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I was listening to a doco by an autistic savant the other day. He described how he had recited the number pi to 25,400 places. Interesting enough in it’s own right but a comment he made struck something deep. “Pi contains your phone number, it contains your date of birth, it even contains your date of death.”
A powerful number this one.
Imagine any number you want, your tax file number, the Prime Minister’s Tax File Number,and it is there within the irrational ramblings of Pi. Decode this number and imagine the power.
The PM’s TFN, imagine that. The problem, of course, is Pi itself. We don’t know where in Pi this number lies, we just know it’s there.
Assuming numerical launch codes for the world’s nuclear arsenals, they too are contained within Pi. Financial secrets, death dealing numbers and the date of birth of your one true love, all are within its gift.
How then do we access this irrational number’s secrets? How? How? How?
We foolishly sent our limited understanding of this number on the voyager spacecraft. We told the watching minds of more greatly developed species just how backward we are. Maybe they have unravelled the secrets, maybe they can see from our narrow understanding, an understanding that simply links the radius of a circle to its circumference, from this they can see we know the number but not its deeper meaning.
Zorg and Zog discuss the arrival of this spacecraft in their sector of the universe. They calculate its origin and then they speculate.
Zorg: They know nothing, we can take their puny planet whenever we want.
Zog: Are they double bluffing? You know, pretending to be stupid.
Zorg: Ahhh. Like the Crestasteans at the Battle of the Stolen Quarks?
They send Voyager on, they have no need to be a part of any disturbance at this time. And Pi sits blindly engraved on its golden disc hurtling across the universe with nothing but the Ode to Joy humming in its mind. The sounds of earth, the thoughts of Ann Druyan embedded in a golden record. You know the kind of thing they used to give you if your record album sold a million copies.
I can see Zorg and Zog scratching their heads of that.
Zorg: Vinyl technology? Really? I would have expected an mp3 at the very least and in stereo.
Zog: You see what I meant with the double bluff.
Zorg: We were right to send it on.
And on it drifts.
We who remain bound to this planet, we who remain to use a rough approximation of Pi, 22 over 7, in our arithmetic, we have, maybe in the mind of just one of us, sensed Pi’s deeper meaning.
How many layers are there to this number? This irrational number. Irrational, standing in obvious counterpoint to the now out of favour term Economic Rationalism. The bizarre effect of this notion was more closely related to the irrational than it at first seemed.
Indeed much of what we as a species consider rational is not. Could it be that the rational is simply that which we have concocted to satisfy our own minds? A fraction which reduces to one decimal place has a purity to it. Even one that creates a recurring decimal is a little frightening. It goes on forever, continuously repeating itself as in two thirds becoming 0.666 recurring and that’s before we start working the 666 of the Apocalypse into our thinking. It just goes on and on constantly repeating its nonsensical rambling.
An irrational number never, ever repeats any of the sections of its numbers, ever. There is no pattern, there is no rationality, there is only madness in these decimals. And yet they are everywhere. The square root of minus one is even more bizarre that Pi. It is not even physically possible in the real world, whatever that is.
No, we must stick to the real world. The square root of minus one is a number for another tale. And in this real world are irrational numbers. So much so that Homo economus, the rational human being at the base assumptions of all economic theory does not exist. We are designed to be irrational, to make leaps of faith, we proceed without full knowledge of our circumstances, we fall in love for god’s sake. I was once told by a man half a generation older than me that if I ever found myself falling in love, I should immediately buy that person a house and go out and get blind drunk saving myself all the heartache.
So it is not surprising we find ourselves both repulsed and attracted by irrational numbers. We are but, perhaps, the physical manifestation of these numbers. With Pi containing our dates of birth and death does it not deliver a more complete understanding of us and our place in the world?
Maybe it is a misspelling. Apple pie should in fact be expressed as Apple Pi, Apple 22 over 7? After all it was the Apple itself who taught we humans about gravity and attraction. Was it not according to the views of ancient goatherds an irrational eating of an Apple which led us to sex and attraction? Have we not already established the irrationality of attraction between two humans? Have we not seen in coffee shops floating on tables below hipster beards the unworldly glow of the Apple from the back of a laptop?
Is there not irony in the fact that these words will be heard because that same Apple Inc decided to support a form of net based broadcasting back in 2004? A year whose existence is confirmed by its occurrence within the number Pi. The continual re-looping of our world back to the irrational number describing the relationship between the circumference of a circle and that circle’s radius is in itself enough to induce psychological if not full blown psychiatric reactions.
What if the ramblings of the saints, the mystics, the insane are nothing but a key to unlock the deeper stories held within the never ending number sequence that is Pi? What if? How stupid are we all going to feel?
Or what if Pi is just what it is? A ratio between radius and circumference and the number sequences held within Pi, nothing more than the imagined healing elements in a glass of homeopathic water. They have no more meaning than that which we choose to impart upon them. Water is water but placebos still heal. If we can find these numbers, we ascribe to them whatever meaning we desire. In the doing so we reveal our humanity. A humanity based upon the finding of patterns, patterns to which we ascribe meaning. A phone number in Pi is nothing more nor less than the assumed patterns of change in the Dow Jones. Pi if anything has at least some use in the real world. And it is only the real world, the non insane, yet not fully sane reality that can create a number like Pi.
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