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The Circle of Life

Pi is a very surprising thing.

Pie can also be very surprising.  In fact, surprise pie has long been a staple of physical comedy.  But right now I want to focus on this kind of pi: π

Pi is the number you get if you take the distance around a circle (its circumference) and divide it by the distance across the circle (its diameter).  That number comes out to be 3.1415926… (Pi is a transcendental number – the numbers after the decimal point go on forever and never form a repeating pattern!) …no matter what size circle you begin with!  ALL circles give pi when you divide their circumference by their diameter.  Weird!  I mean, why should that happen?  There’s no logical reason that says it should be a constant (you don’t get the same deal with a square or a triangle, for example), but it is…and it’s one of the most important numbers in the universe.

The transcendental number pi. Courtesy the universe.

We find pi everywhere, because we find circles everywhere!  Stars, planets, nebulae, orbits, explosions…they all involve circles in some way or another.  Nature is full of circles!  Check it out – now that the weather is getting nicer, go outside for a walk.  How many circles can you find?  Stones?  The Sun?  The Moon?  Puddles?  Ponds?  Flowers?  Trees?  You’ll find circles everywhere if you just go looking.

Since the number pi begins 3.14…March 14th is often celebrated as Pi Day.  And since it also happens to be the second Saturday of the month this year, the Virginia Living Museum will be celebrating Pi Day at our monthly Stargazing and Laser Light Night event!  We’ve also moved into Daylight Saving Time, so FREE observing will begin a little later – around 7:30pm.  But come early, as we will have fun science activities involving lots of circles!  Shows in the planetarium begin at 6:30pm – you can check it all out on our website.  The café will have a $3.14 special, and of course, we’ll have some of that other kind of pie FREE too (and coffee – hey, ya gotta wash it down!).  Come on out this Saturday starting at 6pm and have a (circular) ball!  See you there!

Kelly

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