Slice that Pi

Posted on March 14th, 2014

The power of narrowing your messaging

Today is Pi Day. On March 14, also noted as 3.14, math fans worldwide celebrate a mathematical constant we all know and love: The ratio of any Euclidean plane circle’s circumference to its diameter, or the ratio of a circle’s area to the square of its radius.

Pi is quite literally a number that goes on and on and on – all the digits can never be fully known. (Yes, if Pi were at a party, he would be the irrational guy by the punchbowl you would want to avoid.)

Still, let’s say it is your job to tell the world what Pi is all about. Where do you start?

You can’t tell people everything – Pi has more than one trillion known digits, which would take a person roughly 200 years to recite without stopping. (The world record holder for the most memorized digits of Pi took 24 hours and four seconds to recite over 67,890 digits of Pi. Just don’t ask him to repeat it.)

Narrowing the message helps, but how far do you go? At 39 digits, Pi can estimate the circumference of any circle within the observable universe with precision comparable to the radius of a hydrogen atom. That’s nifty if you’re a particle physicist, but seems like overkill for the average guy on the street.

This is why 3.14 works. It’s catchy. It’s memorable … and unless we’re measuring the radius of a hydrogen atom, it is all most of us really need to know. Think about it – odds are, you’ve been able to store 3.14 somewhere in your long-term memory since the fourth grade. Kind of like that catchy commercial jingle or cool tagline.

So, next time you think about communicating something complicated or something big or something with multiple messages, think of our friend Pi and how well-presented, well-crafted slices are usually what people have an appetite for.