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Pi Day: Caltech students celebrate with late-night pie party

March 14, 2013 |  6:46 am

Students dig into what little pie remains at Pi day at Caltech; Credit: Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times

For most people, March 14 is just another day.

But for math fans and self-proclaimed nerds out there, the day -– or more specifically, the fact it is 3/14 -– is a day to celebrate one of the most important numbers in all of mathematics: Pi.

So what better way for Pi fans to celebrate Pi Day than with … pie?

A minute before 2 a.m. on Thursday, students at Caltech in Pasadena dug into 130 pies laid out for them outside student housing. There were 26 each of five different pies. Follow that? So on 3/14 at 1:59 a.m. there were 26 each of five kinds of pie. None is by chance. The first digits of Pi are 3.14159265.

“It’s a celebration of nerdiness,” said Christopher Perez, president of Caltech’s math club. “Pi literally shows up everywhere -- in science, in math and nature. A circle is such a fundamental concept.”

You remember Pi, right? It’s that Greek symbol that roughly looks like a lowercase “n” that math teachers told you to just punch into the calculator as 3.14. Actually, the numbers carry on much farther than that. Pi, which is used to calculate the circumference of a circle, has no end to its decimal places.

But supercomputers have so far calculated the number out to 10 trillion. That’s 10,000,000,000,000.

“This was perfect because Caltech students never sleep,” said Jeffrey Sherman, who is studying electrical engineering. Sherman’s hair was still soggy from having a cherry pie mashed in his face when the free-for-all began.

A school official estimated 500 of the university’s 800 undergrads participated in the early morning Pi party. The celebration lined up with the end of classes for Caltech students, who now prepare for finals next week.

The other pie flavors were chocolate cream, cookies and cream, blueberry and apple.


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-- Joseph Serna in Pasadena

Photo: Students dig into what little pie remains at Pi day at Caltech; Credit: Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times