Pi Day at Chi Alpha

John Sillcox, mathematician extraordinaireAs most of you were completely unaware, yesterday was Pi Day.

If the reference is confusing to you, yesterday was March 14. This date can be written 3/14, and 314 are the first three digits of the infinitely‐long number pi.

Anyway, I made a reference to Pi Day at the beginning of my message last night and I asked offhandedly if anyone in the audience had pi memorized out to any significant length — more than 10 digits.

At first I didn’t see any hands, but then I noticed that everyone was pointing at someone just out of my field of vision. I turned and John Sillcox (pictured here) had his hand raised.

“John, how many digits do you have pi memorized out to?”


“For real? You know the first 100 digits of pi?”


I was pretty floored. I had thought MAYBE someone would know the first 10 or 25 digits.

“You know that I have no choice but to call you up here and have you recite them.”

After some cajoling he agreed and began reciting the numbers. One of the graphics I had for pi day happened to display the first several hundred numbers and so we projected the graphic behind him while he rattled them off. His recall was perfect.

Here’s the bit that I found most interesting about the entire experience: the response of the audience. This is the sort of geeky thing that normally only I would find cool. But at Stanford, such displays get a different response. Our Chi Alpha group went wild. One of our rugby players got up and began bowing to John, crying “We’re not worthy!”

So yeah. That’s what Pi Day at Chi Alpha is like. At least at Stanford.

For the record, my texts were Exodus 3:14 and Philippians 3:14. 🙂