Pi Day is just around the corner (March 14, or 3.14), and we here at SciFri came across a fun simulator that estimates the number in a blog post by Tommy Ogden
, a Ph.D student in theoretical physics at Durham University in England.
The simulator is based on an experiment called Buffon’s needle
, one of the oldest problems in the field of geometrical probability, according to The Mathematica Journal
. In the 18th century, French philosopher Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon determined that you can approximate pi by dropping needles on a grid of parallel lines (whose spacing is greater than the length of a needle) and calculating the probability that they will cross a line. The probability is directly related to pi.
Ultimately, you can calculate pi using this formula:
Ready to find pi? Use Ogden's simulator below, where you can "drop" thousands of sticks and test the formula yourself. How close can you get to pi
, with how many sticks? Send us your results by commenting below or tweeting us @scifri
with the hashtag #MyPi.
If you want to get truly interactive, print out this worksheet
and drop 2.5-inch toothpicks on it. Let us know how close you get! Please note that an updated version of this worksheet was added at about 6:30 p.m. on March 13, 2014 to reflect a change in the formula.
Bonus: You can even try the experiment using hot dogs!
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