Fun with pi on Twitter

Today, March 14th is Pi Day. Aka 3.14. Today I’m having some fun with this obscenely long number and how it fits into today’s media.

Running a test to see what the first 280 characters of pi look like in a tweet:

I’m not the only one tweeting the first 280 characters of pi. Lots of people are doing it:

Another fun way of looking at all the people who tweeted the first 280 characters in 3.14: A scrolling video in Tweetdeck. LOTS of people!

Imagine if all these people actually knew the first 280 digits in pi, and typed them in manually.

Pasting in a long pi number into a field is a good way of testing how many characters the field can hold. e.g. The user status in Google Chat can hold 64 characters. I paste in a long pi number into my status, and it gets cropped down to 64 chars.

What if Twitter changed the how long a tweet could be based on the number of digits of pi known? Let’s say we we know only the first 100 digits of pi, then a tweet can be 100 characters long.

This example might have worked back in 1706 when John Machin upped the pi digit count from 71 to 100. But the current digits of pi is out of this world. Last year researchers set a new record for calculating digits of pi: 62.8 trillion decimals. Um. That’s a long tweet.

If we go with this game of tweet length matching pi digits known, our current 280 tweet limit would roughly match up with 1853 when 248 pi digits were calculated.

YearWhoDecimal places
1400Madhava of Sangamagrama10
1424Jamshīd al-Kāshī16
1596Ludolph van Ceulen20
1615Ludolph van Ceulen32
1621Willebrord Snell (Snellius)35
1630Christoph Grienberger38
1699Abraham Sharp71
1706John Machin100
1719Thomas Fantet de Lagny112
1789Jurij Vega126
1794Jurij Vega136
Late 18th centuryAnonymous manuscript152
1844Zacharias Dase and Strassnitzky200
1847Thomas Clausen248
1853William Shanks527
1946D. F. Ferguson620
January 1947D. F. Ferguson710
September 1947D. F. Ferguson808
1949Levi B. Smith and John Wrench1,120

Known digits of pi equals the number of characters in 20 million Bibles

Just how long is 62.8 trillion decimals? The average English word is 4.7 characters. That would be 15.7 trillion words. The King James Authorized Bible has 783,137 words. That would be 20 million Bibles.

Google Books’ scanned library has 25 million books. Wow. All the books that Google has scanned are roughly the equivalent of how many digits in pi we know. (Of course, all the books that Google has scanned are not as long as the King James Bible.)

Known digits of pi is the equivalent of 148 million novels

The average word count for adult fiction is between 70,000 to 120,000 words. For children’s fiction, the general rule is The average word count for adult fiction is between 70,000 to 120,000 words. For children’s fiction, the general rule is the younger the audience the shorter the book, and for YA novels the average is 50,000-70,000 words. Non-fiction word counts sit between 70,000-120,000 words.

Average Novel Word Count

If we take the average o 70,000-120,000 we have 95,000 words for each novel. Let’s knock that down to 90,000 words to account for children’s fiction. At 4.7 characters per word, that’s 423,000 characters per book.

62.8 trillion digits in pi divided by 423,000 characters in a novel= 148,463,356.974 novels.

That’s 148 million novels.

I’d like to figure out how they store all the 62.8 trillion digits of pi. Really, that has gotta take up a ton of hard drive space.

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