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The First 'Pi Day' is Now Possible *

Actually the first 'pi day' will be March 14, 1592 (3.141592...) but you can't have the first pi day without accurately calculating pi out to at least 6 decimal places. But other than the novelty, why should we care? OK... if you are pouring concrete for a circular base for your water tank, or if you are using an auger to drill footings, you will need to know the number of square feet of concrete to have delivered to your job site but circles and cylinders are not square. The formula to make this calculation includes pi as a constant so having a good estimate of pi makes your final answer more accurate. For a small job it probably doesn't matter but as the jobs gets bigger, the errors increase. Many people in history can claim good estimates of pi using various methods. Even the Bible can make a kabbalistic mystical claim. Archimedes made the first generally accepted estimate. However, this year pi is finally presented as an irrational number that can be calculated accurately out to 6 decimal places so now we can have pi day. The man who accomplishes this is a French amateur mathematician, François Viète. His formula is unwieldy but its a first. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
An April Fools joke goes out every once in a while about some legislature passing a law that pi should equal 3 in order to make things easier on students. While ALL of these claims are false, it almost happened in Indiana in 1897. Apparently, as the reasoning went, since pi was one of the "insolvable mysteries and above man's ability to comprehend," a few formulas were presented as proper ways to figure pi that didn't offend the sensibilities of the citizens of Indiana. Amongst the "proper" values was 3.2. Luckily, Professor C. A. Waldo of Purdue University was in attendance during the vote and pointed out their error. (And I can imagine him calling them all dunderheads.) The vote failed and science was saved. Thank you, Professor Waldo! [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

Baby, It's Cold Outside... Hot Chocolate Comes to Europe

Hot chocolate wasn't invented in Switzerland. The word 'chocolate' comes from the Aztec name for the hot beverage they made out of the cocoa bean. Cocoa beans come from a tree that grows in the New World. The Aztecs believe it was brought down to them from the gods. Hence the scientific name for the cocoa tree translates into English as 'food of the gods'. After fermenting and drying, it is ground into a powder and made into a hot beverage which is thought to promote health. They also think it is an aphrodisiac. (Just wait until 'Lady Isabella' gets a swig of this stuff!) The Spaniards begin shipping the beans to Seville in production numbers this year. They will find the taste too bitter but mixing it with some honey or sugar makes it palatable. [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The beans dry to a brownish-purple color. A few rare beans are white so they are at a premium. The myth that chocolate is an aphrodisiac may account for the Spaniards going through the trouble of experimenting with the taste. Given the death rate for women in childbirth at the time, it must have taken a lot of convincing to get 'Lady Isabella' to do her duty for Spain, if you know what I mean. Christopher Columbus accidentally came across the cocoa bean but he didn't know what he had. FYI, turning a cocoa bean into that powder you buy at the grocery store takes a little more work that I'm portraying here. The process wasn't discovered until 1828. Obviously the world still thinks it is worth the trouble, especially when the snow is coming down, and like the old song says, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." [19] [20]

