[ugrads] Pi Day Poem

Hemanshu Kaul kaul at iit.edu
Thu Mar 14 12:33:29 CDT 2019

Hello all

It's 3/14 and Pi day here in US. AWM has organized a fun celebration that
you must have heard of (Kiah showed me some fun Pi themed buttons
yesterday). For me growing up in India, 22nd July (22/7) was "Pi day". And
22/7 is a better approximation to Pi than 3.14 so I will remain partial to
that date :-)

I just wanted to share a beautiful poem by Wislawa Szymborska, one of the
great poets of the 20th century, on this day.

by Wisława Szymborska

The admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also initial,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can’t be comprehended six five three five at a glance,
eight nine by calculation,
seven nine or imagination,
not even three two three eight by wit, that is,
by comparison
four six to anything else
two six four three in the world.
The longest snake on earth calls it quits at about forty feet.
Likewise, snakes of myth and legend, though they may hold out a bit longer.
The pageant of digits comprising the number pi
doesn’t stop at the page’s edge.
It goes on across the table, through the air,
over a wall, a leaf, a bird’s nest, clouds,
straight into the sky,
through all the bottomless, bloated heavens.
Oh how brief — a mouse tail, a pigtail — is the tail of a comet!
How feeble the star’s ray, bent by bumping up against space!
While here we have two three fifteen three hundred nineteen
my phone number your shirt size the year
nineteen hundred and seventy-three the sixth floor
the number of inhabitants sixty-five cents
hip measurement two fingers a charade, a code,
in which we find hail to thee, blithe spirit, bird thou never wert
alongside ladies and gentlemen, no cause for alarm,
as well as heaven and earth shall pass away,
but not the number pi, oh no, nothing doing,
it keeps right on with its rather remarkable five,
its uncommonly fine eight,
its far from final seven,
nudging, always nudging a sluggish eternity
to continue."

(Translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.)

If you are curious about more poetry about mathematics, stop by my office
sometime. I will be happy to chat. There is a lot that can read and done on
this theme.

Wishing you all a fruitful spring break,

Hemanshu Kaul
Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics
Co-Director, Graduate Program on Decision Sciences (CDSOR)
Illinois Institute of Technology
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