Happy Tau Day

Back in March, we (or at least some of us) celebrated Pi Day.

Now, pi (or π as it is properly written) is one of the best-known mathematical constants.  Any mathematician, engineer or physical scientist could easily quote you π to more decimal places than you’d ever need (and the mathematicians could probably also bore entertain you for hours with talk about how π is not just irrational but transcendental, etc.).  If you stopped a random person on the street and asked them about pi, there’s a fairly good chance (once you’d made it clear you weren’t talking about pie) that they would be able to tell you that it was something to do with circle, even if they couldn’t give you a definite number or a strict definition.

However, there are a few people out there who believe that π is not the best choice for a circle-related mathematical constant.  Instead they advocate the use of τ (tau) = 2π (≈ 6.28).  There are actually some pretty good reasons for this view, well articulated in the Tau Manifesto.  Rather than try to summarise the arguments here, I’ll leave you to read the original article if you are interested.

It seems to me that, while there is a strong case to be made for τ as the better choice for a fundamental constant, the use of π is so deeply entrenched in our culture that it is unlikely to be feasible to make the switch.  Also, since π (as it’s usually mispronounced, at least in the English-speaking scientific world) sounds like pie, it gives us an excuse to celebrate it by eating pie.

There’s no reason why we can’t have our cake (or our pie) and eat it too, by celebrating both Pi Day (14th March, or “3-14”)  and Tau Day (today, i.e. 28th June, or “6-28”).  Since τ  = 2π, the obvious way to celebrate Tau Day is by eating two pies.

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