Hey Heather, it's me again.

American pi

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Hey Heather, it’s me again.

I saw this video on Numberphile about how the state of Indiana tried to redefine π as 3.2 back in 1897. Now if this already sounds irrational to you then the next bit will seem bonkers. The man who came up with this “proof” wanted to copyright it so that anyone who would use the proof would have to pay him royalties, with the exception of the state of Indiana if they adopted the proposed bill #246. The Wikipedia article on the bill says :

the main result claimed by the bill is a method to square the circle, rather than to establish a certain value for the mathematical constant π, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

While the bill doesn’t directly say that π should be changed, his proof does implicitly indicate it. You can read the text of the bill here. In section 2 it says that “the ratio of the diameter and circumference is as five-fourths to four” so 4 ÷ (5/4), which is 3.2. After passing in the House of Representatives, the bill was mocked and rejected by the Senate. Apparently the Senate made bad puns and mocked it for half an hour. I searched a bit and couldn’t find if any of the mocking had been transcribed somewhere.

While reading on this I learned that the letter “π” is actually the first letter of the Greek words “περιφέρεια” ‘periphery’ and “περίμετρος” ‘perimeter’.

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