From: M. C. BeutlerTo: skeptichat@lists.sonic.net Subject: [SC] (fwd) Pi redefined Date: Sunday, April 26, 1998 3:19 PM Forwarded from another list: >> >> HUNTSVILLE, Ala.-NASA engineers and mathematicians in this high-tech >> city are stunned and infuriated after the Alabama state legislature >> narrowly passed a law yesterday redefining pi, a mathematical constant >> used in the aerospace industry. The bill to change the value of pi to >> exactly three was introduced without fanfare by Leonard Lee Lawson (R, >> Crossville), and rapidly gained support after a letter-writing >> campaign by members of the Solomon Society, a traditional values >> group. Governor Guy Hunt says he will sign it into law today. >> >> The law took the state's engineering community by surprise. "It would >> have been nice if they had consulted with someone who actually uses >> pi," said Marshall Bergman, a manager at the Ballistic Missile Defense >> Organization. According to Bergman, pi is a Greek letter that >> signifies the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. >> It is often used by engineers to calculate missile trajectories. >> Prof. Kim Johanson, a mathematician from University of Alabama, said >> that pi is a universal constant, and cannot arbitrarily be changed by >> lawmakers. Johanson explained that pi is an irrational number, which >> means that it has an infinite number of digits after the decimal point >> and can never be known exactly. Nevertheless, she said, pi is >> precisely defined by mathematics to be "3.14159, plus as many more >> digits as you have time to calculate". >> >> "I think that it is the mathematicians that are being irrational, and >> it is time for them to admit it," said Lawson. "The Bible very >> clearly says in I Kings 7:23 that the altar font of Solomon's Temple >> was ten cubits across and thirty cubits in diameter, and that it >> was round in compass." >> >> Lawson called into question the usefulness of any number that cannot >> be calculated exactly, and suggested that never knowing the exact >> answer could harm students' self-esteem. "We need to return to some >> absolutes in our society," he said, "the Bible does not say that the >> font was thirty-something cubits. Plain reading says thirty cubits. >> Period." >> >> Science supports Lawson, explains Russell Humbleys, a propulsion >> technician at the Marshall Spaceflight Center who testified in support >> of the bill before the legislature in Mongtomery on Monday. "Pi is >> merely an artifact of Euclidean geometry." Humbleys is working on a >> theory which he says will prove that pi is determined by the geometry >> of three-dimensional space, which is assumed by physicists to be >> "isotropic", or the same in all directions. >> >> "There are other geometries, and pi is different in every one of >> them," says Humbleys. Scientists have arbitrarily assumed that space >> is Euclidean, he says. He points out that a circle drawn on a >> spherical surface has a different value for the ratio of circumfence >> to diameter. "Anyone with a compass, flexible ruler, and globe can >> see for themselves," suggests Humbleys, "its not exactly rocket >> science." >> >> Roger Learned, a Solomon Society member who was in Montgomery to >> support the bill, agrees. He said that pi is nothing more than an >> assumption by the mathematicians and engineers who were there to argue >> against the bill. "These nabobs waltzed into the capital with an >> arrogance that was breathtaking," Learned said. "Their prefatorial >> deficit resulted in a polemical stance at absolute contraposition to >> the legislature's puissance." >> >> Some education experts believe that the legislation will affect the >> way math is taught to Alabama's children. One member of the state >> school board, Lily Ponja, is anxious to get the new value of pi into >> the state's math textbooks, but thinks that the old value should be >> retained as an alternative. She said, "As far as I am concerned, the >> value of pi is only a theory, and we should be open to all >> interpretations." She looks forward to students having the freedom to >> decide for themselves what value pi should have. >> >> Robert S. Dietz, a professor at Arizona State University who has >> followed the controversy, wrote that this is not the first time a >> state legislature has attempted to redifine the value of pi. A >> legislator in the state of Indiana unsuccessfully attempted to have >> that state set the value of pi to three. According to Dietz, the >> lawmaker was exasperated by the calculations of a mathematician who >> carried pi to four hundred decimal places and still could not achieve >> a rational number. >> >> Many experts are warning that this is just the >> beginning of a national battle over pi between traditional values >> supporters and the technical elite. Solomon Society member Lawson >> agrees. "We just want to return pi to its traditional value," he said, >> "which, according to the Bible, is three." >> >> >> ________________________________ >> >> >> [Satire alert] >> >> -- Bill Schultz JOIN THE AGNOSTIC CHURCH: >> | bill@infidels.org pope@agnostic.org http://www.agnostic.org/ >> | bill@freethought.org http://www.infidels.org/org/singles/ >> | Internet Infidel: http://www.infidels.org/ >> >> >> >> I would like to believe that this is some sort of hoax.... Anybody able to verify or disprove this story? - . *************************************************************** mark beutler mycroft_h@bigfoot.com "If stupidity got us into this mess, why can't it get us out?" *************************************************************** Goin' Postal - HP 100/200LX (v1.06beta) REGISTERED *** *** SkeptiChat: home of the free and land of the rave *** Beta 0.96 *** to join: email 'subscribe skeptichat' to majordomo@lists.sonic.net to quit: email 'unsubscribe skeptichat' to majordomo@lists.sonic.net