## Easy as Pi

Sweet, delicious Pi

π (sometimes written pi) is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any Euclidean plane circle’s circumference to its diameter; this is the same value as the ratio of a circle’s area to the square of its radius. It is approximately equal to 3.14159265 in decimal notation. Many formulae from mathematics, science, and engineering involve π, which makes it one of the most important mathematical constants.

π is an irrational number, which means that its value cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction m/n, where m and n are integers. Consequently, its decimal representation never ends or repeats.

Archimedes in ancient Greece first discovered the concept and value of pi. By constructing polygons within a circle he calculated that the value of pi lay between 3 and 1/17 and 3 and 10/71.  This was a golden age in Greece, the time of Euclid, who created the foundations of classical geometry, and Hero, who built the first steam engine.  It was the time of Pythagoras and Zeno and other great thinkers.  They actually theorized that the earth revolved around the sun and understood atoms.

But now, in 21st-century America, the value of pi may change as the result of legislation. Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Ala.) is sponsoring HR 205, The Geometric Simplification Act, declaring the Euclidean mathematical constant of pi to be precisely 3. The bill comes in response to data and rankings from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, rating the United States’ 15 year-olds 25th in the world in mathematics.

Rep. Roby of The Math Is Too Darn Hard Party.

OECD is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011, and the Paris-based NGO released its international educational rankings, placing the US in a three-way tie for math, equaling Portugal and Ireland, just beneath No. 24 Luxembourg.

“That long-held empirical value of pi, I am not saying it should be necessarily viewed as wrong, but 3 is a lot better,” said Roby, the 34-year old legislator representing Alabama’s second congressional district who was ushered into office in the historic 2010 Republican mid-term bonanza.

Pi has long been defined as the ratio of a circle’s area to the square of its radius, a mathematical constant represented by the Greek letter ” π ” with a value of approximately 3.14159. HR 205 does not change the root definition, per se. The bill simply, and legally, declares pi to be exactly 3.

Roby, raised in Montgomery, Ala., is on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.

Why, oh why, can't Pi just be 3?

“It’s no panacea, but this legislation will point us in the right direction. Looking at hard data, we know our children are struggling with a heck of a lot of the math, including the geometry incorporating pi,” Roby said. “I guarantee you American scores will go up once pi is 3. It will be so much easier.”

This is something out of Woody Allen’s “Bananas” in which Allen, as the dictator of a fictitious South American country, begins issuing insane decrees:

From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish.

In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear

every half hour.

Underwear will be worn on the outside, so we can check.

Etc.

The Alice and Wonderland quality of America today is so over the top as to defy belief. This is how far the country has come from ancient Greece. What must they think in China?  Then again, maybe this is a good thing.  Other countries will conclude that America has gone so insane as to be too dangerous to offend. It is beginning to resemble Qaddafi, who is famous for bizarre pronouncements, among others his statement that faced with millions of Africans wanting to emigrate to Europe, the European Union should pay Libya \$6.3 billion to help keep them out and prevent a “black Europe.”  He didn’t explain exactly how he would do this.

Because America has become just as insane as Qaddafi, perhaps it is presumptuous to assume that the right to unseat him is grounded in good sense.   Once he is gone, what will the Americans do?  Proclaim the religion of Libya to be Scientology?  Make all Libyans wear formal attire on all occasions? Declare the national diet to be Twinkies and prunes?  There is no end to the possibilities.

"...certain theories regarding the shape of the Earth..."

As for American education, this could be just the beginning.   They could decide to abolish calculus, which is really no crazier than abolishing Darwin which is something they very much wish to do.  And of course, there is the really big one: they could declare that the earth is flat.  In Saudi Arabia, until the mid-1950s, it was illegal to teach that the earth wasn’t flat. So why not go back to that? The possibilities are limitless.