Sorry, but You’re Still Wrong: A Partly Corrected Pi Day

I may take it as a good sign that people are questioning the arbitrarity of conventions, but this article hasn’t properly fully baked the idea. The article claims that the celebration of Pi Day on March 14 is “an archaic and local convention”, and suggests alternative dates for celebrating π. Unfortunately, these alternative dates are founded upon artificial and arbitrary conventions still, although I will give kudos for at least thinking beyond the normal line of thought.

First of all, picking the day that happens to be January 1st is artificial: there is nothing naturally special about that date for the start of the year and is only an aged human convention; a significant transition of the moon or an apsis (I would argue for aphelion) is a much less arbitrary date to perform year partitioning at. If you decide that using days to measure pi instead of the SI seconds is inferior, why do you not consider measuring against January 1st to be inferior to measuring against an apsis?

Speaking of which, do you think SI is actually the proper way to measure pi? Don’t you think a power of ten times pi (speaking of which, powers of ten…) periods of caesium-133 ground state hyperfine transition radiation is actually based on a natural rather than an artificial standard? Those numbers like 9192631770 in the definitions of SI units are human-decided. I agree that days are from the experimental view not “suited to the dignity of science”, but your propositions are not suited to the dignity of mathematics, as you have not fully embraced the elegance of simplicity. And π is a mathematical constant, not a number of seconds in a natural phenomenon.

One last note: there is substantial evidence that tau, rather than pi, is the proper circle constant. Fortunately, the degree to which tau is better to use than pi is rather negligible, so there’s nothing wrong with being friendly with both. But if you decide to bash tau as utter heresy, then I’m afraid you’re just reflecting that you have not looked all the way through the problem with an eye for unjustified convention.

Happy birthday, Albert Einstein.


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