Pi Day: Emma Haruka, the woman who broke the record by adding billions of digits to the mathematical constant (and why it's important) | News from El Salvador

Emma Haruka Iwao


Emma Haruka Iwao is a software engineer and works at Google.

The value of the Pi number, the most famous mathematical constant in history, has just reached a new world record thanks to a Google employee, who managed to calculate it with 31,000 million digits.

Emma Haruka Iwao , a software engineer, has passed the previous figure, established in 22,000 million digits, with his calculations.

The Google web developer did it with the help of the technology giant's cloud computing service.

Google announced the news on his blog on the day of the commemoration of Pi, which is celebrated every March 14 in the United States since 2009.

"I am very surprised," Iwao said of his goal, which was recorded in the Guinness Book. "I'm still trying to take reality. Beating the world record was very difficult ".

Pi was originally "discovered" to measure circles. It is the number obtained by dividing the circumference length of a circle by its diameter.

It is infinitely long, but its first digits ( 3.1416 ) are the best known.

Pi symbol

Getty Images

The symbol of Pi corresponds to the letter 16 of the Greek alphabet.

Extending the known sequence of digits into Pi is very difficult because the number does not follow an established pattern , this is why it is considered an "irrational" number .

Iwao's calculation required 170 TB (terabytes) of data – it's a huge number: 200,000 music tracks occupy 1 TB – and needed 25 virtual machines and 121 days to complete it.

What is Pi used for?

Pi is used in engineering, physics, supercomputing and space exploration, since its value can be useful calculations of waves, circles and cylinders.

NASA (US Space Agency) has previously published a list of uses of Pi. These are some of them:

  • calculates the required size of a parachute to send a vehicle to the surface of Mars
  • understand how many rectangular images are needed to map the surface of a planet
  • get a spaceship to brake at the right time to go into orbit around the planets

"Pi is not only useful for measuring circles, but also appears in all types of calculations , from the period of a pendulum to the unstable force of a beam, "Matt Parker, the mathematician, told the BBC.

"Modern mathematics, physics, engineering and technology could not work without Pi".

calculation of the pi number

Boston Globe / Getty Images

Pi is the number obtained by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter.

In 2010, the researcher Nicholas Sze used Yahoo's cloud computing system to calculate that the number occupying the 2000 trillion position within Pi's decimal places was zero, a calculation that would have taken 500 years on a standard computer at that time .

However, it did not calculate the intermediate figures.

The search for longer versions of Pi – like the one obtained by Iwao – is a great pastime for mathematicians . In fact, the Google employee said he was fascinated by this mathematical sequence since he was a child.

But he hopes to expand his work over Pi .

"It doesn't end with Pi, I'd like to try more figures," he told BBC News.

The symbol of Pi

Getty Images

Pi Number Day is celebrated every March 14 (14/3).

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