Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Tau Day! (Have your Pi and eat two.)

If I hadn't had children, if we hadn't opted to homeschool, if I didn't do my own research and curriculum development, would I have learned about so much fantastic stuff this far out of my own traditional schooling stage of life? OK, sure I would have, but it would've been different stuff that may have also been interesting. But this path we've chosen has led me to delve into topics that would otherwise have barely been awarded a nod in my other life. In efforts to provide our children with a well-rounded education, I find myself delving into topics that I'd either long since set aside, or never experienced in my childhood.

Case in point = T (Tau). Sure, I took math in school. Sometimes it was even fun. (Thank you very much, Mr. Wheeler, Mr. Honeyman, Mr. Dimmitt and Mr. Cross). And while I maintained good grades, I didn't exactly excel, nor did I take any courses not required for a diploma. I studied my guts out, tried to understand it, crammed for tests, purged, passed and moved on. Geometry? Of course, and liked it. Algebra? Yes. (I consider it "thoughtful doodling.") Trig? Yes, I vaguely remember working through that one, too. But in all those equations and characters, Greek symbols and ancient philosophers, I don't recall anything about Tau. And since graduating from college, my math has been limited to the needs of finances and the geometry of various projects from sewing to trailer and Jeep mechanics.

Every day is made for learning. Today is Tau Day, the antithesis of Pi Day. Well, rather, the double of Pi Day. You can read the technical details about pi here, but, basically, it's an (entirely) irrational number typically represented only to its 100th place (3.14). Some mathematicians celebrate Pi on March 14. (Whatever it takes to get a good ol' slice of pie, right?) But pie lovers, and pi haters, are conspiring to get more pie while educating the masses about the (apparently) more mathematically logical use of tau (2Pi or 6.28...). It seems using tau would be easier, more streamlined and, perhaps, even more logical and accurate. The issue has even hit news media at points around the Globe.

Vi Hart, a mathematician and artist the girls and I have come to enjoy this year, explains it in terms I actually understand...somewhat. I still don't see a use for this (sine and cosine waves just don't fall into everyday parlance in journalism, childcare, homeschooling, house cleaning, gardening or horseback riding). So, bake a pair of pies, cut a slice and sit back to enjoy the video and learn a little something more about the mysteries of the mathematical universe.

Confused yet? Well, for the more musically inclined, here's an instrumental representation of tau. Grab that second piece of pie and enjoy:

If you'd like to learn about more math-related topics of interests, check out Let's Play Math, a great blog dedicated to the study and (gasp!) enjoyment of all things math.

As for the debate, our family will celebrate with a pair of homemade pies. Why not? Seems like a logcial excuse to enjoy a food that needs no excuse at all.

1 comment:

  1. It's been a long time since my math-mind was so engaged by someone elses's ideas... I usually just find ways entertain myself with math - making equations from road-signs to solve, dividing my odometer by random numbers such as the mile marker I just passed, etc. Odd, I know. I'm not really into incorporating Pi into things, and I confess that I didn't even know Tau existed. Thank you for sharing!


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