Harvard Celebrates Pi Day
It's the only holiday to honor a number: Pi Day, on 3-14, the beginning digits of the infinite, nonrepeating decimal expansion of pi = 3.1415926... As the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, pi is irrational and transcendental--qualities sure to bring a twinkle to any mathematician's eyes. How did undergraduate mathematics majors at Harvard University celebrate Pi Day this week? With a pie-eating contest, of course, held on 14 March at precisely 3:14 p.m.
The brainchild of student Sarah Moss, the contest drew about a dozen participants, including a couple of Harvard faculty members, and about 50 spectators. Emcee Nick Rogers, also a mathematics student, warmed up the audience with a cavalcade of corny jokes about the history of Pi Day (in ancient times it was celebrated on the wrong day because of incorrect approximations of pi) and tales about the pie-eating prowess of the contestants: One was said to round pi to 3 so that he could celebrate by eating pie during the whole month of March. Each contestant had two pies and 3 minutes, 14.15 seconds in which to devour them. Andrew Heartlege--sporting a headband that said in Korean "imminent victory"--tied with fellow student Konstantin Kakaes for first place honors, based on the weight of pie eaten as measured by a postal scale pulled from the department office. Some may call the contest a display of irrational gluttony, but mathematicians know it transcends all that. As Heartlege explained, "It's as much about your mental power as the ability to throw pie down your gullet."
See photographs of the celebration.
--- Allyn Jackson, AMS