I was learning Perl last weekend from the book, Learning Perl, 3rd
edition by Randal L. Schwartz and Tom Phoenix. While reading the book, I
came across these lines:
It's easier to type $pi than π, especially if you don't have
Unicode. And it will be easy to maintain the program in case the value
of π ever changes.379
The corresponding footnote said:
379It nearly did change by a legislative act in the state of
I searched the web and found that the original urbanlegends.com is no
longer there. However, I came across this brilliant piece of humour: http://www.snopes.com/religion/pi.asp.
It is a fictitious report on a state legislature redefining the value of
π to 3.
If you read the snopes page, you'll find that it was actually posted in
a newsgroup as humour and then people started circulating it as hoax
from there. Some of the intriguing and funny bits from it:
Lawson called into question the usefulness of any number that cannot be
calculated exactly, and suggested that never knowing the exact answer
could harm students' self-esteem.
Scientists have arbitrarily assumed that space is Euclidean, he says. He
points out that a circle drawn on a spherical surface has a different
value for the ratio of circumfence to diameter.
In fact, with a little geometry one can find out that, if a flatlander living on a
globe with diameter D draws a circle of diameter d assuming that he is
on a flat surface, the ratio of the circumference to the diameter would
πD⁄d · sin d⁄D.
A few more extracts from the snopes page:
"These nabobs waltzed into the capital with an arrogance that was
breathtaking," Learned said. "Their prefatorial deficit resulted in a
polemical stance at absolute contraposition to the legislature's
One member of the state school board, Lily Ponja, is anxious to get the
new value of pi into the state's math textbooks, but thinks that the old
value should be retained as an alternative. She said, "As far as I am
concerned, the value of pi is only a theory, and we should be open to
all interpretations." She looks forward to students having the freedom
to decide for themselves what value pi should have.
The real event that the footnote mentioned is: Indiana Pi Bill.