March 14 is the day everyone in the world, or at least everyone here in the U.S. (where we put the month before the day), pauses to celebrate that most constant of mathematical constants, that most transcendental of transcendental numbers. Of course, I’m talking about Pi, also known as “π,” also known as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, also known as 3.14 (give or take a trillion digits). 3.14…3/14…March 14. Get it? Yeah, me neither. Never had much of a head for math.
Nevertheless, this Pi Day thing seems to be real. They even have a website where you can buy a t-shirt and watch a rap video.
All this hubbub got me thinking about my favorite books, movies and even songs that feature a heavy dose of math. You can look for these at your local HPB and do some math when you calculate how much money you’re saving.
Life of Pi
This 2001 novel by Yann Martel and its 2012 film adaptation tell the story of Piscine “Pi” Patel, an Indian boy who adopts the nickname Pi after kids make fun of his real name. That’s a pretty great story right there, but things get more interesting when Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena and a zebra. Okay, there’s actually not too much math in this story, but it’s a great read, the movie has amazing animation and the kid’s name is Pi.
This is a book about human computers. No, it’s not sci-fi; it’s the non-fiction bestseller by Margot Lee Shetterly that inspired the acclaimed movie about female African-American mathematicians at NASA. They were called human computers because, like, they did computations. Set during World War II, the Space Race and the Civil Rights Movement, the book profiles four ladies who were among the space program’s unsung heroes. Continue reading