Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pi Day

Pi Day Countdown

I didn’t know that.

And what about “e” day?

e” is one of those amazing numbers that arises naturally in the scheme of things.

(Others include “pi” π = 3.141592653…, which is the circumference of any circle divided by its diameter; and “phi” φ = 1.6180339887…, which is the so-called “beauty ratio“). Both of these numbers are irrational (that is, their decimals go on forever and never repeat).

e is also an irrational number and it has value:

e = 2.718281828459…

The number e was “discovered” by several mathematicians (Oughtred, Huygens, Jacob Bernoulli, Mercator and Leibniz) but they didn’t quite know they had stumbled on it and didn’t know its significance.

There are some curious properties of e, one of which is that it’s the limiting value as n → ∞ of (1 + 1/n)n.

It can also be found by adding the infinite sum:

e = 1 + 1/1! + 1/2! + 1/3! + …

So what is e good for?

It is used extensively in logarithms (which was the only way to do difficult calculations for hundreds of years before calculators came along), exponential growth (of populations, money or drug concentrations over time) and complex numbers (which were used to design the computer or mobile device you are reading this on).

So happy “e” day (February 7th, or 2/7).

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