The Anglo-Spanish War and the Sum of Their Fears

The stuff has really hit the fan now. In general, the English have been supporting the Calvinists in small ways in the Netherlands as the Dutch continue their rebellion against Spanish rule. Queen Elizabeth the 1st of England has also authorized privateers to interdict Spanish shipments of gold and goods. Despite the King of Spain's previous marriage to Elizabeth's sister, Queen Mary, and Elizabeth's coy promises (your lips say, 'No, no,' but your eyes say, 'Yes, yes') the King has had enough. After the assassination of the leader of the Dutch rebellion, Queen Elizabeth has signed a treaty offering boots on the ground and enough money to constitute 1/4th of the budget of the rebellion. Sir Francis Drake sails to the New World and sacks Santo Domingo. England has joined the 80 Years' War. [21]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The English military were consistently whining about how much money Queen Elizabeth was spending on the Dutch rebellion while 'starving' the military at home. While fears of a Spanish naval attack were justified, it is not clear how she could have spent enough money to counter the greatest naval armada in the world at that time given her budget constraints. As a percentage of her budget, she was not starving the military at all. This simply proves the quote from Winston Churchill...
Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together - what do you get? The sum of their fears. [22] [23]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1585, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. François Viète - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “François”
  2. Metius. The Galileo Project (2015). Retrieved on 30 April 2015.
  3. History of Mathematics. Rutgers University (2000). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “More importantly, though, Viéte became the first man in history to describe pi using an infinite product. His formula was: 2/pi = ((1/2)(((1/2 + 1/2 ((1/2))(((1/2 + 1/2((1/2 + 1/2(1/2))pi.... Unfortunately, this equation is not too useful in calculating ( because it requires too many iterations before convergence, and the square roots become quite complicated. He did not even use his own formula in his calculation of pi.”
  4. Pi - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “Being an irrational number, π cannot be expressed exactly as a common fraction, although fractions such as 22/7 and other rational numbers are commonly used to approximate π. Consequently its decimal representation never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern. The digits appear to be randomly distributed; however, to date, no proof of this has been discovered. Also, π is a transcendental number π a number that is not the root of any non-zero polynomial having rational coefficients. This transcendence of π implies that it is impossible to solve the ancient challenge of squaring the circle with a compass and straightedge.”
  5. Who Discovered Pi?. Who Discovered It? (2015). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “The individual who can then be said as the one who discovered pi is Archimedes since he is the first one to compute the value of the pi quite accurately.”
  6. Area of a Circle (Real World Example). mathsisfun.com (2014). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “Example: Max is building a house. The first step is to drill holes and fill them with concrete.”
  7. Irrational number - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “Irrational numbers cannot be represented as terminating or repeating decimals. As a consequence of Cantor's proof that the real numbers are uncountable and the rationals countable, it follows that almost all real numbers are irrational.”
  8. Did a state legislature once pass a law saying pi equals 3?. The Straight Dope (February 22, 1991). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “It happened in Indiana. Although the attempt to legislate pi was ultimately unsuccessful, it did come pretty close. In 1897 Representative T.I. Record of Posen county introduced House Bill #246 in the Indiana House of Representatives. The bill, based on the work of a physician and amateur mathematician named Edward J. Goodwin (Edwin in some accounts), suggests not one but three numbers for pi, among them 3.2, as we shall see.”
  9. Alabama's Slice of Pi (FALSE). Snopes (2015). Retrieved on 29 May 2015.
  10. The Indiana Pi Bill. Purdue University Agricultural (2004). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “And be it remembered that these noted problems had been long since given up by scientific bodies as insolvable mysteries and above man's ability to comprehend.”
  11. Indiana Pi Bill - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 29 May 2015. “The bill never became law, due to the intervention of Professor C. A. Waldo of Purdue University, who happened to be present in the legislature on the day it went up for a vote.”
  12. Alex Shrugged notes: I've seen different dates for this discovery so I'm using this one for now. If I'm convinced it was one of the other ones I'll change it.
  13. History of Chocolate - Culture of the Cocoa Bean. About.com (2015). Retrieved on 28 May 2015. “1585 - First official shipments of cocoa beans began arriving in Seville from Vera Cruz, Mexico.”
  14. A Brief History of Chocolate. Smithsonian Magazine (March 1, 2008). Retrieved on 28 May 2015. “Etymologists trace the origin of the word 'chocolate' to the Aztec word 'xocoatl,' which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means 'food of the gods.'”
  15. Chocolate: The Consuming Passion. Workman Publishing (1982). Retrieved on 28 May 2015. “A similar chocolate drink was brought to a royal wedding in France in 1615, and England welcomed chocolate in 1662. To this point 'chocolate' as we spell it today, had been spelled variously as 'chocalatall, 'jocolatte', 'jacolatte', and 'chockelet.”
  16. Chocolate History: Who Invented Chocolate?. Facts About Chocolate (2015). Retrieved on 28 May 2015. “In 1502, Columbus and his son, Ferdinand, were in the area, doing the usual conquering and such, when they came across a dugout canoe laden with supplies. They promptly captured it and ordered the natives to carry the loot on board their ship. In the process, somebody spilled some cacao, and the natives ran for the beans 'as if an eye had fallen from their heads,' according to Ferdinand. Columbus could have been known as the first white guy to 'discover' chocolate, but he blew his chance to make chocolate history by forgetting all about the incident.”
  17. History of chocolate: History in Europe - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 28 May 2015. “After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported to Europe. There, it quickly became a court favorite. It was still served as a beverage, but the Spanish added sugar or honey to counteract the natural bitterness.”
  18. Theobroma cacao - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 31 May 2015. “The generic name is derived from the Greek for 'food of the gods'; from (theos), meaning 'god,' and (broma), meaning 'food'.”
  19. Baby it's cold outside (Neptune's Daughter). YouTube (1949). Retrieved on 31 May 2015. “Neptune's Daughter is a 1949 musical romantic comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett, Keenan Wynn, Xavier Cugat and Mel Blanc.”
  20. Baby It's Cold Outside. YouTube (2015). Retrieved on 31 May 2015.
  21. Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604) - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 31 May 2015. “In 1585, Elizabeth signed the Treaty of Nonsuch with the Dutch rebels, agreeing to provide them with men, horses, and subsidies. Philip took this to be an open declaration of war against his rule in the Netherlands.”
  22. Revue Anglo-Americaine. big-lies.org (December 1929). Retrieved on 28 May 2015. “So.. average annual expenditure on the army and navy was 73% of the whole, 289,000. The average annual expenditure on court and civil administration was 109,000 or 27% of the whole... out of this last item the Queen had to pay all the expenses of the chamber and the House of Lords, civil servants' salaries, pensions to crown annuitants, upkeep of crown buildings, garrison at the Scottish border, garrisons that defended seaports, merchant ships' subsidy, postal service, law expenses, her wardrobe and goldsmiths' bills etc. At the same time she was spending nearly three times as much on her fighting services, and yet no biographer of Shakespeare's so much as hinted that there was a war in progress while the plays were being written and acted. All historians have unanimously asserted that the Queen persistently starved her army and navy of money. One modern authority actually goes so far as to say that it is a misnomer to call the Anglo-Spanish war a war at all. Need we wonder that all historians and biographers have given us a picture of the last seventeen years of Elizabeth's reign that is utterly false and meaningless from beginning to end?”
  23. The Sum of All Fears - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 31 May 2015. “Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together - what do you get? The sum of their fears.”

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