## 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 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751...

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

• May I have a large container of coffee, cream and sugar?
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:
• How I wish I could calculate pi.
• How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics.

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

• May I bend a small telescope so poorly?
• Yet I hope I might disparage or insult those who think everyone barbecues sausage.
At a family gathering we once had great fun making up:
• Did a fish I think everybody in Canada knows was dying remember Hollywood, despite believing all of the innuendo?
• Can a frog I fried insinuate or assert trees are green?
And my wife kindly made up:
• How I love a stats professor in Canada whose hat flaps whenever windswept Toronto bewitches him at the Solstice.

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:

• One. A Poem: A Raven.
Midnights so dreary, tired and weary,
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap -- the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber's antedoor.
``This'', I whispered quietly, ``I ignore''.
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:

• Now, I want a candy, chocolate, or sugary drink, and bacon sandwich.
• Can I find a sunny addressee to entrap?
• And I hope I might transcend my finals!
• Bet a coin I could bodycheck my sister.
• How I want a break? Extremely of course!
• For I have a great question to ponder,
Seven and three multiply intensely towards twentyone.
How is any solution real?
• Why I wait? I shout, *Metropass!*
"I'm frozen, you're bad, you're careless, expensive, hurtful, imperfect -- why do you continue this attack on joyful life?"
TTC, die.
• Yes, I love a grand scripture.
In lesson there are poems.
Flawless teachings produce deathless men, oh yes.
Poetries warn humans to create life, not low demoness.
Man is eternal, certainly right; ironically so, avoiding mentions from a scripture because a person conflicts vex -- reputably atrocious do's.
Scripts exalt. π.
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:
• Yes, I know a loyal supporter of Pilish poems: the great Canadian professor Jeffrey Rosenthal.
It doesn't get much cooler than that!
-- Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, January 2018