Mystical pi

Pi is the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference. The decimal fraction goes on forever without repeating any pattern of digits. It is also an irrational and a transcendental number, if that sort of thing turns you on.

Here’s a video of a young lady balancing fifteen books on her head, reciting pi to the 100th digit, and manipulating a Rubik’s Cube:
You don’t believe me? Watch the video. It’s true.

And that’s nothing: Akira Haraguchi, 60, of Mabara, Japan, has recited Pi to 100,000 decimal places. It took him sixteen hours, with breaks for rice balls.

And here’s a video of a four-year-old reciting the first 50 digits of pi in less than ten seconds:
I didn’t believe it at first, but it’s true.

But who would have thought that the cheerleaders for the University of Chicago football team (the “Maroons”, so called since 1894) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology football team (and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute team, and several others) all know the ratio pi off by heart to five decimal figures? That’s not a lot of decimal places, but it’s a lot of athletic young ladies.

New Zealand rugby players performing a Haka ceremony in front of their Australian opponents before a game, photo courtesy «Sydney Morning Herald».

Pi to five decimal places is part of the unofficial official cheer chanted theatrically before each game, rather like the threatening New Zealand Haka, chanted by New Zealand football players at the start of Australasian rugby games. The exact words and word order of the chant vary wildly, as the chant was composed and is handed down from generation to generation orally, not in writing, but of course pi stays exactly the same. The chant these young people learn and enthusiastically recite goes something like this:

Pericles, Sophocles, Peloponnesian War;
X-Squared, Y-Squared, H2SO4;
Cosine, Tangent, Secant, Line;
Three point one four one five nine!

One of many variations, which I happen to prefer:

Secant, tangent, cosine, sine,
Square root, cube root, log base e,
Cheers for math at MIT.

And another, in a more ironic mode:

Tangent, secant, cosine, sine!
That’s all right! That’s okay!
You’re going to work for us some day!