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Mathematicians Want to Say Goodbye to Pi

I was always bad at math in school, but there was always one thing even the worst math students could remember: pi equals about 3.14. Now the importance of pi in mathematics is being challenged. So take that seventh grade math teacher.

Last year, Palais’ followers gave the new constant, 2pi, a name: tau. Since then, the tau movement has steadily grown, with its members hoping to replace pi as it appears in textbooks and calculators with tau, the true idol of math. Yesterday — 6/28 — they even celebrated Tau Day in math events worldwide.

But is pi really “wrong”? And if it is, why is tau better?

The mathematicians aren’t saying that pi has been wrongly calculated. Its value is still approximately 3.14, as it always was. Rather they argue that 3.14 isn’t the value that matters most when it comes to circles. Palais originally argued that pi should be changed to equal (approximately) 6.28 while others prefer giving that number a new name altogether.

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August 18th, 2011

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Stranger to the World

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