*NASA scientists keep the space station operational with only 15 or 16 significant digits of pi, and the fundamental constants of the universe only require 32. Yet in 2006 Akira Haraguchi of Japan recited 100,000 digits of pi from memory in 16 ½ hours, stopping for five minutes every hour to replenish his strength with onigiri rice balls. And the world record for number of digits of pi computed is 10 trillion, at least as of October 2011. Pi computation can be used to test computer precision, but I think this is a symptom of pi-mania rather than a legitimate need for pi. Other numbers could be used just as meaningfully, but we choose to use pi.*

*It seems that we know, and strive to discover, many, many more digits of pi than we need for any practical application on Earth, or even in the part of space we can hope to get to right now. I guess the endlessness of the decimal representation just fascinates people. Haraguchi, the pi reciter, told The Japan Times that his memorization of pi is part of his quest for eternal truth. For some, it is probably a challenge: How far can I go? We want to push our limits, and memorizing pages of numbers seems pointless until we give it the halo of pi.*

Read the full Pi Approximation Day post at Roots of Unity.

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