Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy (very belated) Tau Day!

Happy Tau Day!

I am an unabashed Tauist, and have been since the day, several years ago, when a professor named Bob Palais gave a presentation on pi day that the value of pi is wrong.  I won't go into detail, because it's given nicely in the Tau Manifesto, but the argument rests on the fact that, mathematically, we always define a circle as the collection of points a given radius from a given point--but pi, as we know it, is defined using the diameter.  As a result, the value "2 pi" is strewn about all mathematics, and we have counter-intuitive ideas like "half of pi is a quarter of a circle".  The manifesto also gives good reasons why we should name the correct constant "tau".

Well, a few weeks ago, my wife sent me a link from Yahoo! news about a touch of rebellion in the mathematical community.  Apparently, the use of tau is beginning to gain traction!  I look forward to the day when we could be free of the tyranny of the false constant.

In any case, I apologize for delaying this post:  It took me a few days to get to my wife's link, and it took a few days after that to realize that the reason why the story came up was because of Tau Day--June 28.  I'm also not used to celebrating special days for numbers; ironically, too, the first Pi Day I attended challenged the very legitimacy of Pi itself!

(And for the record, on my first Pi Day, I didn't technically become a Tauist:  at the time, Bob Palais suggested a "three-legged" pi symbol that had no clear name to represent the One True Constant.)

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