Slices of pi

God! I need a drink --
Alcoholic, of course --
After all those lectures
Involving radical equations.

There is in mathematical circles (no pun intended) a great and lengthy tradition of making mnemonics to memorize the digits of pi:

pi = 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 502....

In a traditional pi mnemonic, such as the one above, the number of characters in each word is used to represent a digit of pi, with the ocassional 10-, 11-, 12, or 14-digit word denoting two digits of pi. Punctuation is ignored.


May I draw a circle?
-- Anon, found in Dmitri Borgmann's >Language on Vacation, 1965

Yes, I have a number.
-- H. E. Licks, Recreations in Matheematics, 1917


Wow, I made a great discovery!

3.14159 2

Now I need a verse recalling pi.
--Irene Fisher & Dunstan Hayden, Geoometry, 1965

3.14159 265

How I wish I could enumerate pi easily today.

Yes, I know I shall recollect my number right.
--Wallace Lee, Math Miracles,, 1960

May I draw a round enclosure as circle known?
--Dmitri Borgmann, Language on Vacattion, 1965

3.14159 26535

May I have a large container of coffee, sugar and cream?

3.14159 26536 (rounded)

But I must a while endeavour
To reckon right the ratios.
--Anon, Mathematical Gazette,, vol. 10, October 1921

3.14159 26535 8

Sir! I send a rhyme excelling
In sacred truth and rigid spelling.
--F. R. S., Nature, vol. 72, no. 1875, October 1905

3.14159 26535 8979

The mathematician's version:
God! I need a drink --
Alcoholic, of course --
After all those lectures
Involving radical equations.

The physicist's version:
How I want a drink,
Alcoholic of course,
After the heavy chapters
Involving quantum equations.
--Sir James Jeans, c. 1932

3.14159 26535 89793 2384

Now I have a score notations
Of digits large and small,
teaching diameter's precise relations,
And we can remember 'tall.
--G. E. Gude, Scientific American Suupplement, vol. 77, no. 1994, March 1914

3.14159 26535 89793 23846

How I wish I could recollect pi.
Eureka! cried the great inventor.
Christmas pudding, Christmas pie
Is the problem's very center.
--Anon, found in Alan D. Baddeley's >The Pyschology of Memory, 1976

Now I sing a silly roundelay
Of radical roots, and utter "Lackaday!
Euclidean results imperfect are, my boy...
Mnemonic arts employ!"
--Willard R. Espy, An Almanac of Worrds at Play, 1975

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 264

Now I know a spell unfailing,
An artful charm, for tasks availing,
Intricate results entailing.
Not in too exact a mood...
(Poetry is pretty good!)
--Anon, Nature, vol. 72, no. 1878, October 1905.

How I want a drink,
Alcoholic of course,
After the heavy chapters
Involving quantum equations.
All of thy geometry,
Herr Planck, is fairly hard.
--Anonymous extension to Sir Jeans' famouss mnemonic above.

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 8

For circumscribing a round enclosure or circle, every man
might remember ingenious numbers measuring one by one
diameter into circle or circle upon its own diameter...
--Anon, Mathematical Gazette,, vol. 4, no. 65, July 1907.

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279

See, I have a rhyme assisting
My feeble brain, its tasks sometime resisting,
Efforts laborious can by its witchery
Grow easier, so hidden here are
The decimals all of circle's periphery.
--L. R. Stokelbach, The Scientific AAmerican Supplement, no. 1994, March 1914.

Now I -- even I -- would celebrate
In rhymes unapt, the great
Immortal Syracusan, rivaled nevermore
Who in his wondrous lore
Passed on before,
Left men his guidance how to circles mensurate.
--Adam C. Orr, Lierary Digest, vol. 32, no. 3, January 1906.

Now I will a rhyme construct,
By chosen words the young instruct,
Cunningly devised endeavors
Con it and remember ever
Widths in circle here you see
Sketched out in strange obscurity.
--Anon, The Dark Horse, 1951.

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 5

Sir: I wish I could recapture my memory about Sir
Jeans' diabolic mnemonics! However, invention
now of any reliable easy phrase is beyond what shy
and fumbling aid my present intellect gives.
--Bill Powers, found in Willey Ley's The Borders of Mathematics, 1967.

May I have a month, professor,
To figure these, you brain assessor?
Calculate, student, calculate now!
As the figuring gets longer,
My friend, hope you get stronger
And no figures incorrect allow!
--Aaron L. Buchman, School Science aand Mathematics, 1953.

You I sing, O ratio undefined
By strict assay and lined,
Sequence limitless. Stunned regarding you,
We see eternity -- alas -- unwind
In random cast and rue,
Dejected out of measure, reckoning blind.
--John Freund, The Mathematics Teachher, vol. 62, 1969.

May I tell a story purposing to render clear
the ratio circular perimeter-breaths, revealing
one of the problems most famous in modern days,
and the greatest man of science anciently known.
--C. J. Jackson, Mathematical Gazettte, vol. 4, 1907.

Other useful ways to approximate pi

Archimede's estimate: 22/7
This gives 3.14.

Chinese estimate: 335/113
This gives 3.141592, and can itself be rememebered as "1-1-3-into-3-5-5," with pairs of the first three odd numbers.

And, of course, God's estimate: 3
Really! Check out 1 Kings 7:23, or 2 Chronicles 4:2.

Pi Limericks

'Tis a favorite project of mine
A new value of pi to assign.
I would fix it at 3
For it's simpler, you see,
Than 3.14159...

If inside a circle a line
Hits the center and goes spine to spine
And the line's length is d
the circumference will be
d times 3.14159...

One last thought

Now I need a drink --
Alcoholic, of course --
After all these snippets
Involving precise mnemonics.
--Travis, Pi Day 2006