Pi might look random but it’s full of hidden patterns

Thanks to Steve Barker for pointing us towards this interesting article. – Deskarati

After thousands of years of trying, mathematicians are still working out the number known as pi or “π”. We typically think of pi as approximately 3.14 but the most successful attempt to calculate it more precisely worked out its value to over 13 trillion digits after the decimal point. We have known since the 18th century that we will never be able to calculate all the digits of pi because it is an irrational number, one that continues forever without any repeating pattern.

In 1888, the logician John Venn, who also invented the Venn diagram, attempted to visually show that the digits of pi were random by drawing a graph showing the first 707 decimal places. He assigned a compass point to the digits 0 to 7 and then drew lines to show the path indicated by each digit.

Venn did this work using pen and paper but this is still used today with modern technology to create even more detailed and beautiful patterns.

But, despite the endless string of unpredictable digits that make up pi, it’s not what we call a truly random number. And it actually contains all sorts of surprising patterns.

More here: Pi might look random but it’s full of hidden patterns

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4 Responses to Pi might look random but it’s full of hidden patterns

  1. alfy says:

    An interesting post, Jim, and having followed the link, it leads to a talk by Prof Steve Humble of Newcastle University, Maths Dept. He looks like a normal human being, without a mass of blow-dried hair, who does not need to wave his hands about like a windmill.
    He has, however, discovered two presentational aspects so far absent from the Poliakoff repertoire. He lectures in front of a large window with traffic passing in the street outside. This is a brilliant stroke, which far eclipses the fussy background of books and papers cascading from shelves, so familiar from the Nottingham experience.
    His other master-stroke is to have students continually passing between the camera/mobile phone and himself as he lectures on the topic of “randomness”. It may be that he had chosen to lecture in a corridor, instead of a room of some kind, which is a brilliant innovation in itself, or possibly he had corralled a random group of students who were surprised to discover that this was a maths lecture and were eager to leave.
    Alternatively the listeners may all have been maths students, but Steve Humble may have been lecturing next to a stall on the right, offering free beer and free contraceptives, so that there was a steady stream of students moving to the right.
    I think that Humble and Poliakoff could get together to create something really spectacular, don’t you think, Jim?

    • Deskarati says:

      I think that you and I could do better than both of them Alfy. I could be the cameraman if you could be wacky presenter .
      I don’t know what our subject should be, maybe a series on our favourite scientists. I suggest the following:-
      Carl Sagan
      Robert Winston
      Brian Cox

      What do you think?

  2. Phil Krause says:

    Well to start with Alfi doesn’t like Robert Winston because he is an MD that specialises in fertility. He is mainly famous for something other than his speciality. I doubt Alfi likes Brian Cox because he is so famous and used to be a pop star with a number 1 hit (things can only get better). Not sure about Carl Sagan. Alfi seems to like the more obscure scientists. The more obscure the better, and if nobody has ever heard of them, then that’s probably the one.

    Getting back to Pi which is an irrational number that goes on forever. Of course, its supposed to be random, but because it goes on forever it is infinite which means that you will be able to find any pattern you choose if you look hard enough. You will find, 1,2,3,4 repeats as long as you want, you will find series of 1’s, a series of 2’s or anything you desire. You can find 20 ones in a row or 50 nines in a row, or even a thousand sevens if you look hard enough. I can’t remember the book title but I remember it was based on digits from pi. They found millions of ones and zeros within Pi which acted digitally to make instructions (it might have been Contact by Carl Sagan which would be appropriate, the power of the sub-conscious). You should find every number that has ever appeared in the National Lottery in sequence to date and for as long as it runs for, if you just look hard enough. I have played on a website where you can find your birth date within Pi and it tells you the number of digits it first appears. Every pattern that can be described by numbers will appear within Pi, if you look hard enough. Sounds unbelievable but its true. In fact not just every pattern you can imagine will appear once, but every pattern that you can imagine will all appear an infinite number of times. Not just within Pi but every irrational number there is, which is an infinite number of them, even between zero and one.

  3. Ron says:

    Don`t understand all of this in general. Do we use any of this in our normal lifestyle? Does any math problem use anywhere near this many digits, and if so I wonder why. My curiosity has gotten me in warm water before.
    Besides, the words – infinite and infinity can be applied to an INFINITE number of items, I guess grandpa can go to bed now.

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