16.3.11

Goodbye, Alt-227. Hello, Alt-231.

It's something that has been with me for years. A symbol of my experiences, which slowly turned into a symbol of my dreams, then my beliefs, and then myself, as I incorporated it as something of my own.

And then, in one sweeping moment of clarity, it was all gone, and replaced with the truth. The strangest thing, though... is that I actually feel better now.

π is the wrong constant. Wow. I still can't believe I'm saying that, but it's a solid case they present.

π is supposed to be the constant used to describe the very nature of the circle: the ratio of the circumference to the diameter. Or, in other words, π = C/d. However, the definition of a circle is a figure bounded by a line equidistant from a single point. That distance, of course, is the radius. So how come that isn't used as a constant instead? And so, there's a new movement to institute that ratio as the new constant: it would simply be 2π, or roughly 6.28... and it would be represented by Tau (τ).

Once you start looking, the discrepancy between diameter and radius shows up everywhere. How many formulae are there which include "r" amongst the variables? Hundreds. And how many include "d", besides the calculation for circumference? Only a scant few. And there's a telling blow right there -- the only well-known formula that uses diameter is the one which is the very definition of π itself.

Furthermore, the number of times "2π" shows up is another indicator that maybe we've been using the wrong constant all this time. In fact, the only formula which becomes (slightly) more complicated is the classic A=πr². Now, it's A=½τr². But look at that! "½xy²" is a structure that shows up everywhere in physics and mathematics!

It's a simple substitution, but an important one -- I haven't even touched on how much easier it is to calculate radians with τ instead of π. Naturally, it's going to be an uphill battle getting it accepted, but I can't think of a reason not to support this, save for nostalgia and tradition. It's even backwards-compatible with π, in case you still want to use old textbooks!

That's not to say I don't like π. Like I said at the start of this post, it's been a part of my identity ever since that one glorious day in Grade 11, when I managed to convince the entire high school that I was a superhero, with π as the symbol on my chest. (Long story.) Is there room in my heart to love τ as well?

I'm going to try. From now on, I shall not try to put these two constants at opposing ends of my soul. Instead, I'll just think of them as... equidistant.

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.