Pie!, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.

Today is Pi Day! It’s March 14, which is sometimes written as 3.14, which in turn is the mathematical constant pi rounded to two decimals.

When I taught computer camp in the summer during high school (yeah, yeah), one of the other instructors was working on a project in which he was calculating pi to some incredible number of digits. He used the school’s mainframe to do this, and it was even more tedious that it sounds. Tedious, that is, if you don’t adore pi. I confess that I don’t adore it, but my colleague did, and I respected his dedication.

I know pi only to a few decimals, and I remember it only because of a cheer I learned at MIT:

I’m a Beaver, you’re a Beaver, we are Beavers all.

And when we get together, we do the Beaver call.

E to the U du dx,

E to the X dx.

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,

3.14159.

Integral radical mu dv

Slipstick, sliderule, MIT.

Go Tech!

(To explain the Beaver references: The beaver is the MIT mascot, because beavers are Nature’s engineers.)

I’ve always assumed this cheer, ridiculously geeky as it is, was unique to MIT. Today when I posted about it on Twitter, graduates of CIT and Princeton said they had learned almost the same cheers at their schools. Shocking!

I’m not sure how to trace the origin of this cheer, but be assured that I will be investigating. I notice that there’s a stronger mathematical underpinning to the MIT version than to the CIT and Princeton versions that may be significant. Developing….

Incidentally, when I attended MIT, we had competitive sports but no cheerleaders. That has changed: Please discover the MIT Cheer, "the smartest cheerleaders in the world."

I sent out my very own, very geeky “happy Pi day!” email this morning, even though I’m a little more fond of Mole day, myself. [I was a chem major before I added the math major.]

I’ve been meaning to try and make this for while, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe this weekend.

Oh, and I should have finished my thought before hitting submit, or stopped thinking after I hit it, but anyway… your pies are much prettier than mine have ever been. Mine tend to, uh, overflow a little. :)

That pumpkin pi is quite awesome, Amy. As a bonus, it looks like it would be very easy to cut and serve.

I’ve learned, after years, that it’s important not to overfill the pie shell. I have a pile of custard cups, so if I have too much filling I can make one or two mini, crustless pies. Fill, bake about the same amount of time as the big pie, remove with care, enjoy later at your leisure.

Sometimes I even have too much pie dough, and then I can make a tiny pie just for myself. Mini pumpkin pie is an excellent breakfast.