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Boot Pi and Embrace Tau?

by Steven Pomeroy | Filed under Bad Math.




There has been a movement over the last decade to replace pi with it’s 2X equivalent – tau.  Bob Palais of the University of Utah and his followers insist that this would be a more meaningful ‘constant’, and would lead to less mistakes in the calculations of innumerable individuals.

Nice try, Palais et al.  Would you also have us trash Euler’s identity or the countless text books in circulation?  Sounds like you are just trying to cement your place in mathematical history.  Well, IMHO, this is not a good idea, and I am 100% against it.  I really don’t think much will come of this, but, just in case, maybe I should take in some of the textbook publishers out there!

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4 Responses to “Boot Pi and Embrace Tau?”

  1. Max | 6/07/11

    Eulers identity still works with tau and gives e^(i*t) = 1 which is way nicer!

  2. Bob Palais | 20/07/11

    Unfortunately you obviously never read my article as you are attributing a lot to me that I never said. What’s more, you probably have heard of John Horton Conway, who is on record in a Physics World column as agreeing that 6.28… is the correct constant. I guess he doesn’t know what’s good or bad math. Euler’s identity does improve, e^(i*2pi)=1 is better,
    e^(i pi)=-1 just says if you go halfway (pi) around the unit circle you get to -1, isn’t that a bit more awkward than saying if you go all the way around you get back to 1? I never said people will there will be fewer mistakes, or to replace books or pi. I said that the assignment of the reference to a half-circle ruins the beauty and simplicity of radian measure, so that a quarter or an hour (that every child knows) becomes a half-pi rather than the quarter-`turn’ it would be if turn=6.28… Just pointing out where they screwed up.

  3. Bob Palais | 20/07/11

    P.S. You might enjoy the discussion of the topic on another `good math/bad math’ site:
    http://scientopia.org/blogs/goodmath/2010/12/08/really-is-wrong/

    I certainly found it a bit less unkind and didn’t make the personal ad hominem attacks on me and my motivations without even reading what I’d written like you did.

  4. admin | 21/07/11

    You are correct in saying that I did not read your article. My comments were a knee-jerk reaction to the LiveScience article published via Yahoo on June 30th, 2011.

    I do understand your arguments – they are very convincing. But the use of pi in mathematical language has become traditional, and the language of mathematics has evolved with pi as part of its foundation.

    I think a lot of this has to do with personal taste. For instance, I prefer seeing Euler’s identity with the five constants 0, 1 e, i, and pi: (e^(i*pi)) +1 = 0.

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