The number Pi (π)

The number Pi (π)

The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi” (/paɪ/).

Being an irrational number, π cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction (equivalently, its decimal representation never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern). Still, fractions such as 22/7 and other rational numbers are commonly used to approximate π. The digits appear to be randomly distributed. In particular, the digit sequence of π is conjectured to satisfy a specific kind of statistical randomness, but to date no proof of this has been discovered. Also, π is a transcendental number – a number that is not the root of any non-zero polynomial having rational coefficients. This transcendence of π implies that it is impossible to solve the ancient challenge of squaring the circle with a compass and straightedge.

Ancient civilizations needed the value of π to be computed accurately for practical reasons. It was calculated to seven digits, using geometrical techniques, in Chinese mathematics and to about five in Indian mathematics in the 5th century AD. The historically first exact formula for π, based on infinite series, was not available until a millennium later, when in the 14th century the Madhava–Leibniz series was discovered in Indian mathematics.In the 20th and 21st centuries, mathematicians and computer scientists discovered new approaches that, when combined with increasing computational power, extended the decimal representation of π to, as of 2015, over 13.3 trillion (1013) digits. Practically all scientific applications require no more than a few hundred digits of π, and many substantially fewer, so the primary motivation for these computations is the human desire to break records. However, the extensive calculations involved have been used to test supercomputers and high-precision multiplication algorithms.

Because its definition relates to the circle, π is found in many formulae in trigonometry and geometry, especially those concerning circles, ellipses or spheres. Because of its special role as an eigenvalue, π appears in areas of mathematics and the sciences having little to do with the geometry of circles, such as number theory and statistics. It is also found in cosmology, thermodynamics, mechanics and electromagnetism. The ubiquity of π makes it one of the most widely known mathematical constants both inside and outside the scientific community: Several books devoted to it have been published, the number is celebrated on Pi Day and record-setting calculations of the digits of π often result in news headlines. Attempts to memorize the value of π with increasing precision have led to records of over 70,000 digits.

Irrationality and normality

π is an irrational number, meaning that it cannot be written as the ratio of two integers (fractions such as 22/7 are commonly used to approximate π, but no common fraction (ratio of whole numbers) can be its exact value).] Because π is irrational, it has an infinite number of digits in its decimal representation, and it does not settle into an infinitely repeating pattern of digits. There are several proofs that π is irrational; they generally require calculus and rely on the reductio ad absurdum technique. The degree to which π can be approximated by rational numbers (called the irrationality measure) is not precisely known; estimates have established that the irrationality measure is larger than the measure of e or ln(2) but smaller than the measure of Liouville numbers.

The digits of π have no apparent pattern and have passed tests for statistical randomness, including tests for normality; a number of infinite length is called normal when all possible sequences of digits (of any given length) appear equally often. The conjecture that π is normal has not been proven or disproven.

Since the advent of computers, a large number of digits of π have been available on which to perform statistical analysis. Yasumasa Kanada has performed detailed statistical analyses on the decimal digits of π and found them consistent with normality; for example, the frequencies of the ten digits 0 to 9 were subjected to statistical significance tests, and no evidence of a pattern was found. Any random sequence of digits contains arbitrarily long subsequences that appear non-random, by the infinite monkey theorem. Thus, because the sequence of π’s digits passes statistical tests for randomness, it contains some sequences of digits that may appear non-random, such as a sequence of six consecutive 9s that begins at the 762nd decimal place of the decimal representation of π.

Antiquity

The best known approximations to π dating before the Common Era were accurate to two decimal places; this was improved upon in Chinese mathematics in particular by the mid first millennium, to an accuracy of seven decimal places. After this, no further progress was made until the late medieval period.

Some Egyptologists have claimed that the ancient Egyptians used an approximation of π as

22/7 from as early as the Old Kingdom.This claim has met with skepticism.

The earliest written approximations of π are found in Egypt and Babylon, both within one percent of the true value. In Babylon, a clay tablet dated 1900–1600 BC has a geometrical statement that, by implication, treats π as 25/8 = 3.125. In Egypt, the Rhind Papyrus, dated around 1650 BC but copied from a document dated to 1850 BC, has a formula for the area of a circle that treats π as (16/9)2 ≈ 3.1605.

Astronomical calculations in the Shatapatha Brahmana (ca. 4th century BC) use a fractional approximation of 339/108 ≈ 3.139 (an accuracy of 9×10−4). Other Indian sources by about 150 BC treat π as √10 ≈ 3.1622

Polygon approximation era

The first recorded algorithm for rigorously calculating the value of π was a geometrical approach using polygons, devised around 250 BC by the Greek mathematician Archimedes. This polygonal algorithm dominated for over 1,000 years, and as a result π is sometimes referred to as “Archimedes’ constant”. Archimedes computed upper and lower bounds of π by drawing a regular hexagon inside and outside a circle, and successively doubling the number of sides until he reached a 96-sided regular polygon. By calculating the perimeters of these polygons, he proved that

23/71 < π <22/7 (that is 3.1408 < π < 3.1429). Archimedes’ upper bound of 22/7

may have led to a widespread popular belief that π is equal to 22/7.Around 150 AD, Greek-Roman scientist Ptolemy, in his Almagest, gave a value for π of 3.1416, which he may have obtained from Archimedes or from Apollonius of Perga.

Mathematicians using polygonal algorithms reached 39 digits of π in 1630, a record only broken in 1699 when infinite series were used to reach 71 digits.

In ancient China, values for π included 3.1547 (around 1 AD), √10 (100 AD, approximately 3.1623), and 142/45 (3rd century, approximately 3.1556). Around 265 AD, the Wei Kingdom mathematician Liu Hui created a polygon-based iterative algorithm and used it with a 3,072-sided polygon to obtain a value of π of 3.1416. Liu later invented a faster method of calculating π and obtained a value of 3.14 with a 96-sided polygon, by taking advantage of the fact that the differences in area of successive polygons form a geometric series with a factor of 4. The Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi, around 480 AD, calculated that π ≈ 355/113

(a fraction that goes by the name Milü in Chinese), using Liu Hui’s algorithm applied to a 12,288-sided polygon. With a correct value for its seven first decimal digits, this value of 3.141592920… remained the most accurate approximation of π available for the next 800 years.

The Indian astronomer Aryabhata used a value of 3.1416 in his Āryabhaṭīya (499 AD). Fibonacci in c. 1220 computed 3.1418 using a polygonal method, independent of Archimedes. Italian author Dante apparently employed the value 3+√2/10 ≈ 3.14142.

The Persian astronomer Jamshīd al-Kāshī produced 9 sexagesimal digits, roughly the equivalent of 16 decimal digits, in 1424 using a polygon with 3×228 sides, which stood as the world record for about 180 years. French mathematician François Viète in 1579 achieved 9 digits with a polygon of 3×217 sides.Flemish mathematician Adriaan van Roomen arrived at 15 decimal places in 1593.In 1596, Dutch mathematician Ludolph van Ceulen reached 20 digits, a record he later increased to 35 digits (as a result, π was called the “Ludolphian number” in Germany until the early 20th century).Dutch scientist Willebrord Snellius reached 34 digits in 1621,and Austrian astronomer Christoph Grienberger arrived at 38 digits in 1630 using 1040 sides,which remains the most accurate approximation manually achieved using polygonal algorithms.

 

 

 

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