Pi is Meaningless

Ladies and Gentlemen. Introducing…a completely random series of numbers:

 3.11037 55242 10264 30215 14230 63050 56006 70163 21122 01116 02105 14763 07200 20273 72461 66116 33104 50512 02074 61615

Those are the first 100 digits of Pi in base 8.

“Base 8?” you screech. “Why base 8”.

Why not? We humans use base 10 because (scientists conjecture) we have ten fingers, and our ancestors used them to learn how to count. Having five digits at the end of each appendage is common in most animals we are familiar with.


But if the octopus had become the dominant species on Earth, and developed complex language, math and the internet (underwater), it is quite likely that it would have come up with a base 8 number system.


Therefore, octopuses would celebrate Pi Day by reciting its digits in base 8.

Or not.

Maybe they would think Pi is boring.

Like me.


No I’m not an octopus. And no, that’s not me. But it’s cute, don’t you think?

The point is:

I don’t understand why people pride themselves on being able to recite the digits of Pi (in any base). It is a waste of valuable gray matter that could be used for something useful.

According to Michael Hartl, “some people memorize dozens, hundreds, even thousands of digits of this mystical number. What kind of sad sack memorizes even 40 digits of π ?”

It has been found that the digits of Pi are indistinguishable from a random sequence of digits, no matter how high you count. If you select any sequence of digits in Pi (like, say, the first 100 digits starting at the billionth digit), you will find no particular bias or pattern. In fact, the likelihood of any digit (or sequence of digits) occurring is statistically flat: evenly-distributed. It’s as random as it gets (although there is no PROOF yet of the “normality” of Pi).

This is why I suggested in a previous blog post that the music in this video:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 9.33.19 AM

…is meaningless. This guy Blake (who is a fine musician) could have just as easily used the digits from a random number generator.

By the way – I now see that there was a legal battle regarding copyright infringement in a case of using Pi as the basis for a melody.

Two unfortunate first-world preoccupations rolled into one.

Instead of fetishizing the digits of Pi (or any irrational number), why not explore the teachable aspects of Pi such as this:


…or this:





…or this:


According to Wolfram,

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 7.23.17 PM

What’s interesting is how chaos is formed – whether in an abstract number system or in a natural system. The digits of Pi should be understood as the result of a dynamical process that emerges when we try to find relationships between circularity and linearity. The verb is more meaningful than the noun.


6 thoughts on “Pi is Meaningless

  1. Thank you, this made me laugh! I can barely even memorize my own address, let alone 100 random numbers! And it also reminded me of a smart, funny essay I read once discussing the correct plural of octopus :-)

  2. Unfortunately, more masturbation in the form of “Pi Art” is making its way to the Washington Post (in this piece by Ana Swanson):


    The article should have been called, “10 stunning images show the beauty hidden in RANDOMNESS”.

    These images are beautiful – no doubt. But they are devoid of content. The digits of Pi are random – random – random.

    Pi digit fetish is a waste of time.

  3. Why memorize Pi? How about because then you and all the other people who have memorized pi to the umpteenth belong to a club that carries around a “one time pad” in their heads for cryptographic purposes? Maybe like the Navajos in WWII, when WWIII happens and the EMP wipes out all our computers, these savants will be our code speakers. :)

    Related though, as to why other base systems might even be preferable for us humans, is this video on the “Dozenal” system:

    (Notice it was posted on 12/12/12). You can skip to minute 3:30 if you’re short on time.

    For my 6 year old son, I started working on a simple game with bits of paper that lets you play with binary counting and addition/subtraction. Still needs work… but I like the idea of not having him grow up to be an adult that thinks that base 10 is any more “real” than base whatever.

    As for: “Pi is Random. Stop Trying to Turn it into Music.”

    I know what you mean, but I beg to differ on account of *tunings* which are based on pi: http://www.lucytune.com

    You can listen to some lucy tuned lullabies here:

    The mistake is thinking that Pi has relevance in music once converted to a particular base. But when used as a pure *ratio* it actually has significant musical applications.

  4. I don’t care what people are thinking about as long as they are thinking. The act of thinking assumes a connection to reality (but of course, we can think of unreal things) that we must have to understand distinctions and degrees of perception and thereby comprehension. Things get sloppy when we insist on “jazzing up” or revising science or history to make it more entertaining and/or socially acceptable.

    Jeff’s conclusion, the relation of the dynamic between linearity (order) and circularity (variation), is the primary take-away for me.

  5. The Evolution of Mathematics on Planet Earth – Nature...Brain...Language...Technology...Design

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