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Pi Day pie
The pie shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood known as Pie goes all-out for Pi Day. (Pie via Facebook)

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.

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