"Ten is doubtless a convenient number of fingers to have, though men have gotten along with less and a few people have been born with more. But as the purely arbitrary unit which determines the form of our numbers, it was a miserable choice." – F. Emerson Andrews
"Do not disturb my circles." – Archimedes
It's that time of year again—time to start thinking about DOZENAL PI DAY.
Regardless of its radical prejudices, Pi Day has become, in recent years, an annual cultural event of some magnitude, and the occasion for a certain nominal enthusiasm about "math" that people seem to find meaningful. At the very least, it seems to remind us of our own cleverness, which is something I have nothing against in principle.
Yet I am more convinced than ever that, unless we remain firmly mindful of what separates the arbitrary and symbolic in mathematics from the truly meaningful, Pi Day will ultimately remain a rather vacuous and misguided holiday. Thus, I once again propose the observation of DOZENAL PI DAY on 18; March (decimal 20th), to raise awareness of the superior dozenal radix, while also bringing attention to the underlying meaninglessness of our present decimal notation.
As I wrote last year:
"I am not sure when exactly this 'Pi Day' thing became so fashionable, but for me it has come to symbolize everything that is wrong and unwholesome about modern society's relationship with numbers. You see, of late I find myself more and more perturbed by the extent to which people seem to take the primacy of decimal notation for granted in conceptualizing and comparing numbers. In the case of pi, there is NOTHING particularly universal or ontologically significant in the sequence of digits 3.14159265... except that they represent a certain way of parsing the value of pi by successive fractions of ten. THIS IS MAY BE INTERESTING IF YOU ARE REALLY INTO THE NUMBER TEN FOR SOME REASON. Otherwise it—like the entire decimal radix system—is fairly useless."
Again, I will take a moment here, as I did last year, to note PI IN SOME OTHER RADICES:
- Binary: 11.00100100001111
- Octal: 3.11037
- Hexadecimal: 3.243F
- DOZENAL: 3.184809493B
Why not celebrate "Pi Day" on, for instance, March 9th, as it would be in octal? (I can't even decide on the binary date—March 0th? And hex brings us straight into April.) Indeed, why not celebrate it on March 4th, when 0;18 (0.14) of March has elapsed?
Given that there are, notably, twelve months in our calendar, and in light of the natural superiority of the dozenal radix in practically all important matters, one begins to wonder why there would even be a decimal "Pi Day" at all. Should we not calculate such a silly, made-up holiday using a radix that is at least somewhat relevant to the calendrical structure it is derived from?
Thus I submit to you again, as I did last year, that Dozenal Pi Day makes more sense, on more levels, than decimal Pi Day ever will. Additionally it should be noted that, as in most years, Dozenal Pi Day this year falls on the vernal equinox, which is a pretty good day all around for celebrating crap. Moreover, this paricular Dozenal Pi Day falls agreeably on a Sunday, whereas decimal Pi Day falls on a Monday—and unless you're getting the day off, Monday is a pretty lame day for a holiday.
So, FOR ALL THESE REASONS AND MORE, wherever you are, in whater fashion you feel may or may not be appropriate, please join us in celebrating the SECOND ANNUAL DOZENAL PI DAY, on the nominal spring equinox, March one-dozen-and-eighth, in this the 11B7th (one-dozen-one-eleventy-seventh) year of the Common Era. Thank you.
Pi Day vs. Tau Day
Several things have changed since last we celebrated this momentous day. Most notably perhaps, Michael Hartl's stirring Tau Manifesto gave voice to those of us long unhappy with the characterization of the circular constant as the ratio of circumference to diameter. Indeed, our HEXBLOG has fully endorsed Mr. Hartl's proposed adoption of τ as an alternate description of 2π (6;349419 or 6.283186). There are, however, two immediate problems with TAU DAY, at least as far as our purposes here are concerned:
- There is no day in the Gregorian year that even remotely corresponds to 6;34. Mr. Hartl, of course, is content to celebrate the antiquated decimal version of Tau Day on 28 June, but there is neither a 34th of June, nor a 63rd of April, in either decimal or dozenal.
- As the whole point of DOZENAL PI DAY is to bring attention more to dozenalism than to π or τ, moving it to a fairly obscure and esoteric day three months after the rest of the world celebrates its preferred circular constant day would not really advance our interests. Granted, τ seems to be catching on among the mathematical avant-garde (and rightly so), but I think it's still a few years away from getting any traction with the normals.
Anyway, the important point to consider here is that, unlike competing radices, and as the Tau Manifesto itself makes clear, τ and π are not mutually exclusive—they can exist side-by-side in the same environment, even in the same expression. One simply specifies one or the other with the appropriate symbol, and there is no confusion or ambiguity about it whatsoever. So I certainly feel that one can continue to fully support Tau Day and the tau movement without in any way renouncing π or π-related festivities. They are complementary manifestations of the same underlying geometrical principle.
The larger issue here, of course, is that the ideal occasions for observing either Pi Day or Tau Day would be according to some sort of radix-neutral orbital fraction. If we are to take, say, the winter solstice as an appropriate starting point, 1/τ of the year would bring us to, if my calculations are correct, February 15;th (decimal 17th) in most years. Likewise, doing the same with π would bring us to April 14;th (decimal 16th). Indeed, there is already a variant of this formulation that puts Pi Day on April 22;nd (decimal 26th), calculating from January 1. That's a fine system too, but as long as I'm reinventing shit for no apparent reason, I would rather stick with astronomically significant points of reference.
I could respect an Astronomical Pi or Tau Day of this sort. It might even be something I would legitimately enjoy celebrating. But again, it's a bit esoteric, and since it's radix-neutral it doesn't actually help us here at all.
Thus, in conclusion, we are once again left with Dozenal Pi Day as the only viable dozenal alternative to the bourgeois decimal supremacism of regular Pi Day.
For a more in-depth treatment of the dozenal radix, please consult last year's rant on the subject, or even my own amazing Argument for Dozenalism (the latter of which actually includes, if I recall correctly, a fair amount of material from the former). Also, why not take advantage of the advent of this auspicious occasion to join the Dozenal Society of America (or even the Dozenal Society of Great Britain if that's more your thing).
(I am intending this post to serve as some sort of hub for DOZENAL PI DAY promotion on the internet, so it may evolve over time in response to changing needs. Or not. I don't know yet. Anyway, please feel free to post comments, questions, or thoughts you may have on WHAT DOZENAL PI DAY MEANS TO YOU in the comments section below. Thank you.)