Friday, March 9, 2012
Princeton's Pi Day, Celebrating Einstein's GENIUS and GENIALITY
Albert Einstein was perhaps the most engaging genius of the 20th century — or any century, for that matter.
Playfully sticking out his tongue when a photographer tried to coax him into smiling; helping a young neighbor with her arithmetic in return for gumdrops; posing in a pair of slippers as fluffy as his halo of white hair — these were some of his very human quirks.
During his two decades in Princeton, he was a familiar figure. Respectful visitors were drawn to his unassuming home on Mercer Street, and he was regularly observed wheeling around Princeton on his bicycle and going to the Institute for Advanced Study.
His dazzling intellect and boundless curiosity gave the world an astonishing new perception of the universe in the simplest terms possible.
By happy coincidence, Einstein’s March 14 birthday occurs on what has been designated World Pi Day, a celebration of the numerical value pi, or 3.14.
That deceptively simple yet irrational number, as you may remember from math class, goes on forever. It’s the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Computers so far have calculated up to 1 trillion numbers beyond the decimal in its unabbreviated form.
In what is becoming a tradition, Princeton will celebrate the two events with its own piece of Pi Day as the Princeton Public Library and other community organizations stage events throughout the weekend. The festivities begin today.
Many of the events will center on Einstein, the legendary stories and his legacy. They include a look-alike contest and a “no-socks” hop. (Einstein eschewed socks.) Activities will also include a book discussion and signings, pi recitation contests, a violin contest, a children’s scavenger hunt and a Rubik’s Cube challenge.
The other sort of pie is the central ingredient in several other events. Competitors will bake pies, eat pies and throw pies.
Princeton Pi Day represents a lively expression, mathematical and otherwise, of the Ivy League town’s appreciation of its brilliant residents. It’s an invigorating way for the community to champion math and science without taking itself too seriously.
It’s also a celebration of creativity, say Mimi Omiecinski and Joy Chen, the Princeton entrepreneurs who a few years ago had the brainstorm to combine the famous birthday and Pi Day.
And that’s something Einstein probably would have liked.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” he said. “Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
-->Last year's German Club nearly celebrated this with look-alike- and trivia- contasts. I'm happy to see that Princeton is carrying on this tradition.