A Note about Piems, by Jeffrey S. Rosenthal

The mathematical constant pi (or π) represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It is an extremely important value for geometry, trigonometry, calculus, Fourier analysis, quantum mechanics, and so much more. It has no exact rational or finite decimal form, but its decimal expansion begins 3.1415926535897932385...

As a trick to memorise the digits of pi, some people have used "piems", which are text phrases in which the number of letters in each new word is equal to pi's next digit. For example, the phrase

is a piem, since "May" has 3 letters, then "I" has 1 letter, then "have" has 4, and "a" has 1, and "large" has 5, etc., corresponding to pi = 3.1415... (The decimal point in pi, and any punctuation or capitalisation in the phrase, are all ignored.) Some other classic examples are:

It is fun to make up piems yourself (try it!). Some quick simple examples I once wrote are:

At a family gathering we once had great fun making up: And my wife kindly made up:

But these are mere trifles. Mike Keith has written the astounding Cadaeic Cadenza (expanding an earlier version), which encodes nearly 4,000 digits of pi, in an incredible variety of writing styles from The Raven to Jaberwocky to Hamlet. It begins:

and then goes on and on from there. He has also written about various piem rule options.

I once introduced my STA201 students to piems, and invited them to create their own. They obliged with such examples as:

And most exciting of all, I e-mailed Mike Keith about my piem interest and class, and he replied by writing a personalised piem just for me: It doesn't get much cooler than that!
-- Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, January 2018
(See also my note about Pi Instant.)



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