Re: 3.141592653589793238 from the forgotten verses

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Mon Jun 09 2003 - 22:36:34 EDT

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    I was surfing the "Urban Legends" site this evening, and found that a piece
    of creative writing composed in 1998 had attributed a similar action to the
    Alabama Legislature. The story begins:

    "HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - NASA engineers and mathematicians in this high-tech city
    are stunned and infuriated after the Alabama state legistature narrowly
    passed a law yesterday redefining pi, a mathematical constant used in the
    aerospace industry. The bill to change the value of pi to exactly three was
    introduced without fanfare by Leonard Lee Lawson (R, Crossville), and
    rapidly gained support after a letter-writing campaign by members of the
    Solomon Society, a traditional values group. Governor Guy Hunt says he will
    sign it into law on Wednesday."

    You can get the whole juicy piece on the Urban Legends site at

    Bob Schneider

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "D. F. Siemens, Jr." <>
    To: <>
    Cc: <>
    Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2003 4:42 PM
    Subject: Re: 3.141592653589793238 from the forgotten verses

    > On Thu, 5 Jun 2003 12:27:55 -0400 "bivalve"
    > <> writes:
    > > Actually, I think the Indiana legislature proposal claimed pi was 4.
    > > If I remember correctly, it was promoted as producing much more
    > > lumber out of a log than the standard value. It was not based on
    > > the Biblical text in any way. The History of Pi is at home, though.
    > > As the author would gladly have seized on a chance to attack any
    > > attempt at using I Kings as a guide to pi, it seems safe to assume
    > > that there is no evidence for such a mistake.
    > >
    > I dug out my file and noted reference to both 4 and 3.2, and the
    > possibility of rounding to 3 (note the rounding in the text below).
    > Edward J. Goodwin was a physician who published "Quadrature of the
    > Circle" in /American Mathematical Monthly/, 1:246f (July 1894). I present
    > the text of House Bill No. 246, Indiana State Legislature, 1897, so
    > anyone may try to figure out the value.
    > A bill for an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered as a
    > contribution to education to be used only in the State of Indiana free of
    > cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is
    > accepted and adopted by the official action of the legislature of 1897.
    > Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana:
    > It has been found that a circular area is to the square on a line equal
    > to the quadrant of the circumference, as the area of an equilateral
    > rectangle is to the square of one side. The diameter employed as the
    > linear unit according to the present rule in computing the circle's area
    > is entirely wrong, as it represents the circle's area one and one-fifth
    > times the area of a square whose perimeter is equal to the circumference
    > of the circle. This is because one fifth of the diameter fails to be
    > represented four times in the circle's circumference. For example: if we
    > multiply the perimeter of a square by one-fourth of any line one-fifth
    > greater than one side, we can in like manner make the square's area to
    > appear one fifth greater than the fact, as is done by taking the diameter
    > for the linear unit instead of the quadrant of the circle's
    > circumference.
    > Section 2. It is impossible to compute the area of a circle using the
    > diameter as the linear unit without trespassing upon the area outside of
    > the circle to the extent of including one-fifth more area than is
    > contained within the circle's circumference, because the square on the
    > diameter produces the side of a square which equals nine when the area of
    > ninety degrees equals eight. By taking the quadrant of the circle's
    > circumference for the linear unit, we fulfil the requirements of both
    > quadrature and rectification of the circle's circumference. Furthermore,
    > it has revealed the ratio of the chord and arc of ninety degrees, which
    > is as seven to eight, and also the ratio of the diagonal and one side of
    > the square, which is as ten to seven, disclosing the fourth important
    > fact, that the ratio of the diameter and circumference is as five fourths
    > to four; and because of these facts and the further fact that the rule in
    > present use fails to work both ways mathematically, it should be
    > discarded as wholly wanting and misleading in practical applications.
    > Section 3. In further proof of the value of the author's proposes
    > contribution to education, and offered as a gift to the State of Indiana,
    > is the fact of his solutions of the trisection of the angle, duplication
    > of the cube and quadrature of the circle having been already accepted as
    > contributions to science by the American Mathematical Monthly, the
    > leading exponent of mathematical thought in this country. And be it
    > remembered that these noted problems had been long since given up by
    > scientific bodies as unsolvable mysteries and above man's ability to
    > comprehend.
    > This bill has been erroneously declared simultaneous with the Tennessee
    > Scopes trial.
    > Dave


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