In the Greek alphabet pi is the 16th letter (and 16 is the square of 4). In the English alphabet, p is also the 16th letter, and i is the ninth letter (the square of 3). Add them up (16+9) and you get 25 (the square of 5). Multiply them (16 X 9) and you get 144 (the square of 12). Divide 9 by 16 and you get .5625 (the square of .75). Its no wonder they say Pi are squared.

The first millenium CE in Europe saw the dark ages, which were filled with war and strife following the breakdown of the Roman Empire and the rise in power of Christianity. Any budding scientific interest was effectively quelled by religious intolerance or destroyed by warring factions.

[Does this sound familiar?….]

In the mid 1500s an amateur French mathematician named Francois Viete shook up the mathematical world by describing pi using an infinite product. An infinite product is a series of numbers in which an infinite number of terms is multiplied together.

In the late 1500s Ludolf Van Ceulen spent years calculating pi to 20 places, using the Archimedean method of inscribing polygons (in this case, with 32 billion sides) within a circle. This was a feat of stamina and patience, if nothing else, and in the end, netting him 35 digits of pi.

-David Blatner

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