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Published 13th Mar 2012
Pi: Mathematical constant. 3.142 to four significant figures. Defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Famously irrational.
In February of this year, a team of Yale University mathematicians published a groundbreaking research paper detailing their most recent findings. Most notably, this paper – entitled A Brief Yet Detailed Insight Into the Work of a Yale University Layabout – included the jaw-dropping declaration that the group, led by Dr. Robert Robertson, had computed the absolute, final, last digit of pi. It was a three.
The 2.7124377 trillionth decimal place was computed at midday on February 29th, after a record eighteen hours of calculations. The program subsequently stopped running, fading the screen to black, with Joanna Lumley's smoky tones bidding the scientists goodbye. Three repetitions of the method yielded the same results.
Adding insult to the already potentially controversial injury is the knowledge that the calculations were computed on a Macbook Pro.
What could this mean for the past – the present – the future of mathematics? Well, probably not a great deal. The head of America's Mathematical Research Council is still keen to keep the finding quiet, however, probably preferring to use it as an atomic bomb of information against the Japanese at a later date.
Speaking to Dr. Robertson, he had the following to say: "Honestly? I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Pi is a constant like any other; it just has a few trillion more decimal places. Surely this should have a positive effect on the lives of mathematicians the world over? They can finally, literally, give up and go home."