Pi and pie

By Robin Noonan, publicist

On my drive into work this morning I heard that today is National Pie Day. Immediately my thoughts turned to a nice spring treat: strawberry rhubarb pie. After arriving at the office and riffling through the index of Manly Meals and Mom’s Home Cooking, by Jessamyn Neuhaus, I realized that the DJ actually said it’s National Pi Day, as in the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Or something like that. I was hardly a math major. Far from it. The mere thought of geometry makes me break into a cold sweat. But that was long ago and I’ve spent my career immersed in the world of book publishing. Which shares little with pi—most especially not the sense of certainty and comfort that a mathematical formula provides.

Anyway, back to pi, a foundational theory of Euclidean geometry. Pi is infinite (if only pie were too), but the shorthand for it is 3.14, or March 14th. Wavelets: A Concise Guide, by Amir-Homayoon Najmi; Noncommutative Geometry, Arithmetic, and Related Topics, edited by Caterina Consani and Alain Connes; and even the second edition of Adventures in Group Theory, by David Joyner, all mention something about pi, I think, but (with apologies to all of the wonderful instructors I had) I’ve long given up on understanding formulas. What those teachers did impart is that mathematics, like baking, is exact. Precision matters if one is to arrive at an elegant solution and a dessert whose fruit is that pitch-perfect combination of sweet and tart (and in the case of rhubarb—no longer toxic) enveloped in a crust that is buttery and flaky.

We’ve heard noises round the internet that pi is not infinite. The math is too high level for us, but if one of you is able to explain clearly how this is true we’ll give you one copy of every book we have in print*. And I’ll bake you a pie.

Oh, and by the way. Those jokers at the American Pie Council apparently have declared today to be National Pie Day, though it’s more tongue-in-cheek marketing than anything as important as pi.

*This offer is good only on Pi Day 2012 and must be claimed in person the same day. In other words, it’s humor and we’re sure that the accolades one receives for debunking pi will more than compensate for the fact that the JHU Press is in no way prepared to give away to anyone one copy of every book we have in print. We are however willing to negotiate about the pie.