Albert’s Pie

Stephen Hawking’s Not Having
Pi on Einstein’s 139th Birthday

When Albert Einstein was born on this day in 1879, in Ulm, Germany, the Number Pi, the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter, had about 527 decimals, including the three inicial digits that identify it: 3.14. In 1945, three years after Stephen Hawking’s birth, it had 808.
It’s now 68,719,470,000 digits, a record set in 1999. March 14 is a day to mark how far it’s come, even as few know exactly what to do with its constant expansion; to celebrate Einstein, whose work has enlightened the world; but to also feel sad because Hawking died yesterday, at 76.
As it goes, it’s fitting that they both passed away at the same age, since their lifetime contribution to modern science stand as two crucial brackets of human knowledge: Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity, published in 1905, and Hawking‘s continuous efforts to unify it to Quantum Mechanics.
But he’s better known for advancing our knowledge of black holes, a concept developed from Relativity’s space-time, even if it wasn’t called that way or coined by neither of them. It’s simply become one of Cosmology’s most fascinating sources of research and public amusement.
They were both fascinating and complex figures, who towered over their times. But for all their achievements as scientists, they both imprinted their names on the larger context of humanity’s quest to survive, even as both were so critical of how many ways we’ve been pursuing to annihilate ourselves.
Einstein survived Nazism and, despite his research having led in part to the nuclear power that still threatens the world, was a pacifist and denounced totalitarianism whenever he could. In some ways, we’re glad he’s not here to witness our insane revival of the horrors he faced and fought against.
And Hawking, who at 21, was given five years to live, following an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, beat the odds and became, if not the longest, certainly the most famous survivor of the terminally debilitating disease. Despite the complexity of his mind and life, he became a folk hero of sorts.
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But perhaps the most enduring quality these two giants share was their ability to transcend the obvious, the rational, the expected. They’ve opened paths that mankind will track for centuries to come, and ushered bending-time universes, parallel realities, and galaxy-eating dark stars.
While we improve on the telephone, rather than leaping into tomorrow, we’re left feeling orphans of another age when dreams were not measured by the size of our fears, or could be stopped by the blind inevitability of weapons.
One day, we too will be traveling through the vast beyond, and think about our own event horizon.
We’ll keep on adding to this now stratospheric circle, whose size Archimedes got started crunching around 200 BCE, and William Jones symbolized it in 1706, with a Greek letter, to that 1988 March in San Francisco, when Larry Shaw celebrated it by walking in circles and eating fruit pies.
So today, Happy Birthday, Albert Einstein. Have a Great Trip, Stephen Hawking. So long and thanks for all the pie.

In a Relative Way

100 Years of the Einstein Theory
That Jump-Started the Modern World

Most of the technological wonder mankind grew accustomed during the 20th century, and is still the basis of contemporary life, was not yet in place when a 36-year-old Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, after a decade of feverish research.
Despite its far reaching concepts and complexities of its precepts, the theory became both popular and enduring, dismantling old assumptions and challenging scientific thought. Its astonishing accuracy has also proven resilient and still ahead of our time.
In fact, along Max Planck’s Quantum Mechanics formulations, Relativity is arguably one of the most comprehensive – despite its gaps – explanations of natural phenomena since Isaac Newton published his Law of Universal Gravitation, over 220 years before.
It guaranteed Einstein immortality and, even if indirectly, the 1921 Nobel of Physics. While only a few could elaborate on its implications, the theory‘s appeal lies on the simplicity of its outline, and almost direct impact and correlation to our world.
Although most of us couldn’t explain gravity to save our lives, many have at least heard about how massive objects, such as (more)

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Continue reading

Counting Glyphs

Three Outstanding Numbers &
a Century of the Voynich Enigma

For budding mathematicians, the Number Pi is sacred territory. For mystics, there’s the cryptic Belphegor’s Prime. Some social pundits give currency to the Dunbar Number. But after one hundred years, no one has come even close to decipher the Voynich Manuscript.
While Pi is called an ‘irrational number,’ Belphegor is a palindrome with a religious cipher at its core, and a glyph lifted from the Voynich. Now, about the Dunbar, guess what? is not even a number.
We’ll go over each one in more detail, of course. But we do love this sort of thing, even without quite fully understanding their implications. So what? Does anyone need to be an astronomer to admire the stars at night? OK, that was a cheap shot.
But there are definitely ways of immersing oneself in the beauty of these mysterious landmarks of the human thought, without necessarily being current with quantum semantics and the intricacies of code-breaking and algorithmic calculations.
One of them is, naturally, shut the hell up and just enjoy them. But we, dilettantes and amateurs of all stripes, fancy ourselves to be able to Continue reading

Shrinking Kilo

Missing Micrograms Send
Scientific Community Aflutter

Scientific societies the world over are struggling with a recent discovery that affects the very foundation of where they stand: the international prototype of the kilogram appears to weigh less than it did when it was manufactured in the late 19th century.
Now, this prototype has been sealed underground at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, in Sèvres, France, for over 100 years, locked within a safe that can only be Continue reading