March 15, 2007 -- Britney in a bathtub with Einstein?!
That's how English brain researcher Ed Cooke remembers the number pi up to 100 places… but we'll come back to him in a moment.
This is a story about pi. You remember -- from grade school -- pi is that endless number: 3.141592....
Briefly to review, (pay close attention, there may be a pop quiz on Friday) pi is the number with which you multiply the length of the diameter of a circle to get the length of the perimeter of that circle.
It works for little circles, big circles -- any circle.
Known to the ancient Egyptians, it's just a little bigger than three but with an infinite number of digits behind the decimal point.
That is, pi is equal to 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510…
Mind-numbing, right? But believe me, that relatively short figure is amateur night. This reporter happens to know pi to just 50 places -- I've always found it kind of catchy, like a nonsense rhyme.
But beyond 50 places… that's where terminal -- or rather nonterminal -- geekiness begins.
You can check it out on YouTube. There, you'll find there's a whole subset of humans (so to speak) planetwide who revel in reciting pi to thousands -- and tens of thousands -- of places.
There Is Actually a World-Record Holder
The world recently saw Daniel Tammet of England reciting pi to 22,514 places -- it took him 5 hours and 9 minutes -- in front of news cameras and a closely checking panel of pi-checkers.
But even that is bush league, sort of.
The official world record is held by a one Chao Lu, a Chinese chemistry student, who did pi to 67,890 digits.
It took him more than 24 hours.
He sent 26 video cassettes of his performance to the Guinness World Records as proof.
But he's apparently been beaten -- unofficially, at least -- by a 60-year-old mental health counselor in Japan named Akira Haraguchi.
He is reported recently to have done pi to 100,000 places -- in a galloping 16 hours.
Britney in Bath With Einstein
Researcher Ed Cooke in England told ABC News that he has a memory trick.
"Twenty-six is my father, 29 is my girlfriend Erika… 75 is Michael Jackson," he said.
But let Ed explain it. Normally, you can't make this stuff up, but actually, he did:
"All I have to do is remember a story of these people interacting in sequence. 21-72-28 -- that's, in my system, Britney in the bath with Einstein… 21-24-28 in my system is Britney Spears playing the violin in the manner of Mozart to Albert Einstein."
Well, mathematicians do call pi an irrational number, meaning it never ends and never repeats.
Ed continues: "Fourteen is the two little girls from 'The Shining.' So, for 3.141592, then, we have the two little girls from 'The Shining' cartwheeling towards Bruce Lee, and then 26 is my father, so you have my father singing, and it carries on…"
Britney Spears seems to have a peculiar affinity for other famous researchers in Ed's system.
"I like the fact that one finds Britney, 21, in situations with Isaac Newton, 88," Ed said.
Mathematicians have proven, apparently -- this reporter will have to take their word for it -- that pi has no patterns in it.
But that's clearly no obstacle to Ed Cooke.
Wanna try your hand? Here's for starters: 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679 82148 08651 32823 06647 09384 46095 50582 23172 53594 08128 48111 74502 84102 70193 85211 05559 64462 29489 54930 38196 44288 10975 66593 34461 28475 64823 37867 83165, etc. (Go online to find it ad infinitum.)