Today is a good day to give thanks for pi, the magical ratio without which circles would be lumpy misshapen things, wheels would clunk-clunk-clunk, and ball bearings would look like raisins. Pi was invented in 1737 by a Welsh typesetter named Samuel P. Maddock who was in need of a rounder letter O than had been available up to that point. Quickly realizing his invention’s potential, he formed the Grand Rounde Companie in 1738 and promised to “reinvent the wheel.” Thereafter he struggled for several years to secure the financial backing needed to take his invention, which he called the “Maddock,” to a larger market (“This circle of yours sounds wicked and French,” said one banker). Destitute, he eventually was forced to sell out to Leo Pi, who thereby acquired the most lucrative patent in history. To this day, his estate receives licensing fees for every clockface, coin, and bubble.
For some pi-related fun, head over to Pi-Search where you can search for runs of specific numbers in the first two hundred million digits of pi (give or take, depending on how you count the “3” at the beginning). I didn’t find 123456789, but 123456 is in there. More importantly, you can find the run 31415926 starting at position 50,366,472. I have yet to determine if the entire sequence of pi appears in itself somewhere, but I’m off to a good start.
Incidentally, in Europe, today (14.3.2006) is known as Not-Pi Day (or Fourteen and Three Tenths Day in Ireland). (Spotted at tingilinde)