Though the Egyptians and Babylonians made what we think are the oldest written approximations of pi, the first calculation of pi occurred between around 250 BC, when Archimedes of Syracuse proved that pi was between 223/71 and 22/7. This irrational, transcendental number has fascinated mathematicians for centuries, and today people devote themselves to memorizing its digits purely for the resulting sense of accomplishment. Calculating the digits of pi using computers has brought our tally to more than 13 trillion numbers. Again, this exercise is grounded in ambition more than pragmatism, but it does have one practical use: calculating pi has proven to be a convenient test for supercomputers and advanced algorithms.
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Written by Curiosity Staff March 8, 2016
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