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Two Physicists Sat Down To Have Some Pi

March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking died today. I know, I already wrote about him dying yesterday (Ad Astra: Stephen Hawking.) But, quite literally, that was yesterday when he died and this is today when he died.

I stopped and bought pie on the way home from work. A razzleberry pie, a peach pie and a coconut cream pie. It was pi day and the kids wanted pie. After all, it’s pi day: March 14, or expressed another way 3.14.

Albert Einstein was born today. Well, not today today, but on this date, March 14 back in 1879.

And of course, that’s why we are talking about those three topics: Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and pie. I wish I could say I was the first to notice the similarity of the three topics. I wasn’t. But, I did think of this topic before I realized that literally every newsite in the world was going to run with this angle.

Here’s the thing. All three of those coincidences are a lie. Not a single one of them is true. Oh, it’s true that Albert Einstein was born on March 14. It’s also true that Stephen Hawking died today (yesterday.) But, those two dates have less to do with pi than pie, which really only shares a auditory homonymic pronounciation.

But, Albert and Steven, while it’s mildly interesting that they share a birth/death date, were not born/died on pi day. In fact, the entire idea of pi day is very American-centric. It’s not pi day in the rest of the world. Really.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a bigger celebration in the United States than it is in Ireland.

Cinco de Mayo is a way bigger holiday in the United States than it is in Mexico.

Clearly, we love to party. Especially if we can associate food with it.

St Patrick’s day? Beer!

Cinco de Mayo? Margaritas!

Pi day? Pie!

But, the United States is virtually the only country in the world that insists on putting the month first when entering a date in numeric format. We type MM/DD/YYY. The rest of the world uses DD/MM/YYYY. Their way makes sense, if you think about it. The international standard goes from smallest measurements (days) to progressively larger unites (months and then years.)

And that’s why Einstein was not born on pi day. He was born in Ulm, Germany. So, his birthdate, using the format of the place of his birth is 14/3/1879. Not a silly math joke to be found.

The reason I can say that Hawking died yesterday on March 14, is that he died in England, early in the day. It was still March 13 here in the United States. For example, Americans know that the attack on Pearl Harbor that signaled the entrance of America into WWII happened on December 7, 1941. As President Roosevelt stated, “A date that will live in infamy.” However, the Japanese admirals planned to attack on December 8, 1941. They did. Because by the time the attack started it was already December 8 in Japan.

Stephen Hawking died on March 14 in Cambridge. The fact that I found out about it during March 13 is a quirk of the fact that our planet is round. England, like the rest of the world sans the United States writes dates as DD/MM/YYYY. So, Professor Hawking died on 14.3.2018. Again, not a date that lends itself to clever math jokes.

But, considering we are the counry that gave the world “International Talk Like A Pirate Day” (Sept 19) and got the rest of the world to to celebrate it with us, go ahead and think of two of the most brilliant scientists of the last three centurires entering and leaving this world on a date represented by the one of the most famous numbers in the world.

And have some pie, because . . . pie!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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