Michael Hartl is spearheading a campaign for a cause that is near and dear to my heart. He wants to fix the fact that we are living with a suboptimal choice for the value of π:
About a year ago I did a hunt on the web to see if anyone besides me had campaigned for changing the value of the fundamental circular constant we use to 2π. At that time, I only found the essay Michael cites: “π is wrong” by Bob Palais, which was published in 2001:
Bob notes that the reactions he got ranged from “obviously” to “you’re nuts”. I’m personally in the “obviously” camp. Especially because in 1995 I gave an informal talk at my university called Clocks that Run Backwards (and other Innovations). In it, I suggested several foundational changes which would eliminate “accidental complexity” that I felt was burdening early education. Changing the circular constant was one of my big pushes.
I am almost 100% certain that other Quixotic-types must have espoused the idea before I ever thought of it. But I
seem to be the earliest we know about (so far) who was crazy enough to treat it like an important topic in public—while sober, even.
(2012 UPDATE: The rising popularity of tau has gotten another proponent of “pi is wrong”–Joseph Lindenberg–to come forward with a 1991 paper he wrote on the subject. Some of the ideas I had in my talk were things I’d cared about long before, such as the issues about fixing clocks. But it was specifically doing EE homework that inspired my annoyance with the chosen value of pi–so I probably only started talking about it around 1994. Anyway….)
Though no recording exists of my presentation, I can call witnesses. In fact, one guy who came to the talk wrote my argument in response to a math question on an exam he didn’t know the answer to. He argued that he didn’t have to answer it due to religious objections to the choice of the value of pi. I think the TA gave him 0.628 points for the answer.
(Note: On another question on that test for which this fellow did not prepare, he wrote “6*O, where O is defined to be 1/6 of the answer to question 21″—or something to that effect. I don’t want any of the blame for that idea, though!)
Michael and Bob (and Joseph) have made the arguments, and expanded upon them with more formal justification than I ever have. So rather than repeat that here, I’ll lay out how my proposal differed…as well as a few other things I talked about.