics" (James. R. Nueman?)", which is good enough for us:

 I even I
 Would celebrate  
 In rhymes unapt
 The great immortal Syracusan
 Rivaled nevermore
 Who in his wondrous lore
 Passed on before
 Gave men his guidance
 How to circles mensurate

  • An even MORE clever way to remember is to memorize this poem.
  • For those of you are from India, there's one for you, too!
  • Jeff has a particularly stupid way of memorizing it.
  • A crazed fan of this section sent us his own mnemonics.

Thar's gold in them thar numbers!

Further pi weirdness springs from the head of Jonathan Katz, creator of the Where is your Birthday in PI? page. Dave Andersen boldly refuses to limit his users to birthdays and offers the Pi-Search page, in which you can find just about any number, which recently improved itself so now you can search the first 50,000,000 digits! Meanwhile, there's some other folks who are estimating the value of pi but they're going the wrong way!

Anders Andersson (No relationship to Eve) has observed that UCLA sallies forth only 99,995 digits rather than the 100,000 I originally claimed. He also noticed that Roy actually offered only 49,980 instead of his self-proclaimed 50K, and furthermore that only the first 15,093 digits of Roy's file agree with UCLA's, which means somebody is providing tens of thousands of incorrect digits of pi. Thanks to Anders for his watchful eye! He has a future in this business for sure.

After the addition of the paragraph above, Roy felt it incumbent on him, for obvious reasons, to extend the odious comparison of people's digits, and has discovered that Project Gutenberg, Christophe, and Cornell all agree with his 15094th digit, which is a 3, and UCLA stands alone in claiming the aforementioned to be a 4. (I (Paul) hear that UCLA has an initiative on the ballot to decree pi exactly equal to 3.2. Those wacky Southern Californians!)

In the "but nobody asked" catagory, there is proof of the rationality of pi.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of email we have to put up with:

james zalas
To: useless@infospace.com
Subject: Pi joke

I thought you would find this amusing.

What do you call what happens when you cut a pumpkin by its diameter?
Give up? Pumpkin Pi! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Pi People

Olle told me about a game where you try to transform e to pi, however, it only works in Netscape 2.0. Having seen it myself, I can now definitely say that I should DEFINITELY use Lynx as a browser.


Mathematicians are not known for their artistic whims. Whether or not these links prove or disprove that you can use your left AND right brain at the same time, I will leave that to someone else.

Speaking of music, Rebecca Brannon, who I think would get along well with Eve, tells me that she once discovered the value of pi to 23 places fits the tune of "America" from West Side Story:

three point one four one five nine,
two six five three five eight nine,
seven nine three two three eight four,
six two six and a whole lot more.

Meanwhile, someone sent us the following limericks:

Tis a favorite project of mine
A new value of pi to assign.
I would fix it at 3
For it's simpler, you see,
Than 3 point 1 4 1 5 9

   -Author was one H.L. Carter

I used to think math was no fun
'Cause I couldn't see how it was done.
Now Euler's my hero
For I now see why 0

   -Communicated by J.M. Unger

(For the mathematically challenged, the last line reads "equals 3 to the i pi plus one")

I (Steve) was just informed by some guy named Paul that the last line of that second limerick should be:

e^(i*pi) + 1

Which, for you folks who are still mathematically challenged, reads:

(is/equals) e to the i (times) pi plus one.
(The parts in parentheses are optional; pick the one you think sounds best)


For the do-it-yourselfer. Now, for you people paying costly connect time, you can just ftp one of these babies and calculate pi in the privacy of your own home, any time, day or night, as many times as you want!

Unless otherwise specified, all of the source codes below are in "C". Also note that for the binary files you'll have to do whatever it is your browser does to save files to disk (for example, in Netscape, hold down the shift key while clicking on the link).

Harry Smith, creator of the Windows program above, informed me that Pi in base 36 is: 3.53I5A B8P5F SA5JH K72I8 ASC47 WWZLA CLJJ9 ZN98L TXM61 VYMS1 FRYTC I4U2Q FRA2V JAW70 CH6J1 53P3Z 9ZL55 UKZL0 KAPWJ YGJOU 067IY 9WNZD Z9N4J LTEDT IW2B6 5ACRP IL 9LJ 26ST5 C8FX8 S5LPS. On a similar note, Reg Harbeck says "If you treat the letter A as 1 and Z as 26, then the 3 plus the first 7 digits of Pi could be seen as spelling C.NOIZE."

And if you REALLY want proof mathematicians can be just as loony as any mad scientist, you need look no further than The Search for Intelligent Life in Pi.


Other number pages

Prime Time

Lately prime numbers have been getting a lot of press. Naturally, they've been getting a lot of pages about them, too. Here are a few:

Thoughts on the merits of pi web pages

Note: This page has gotten so long that I threw the comments onto another page.

Talking about comments, here's a comment by an irate reader in response to an article that was published in The Scientist.

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