A hapPi day

March 14, 2019

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Today is international Pi-day: the 14th of March, also denoted as 3.14, which are the first digits of \pi. To celebrate this beautiful day, let us read and analyse the following poem:

Yes! A rare procrastination
Something to donate poems and avoid homework
Challenge: deliver beautiful and pi-fun messages!

This message may seem as just a couple of sentences that are formed a little unnaturally. It does make sense however, as the poem follows a strict structure. If you write down the length of all words in the poem, you will find the following:

3 1 4 15 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 2 3 8

Maybe you already recognize what is going on, but if not, let us add a dot and remove the spaces:


Indeed, these are the first 19 digits of \pi. The above stated message is not just a collection of words, or a poem, it is a piem! A piem is a poem written in Pilish, a way of writing already described in the early 1900’s. The idea is to write sentences, poems or even stories in such a way that the length of the words match the digits of \pi. American mathematician Mike Keith nicely described some rules for Pilish on his website. For example, instead of writing a one letter word and a five letter word, we chose in the poem above to use the fifteen letter word ‘procrastination’. This makes Pilish especially more easy when you encounter patterns as 1121 or 1111211 in \pi. Furthermore, a ten letter word can be used to denote the zero digit.
Experience has shown, while writing the piem above, that Pilish is not easy. It is an unnatural rhythm and it is difficult to encounter words that do not only have the correct length, but also make some sense in your storyline. Keeping this in mind, it is even more spectacular that Keith managed to write a whole book in Pilish. Not A Wake: A Dream Embodying \pi‘s Digits Fully For 10000 Decimals contains words that together represent the first 10.000 digits of \pi. Keith used different writing styles throughout his book, varying from free-verse poems to haiku’s and even a movie screenplay. Another fun fact: the book is for sale on Amazon for (\pi^2 + \frac{1}{2}\pi) dollars.
Hopefully inspired by this interesting new language, you are very welcome to send in all the piems or sentences in Pilish that you may think of. If you need some more inspiration, take a look at the following piem, which is believed to be written by physicist Sir James Jeans in the early 1900s:

How I need a drink, alcoholic in nature, after the heavy lectures regarding quantum physics!

Have a hapPI day!

Dit artikel is geschreven door Marleen Schumacher


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