9.4.09

Tricked by Pi

At the time I began learning the number memorization system I was working at a gas station. I started practicing the number memorizing system using peoples credit cards. My goal was to be able to memorize their card number in the time it took me to swipe their card. It was hard, but great practice. An easier task was memorizing pi. More digits, yes, but unlimited time to study and create a crazy story. The story I concocted began "A tree has tails hanging from it, the tails fall into my frying pan, which is illegal and my frying pan gets sent to jail. The jail is put into a big envelope and sent in the mail. I open the mail but thousands of vipers come out..."

And so it goes. Notice each image has two elements, and so the tree (14) links to tail (15) links to frying pan (92) links to jail (65) and so on. That little piece of the story, by the way, is 1415926535897932

It was super easy to get to 50 digits. So I did 100, ending it with the waiter walking in with a tray of 100 copper coins (copper = 74). It took one evening to make the story in my head, and I know it to this day, even without having recited it for a couple of years it's easy to recall.

I kept going. I went to 200. And then I realized there was a problem. I needed a stopping point, or I'd end up memorizing thousands of digits and losing all of my friends. What stopping point, though? 200? 500? 1000? They all seemed so... normal.

314 digits seemed like the perfect amount. A good size chunk of digits, a respectable amount without being "crazy", and a very cool number connected to pi. I had my goal. I remember sitting through a 2-hour graduation ceremony in Florida with a business card sized printout of 500 digits, working my way through the late 200s. A fun story with zombies and giant pools of jello.

A few days later, I hit my goal and was very satisfied. I was done. But pi wasn't done. Pi didn't want me to stop. Here's what it did. That very afternoon -- the same day I decided to stop -- I was reading a book on pi that my wife had bought me. I learned a curious fact: The 360th digit of pi is 0. It's here in this string of digits of pi: 339360726. See the "360"? The 360th digit ends that "360" right in the digits of pi. Nice! Especially since circles have 360 degrees.

I wondered if the 314th digit was special. I conjured up the image. It was a meatloaf, MT = 31. Hey! The 314th ends a pi approximation: 3.1. I wondered about the 315th. I had to look it up because I hadn't memorized beyond the 314th. The 315th digit is a 5 -- HEY! The 315th digit ends a "315" -- it has the exact same relationship as the 360th! Cool! In fact, the 315th digit is way cooler than the 314th digit, the 315th digit describes its location, same as the 360th!

Slowly, the horror dawned upon me. I realized I would never be able to forget the 315th digit of pi. That meant I had not memorized just the first 314 digits of pi. I had memorized 315 digits. And there was no going back, ever.

So, I had to keep going. I had been... Tricked by Pi!

Eventually I stopped at 555, but I'm still not satisfied. You see, In the late 700s there's an interesting block of 999999, kind of like the Grand Canyon of pi. That would be worth going for. Maybe at my next graduation ceremony.

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