A little after I turned 18, I bought a lottery ticket. In the intervening 24 years, I haven’t spent a single dollar gambling. Once you understand the math, gambling with money is right up there with drinking poison instead of orange juice for breakfast on the scale of things that just don’t make sense.
For those who don’t quite understand the math or who can’t help that intuition that they might just get lucky, there’s the Incredibly Depressing Mega Millions Lottery Simulator. Pick 5 numbers, how many times you want to play, and just see how much you will win (or more likely lose).
Frankly, though, I don’t find that depressing at all. What I do find depressing is how the local news stations all promote scams like the Lotto or Mega Millions that entice people to get involved in gambling and sell the illusory dream of instant riches. Just once, I’d like to see the local news include a piece effectively illustrating what a sucker’s bet lotteries are.
CoolScienceFacts.Com has a short article about efforts to determine ever more digits of Pi (which has been calculated to more than a trillion digits).
As CoolScienceFacts notes, however, there aren’t a lot of practical reasons to determine Pi very far beyond 40 digits,
Based on all this effort, you might assume that it’d be useful to know a trillion digits of pi. However, if you had a circle the size of the observable universe, and you wanted to compute its circumference with an accuracy equal to the size of a proton, the number of digits of pi that you’d need is only 43.
Either mathematicians are totally crazy, or they’re planning ahead for a time when the survival of humanity will depend on the ability to construct extremely large, accurate circles.
Japanese researchers have calculated PI to 1.24 trillion places. The previous record was a mere 206.158 billion places. Both marks were set by teams lead by Tokyo University professor Yasumasa Kanada.
The computer program that generated the number only took 400 hours to execute, but Kanada’s team spent 5 years designing it.
This is actually important beyond the simple feat of calculating X trillion places to PI. As David Bailey of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory tells the Associated Press, calculating PI to that many places would be impossible in any sort of human-relevant timespan with all previously used methods. The innovations that Kanada has introduced to make his PI calculations achievable are also broadly applicable to other calculation problems.
Japan Pi Value Calculation Earns Record. Associated Press, December 6, 2002.