For those of us who write the date the other way around, March the 14th is Pi day. A day set aside out of the yearly circle, a 1/365th of the time given to us, is dedicated to the mysterious number that is represented by Pi, or Π as it is otherwise written, being the Greek notation of the sound. Now calculated to millions of decimal places, at first by hand but now by super computers, this never ending number has been instrumental in the discovery of some of the universe's most well kept secrets. When we thought up the method of mathematics, probably to represent some kind of trade, is it possible that these early people had any concept of the extent to which their little analogy for life was capable of going? Did they realise that their method of representing actual transactions with symbols and formulae would spur the growth of civilization to the point of travelling to other worlds? Without mathematics, space travel would be impossible, nautical travel would be a deadly gamble, and computing would simply not exist.
No-one knows who first invented numbers and no-one knows who first discovered a Pi like number, and yet the Babylonians and the Ancient Greeks have been discovered to have known its approximate value. The Egyptians are extremely likely to have known it too, seeing how they placed their Pyramids in the right place to align with the cosmic clock of the Milky Way. A pure understanding of the geometry of a circle would be required to accurately map such a thing.
Pi, combined with other principles such as Pythagoras, Newtonian formulae and the principles of trigonometry allow us to map the universe around us with the notion that what works on paper in a diagram can be translated into any sized distances. By plotting distances to the Sun, and then to other stars by using these principles, astronomers have discovered how vast our home truly is.
Geometrics find their way into art all the time, the divine ratio which is related to Phi, another Greek notation representing a fixed value, has been used to establish a feeling of visual beauty and conformity for centuries. Circles, squares, and triangles make up nearly every aspect of material design, as their surfaces and vertices can be easily predicted, rescaled and computed to produce a vast array of structures. These are perhaps primary shapes, like colours, where in others can be formed from the basic ingredients.
The importance of number and its application is significant to all of us. If we do not understand it, have trouble grasping the basics, then we are losing out. It is worth giving it a go, learn how numbers are related to the world around us, how the formula of science and algebra can be used to allow human beings to do incredible things. Advanced mathematics is not for all, and yet, a small knowledge on this huge subject is within the grasp of all.
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