Maybe it’s time to put the pi back in Pi Day.
I remember a time when 3/14 really stood for something: namely, the calendar date that came closest to the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
Yes, I’m talking about pi, or π for the purists out there. 3.14159… Arguably the best-known irrational number in mathematics.
That was the reason why physicist Larry Shaw came up with the traditional Pi Day ceremonies precisely 30 years ago, in 1988. He and his disciples celebrated the first Pi Day at San Francisco’s Exploratorium by consuming slices of pizza and fruit pie, and marching in a circle at 1:59 p.m. (Get it? 3/14 1:59?)
Shaw passed away last year, but the Exploratorium and other shrines of science carry on the March 14 tradition, which also includes remembering Albert Einstein’s birthday. (Sadly, the date now marks the passage of Stephen Hawking as well.)
Seattle’s Center on Contemporary Art, or COCA, has entered into the proper Pi Day spirit by spotlighting “The Beauty of Math” in an art presentation set for 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Seattle Children’s Museum is also planning what will no doubt be an uplifting Pi Day celebration. (I can only assume that the Hula Hoop Hullabaloo will be a teachable moment for some serious geometry.)
But what is to be done about those who use Pi Day as an excuse for pie-eating contests, or geeky-looking pies, or the $3.14 pie specials at Pagliacci Pizza, Whole Foods and QFC? Even Google is slipping from mathematical piety to pie-eaty by including a recipe in its Google Doodle explainer.
Should we roust these hangers-on from our math-minded midst? Or should we embrace the pi/pie puns and give in to gluttony?
After looking through the list … I vote for the latter. So maybe I’ll see you at one of these fine Seattle-area establishments for the Pie Day, er, Pi Day revels.
- Third Annual Pi Day Ride for Pie, a 27-mile jaunt sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club, starting at 10:30 a.m. and reaching its climax with a pie pitstop at A La Mode in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood.
- Pi Day pie eating contest, noon at Seattle’s Occidental Square. Only 10 spots available, first come, first served.
- Pi Day pie eating contest, 2 p.m. at the Lost Lake Cafe. If you work it right, you can get in on both contests.
- Pi Day pies at Pie: The Fremont pie shop goes all-out for Pi Day, with sweet and savory offerings and the requisite $3.14 deals.
- Eight food and drink deals for Pi Day, compiled by Seattle Patch.
- Where to celebrate Pi Day, compiled by Seattle magazine.
- 11 places to celebrate Pi Day, compiled by The Stranger.
- Pi Day, the premier website for pi’s true pilgrims.