Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi Day

This afternoon I came across an interesting item on the BBC Web Site from which I learned that today is Pi Day, a celebration of the mathematical ratio (

Of course this only works by taking the 3.14 approximation of Pi in the American dating style sense, that is the English style reversed, of course; 3/14 working better than 14/3, or 14/03, from the Pi Day point of view. Clearly the residents of that great expanse of rock and mud west of the Pond has more uses than playing football with their hands and needing to wear crash helmets to do so, turning Rounders into a national sport and having an English dictionary written by some who cannot spell.

Mind you the thought of a reversed dating style, belatedly, seemed even stranger; more like “boomps a daisy” than anything intimate.

Anyway, less of the frivolity; back to Pi and its fascinations. As a Professional Engineer, plus an interest in science before that, Pi has been part of my life for over half a century. Even so, I came across a couple of interesting points in the BBC piece that I do not think I recall having seen before.

Pi Day, 14th March, is also the birthday of Albert Einstein.

Another gem was the ratio off the lengths of a river. Apparently, if you divide the length of a river from source to mouth, across a gently sloping plain, by its direct length, “as the crow flies”, the answer is Pi.

I was aware of the Great Pyramid of Giza having Pi related ratios and, of course, very familiar with Pi in waves, though, rather than the ocean waves mentioned in the article, those in electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical vibrations, stress waves, etc.

There are other enigmatic constants as well, of course, such as “e”, the base of natural logarithms, though Pi is the most readily recognisable in the general sense.

However, as Daniel Blatner, author of the BBC article and the book “The Joy of Pi” points out, Pi is an ever present, sometime grating reminder that there are puzzles that can be solved and there are mysteries that, perhaps, cannot.

Of course my background and experiences are such that I am only too well aware of the limitations of science, at its present level. What is beyond is both beautiful and fascinating, far more so than even the science and mathematics.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Heroes, zeroes and the rest of us

I was somewhat surprised to come across a news story about Airmen from RAF Wittering being told not to wear uniforms in the City of Peterborough in order to avoid being verbally abused by civilians. Apparently, people who oppose U.K. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq had been taunting service personnel from the base. However, on later reflection I wondered how much it had to do with the ethnic mix in Britain nowadays.

I have been totally opposed to the illegal and immoral wars in which corrupt, cowardly politicians have involve my Country, since the possibility of such conflicts arose. Except for very rare and pressing exceptions I do not believe wars are justified except in self defence and any actions that might result in loss of life should only be undertaken as a last resort. Note that none of the politicians who sent others into those conflicts have ever had the courage to serve in the Armed Forces themselves, other than one who joined a “home defence force” apparently to avoid serving abroad.

However, I have had nothing but admiration for those who have been asked to serve this Country, risk and, unfortunately, give their lives in the process. I seriously doubt if their abusers would get anywhere near their level of courage, more likely turn and run at the lightest threat to their safety.

My late parents met while serving in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. I was born was my father was on a posting in India and owe my life to a surgeon at the Royal Air Force Hospital, Ely; I was belatedly diagnosed with intussusception and operated on with only about half an hour to go. If it had not been for my father effectively overruling the Base Medical Officer, I would not even have made it to hospital. We also used to live in Cambridgeshire, at Upwood R.A.F. Base, not far from Wittering, as well as in my mother’s home town of March, which arises in te early Chapters of my book “Remembering Lorelei” (, hopefully available from May 2008, onwards.

Partly because of my parent’s involvement with the Air Force, though for many other reasons besides, I have considerable respect for the Armed Services. If it was not for them this Country would not have enjoyed the freedom it has, though, regrettably, that is now being taken away by stealth by the very politicians who make use of brave people for the aforementioned immoral, illegal ends.

In the few days following the report of the incidents in Peterborough I have been delighted to read that there has been a huge up swell of goodwill and support for Service personnel from by far the greater majority of people in this Country; that includes the suggestion of an Armed Services Day being incorporated in the calendar.