On Monday, a team of Swiss data scientists announced that their supercomputer calculated the mathematical constant pi to a new length of 62.8 trillion digits, extending the constant beyond its previously calculated end by some 12.8 trillion digits. And to think I never even memorised 3.141592653.
According to a statement from the University of Applied Sciences of GraubUnden in Switzerland, the research team knew over the weekend that they had achieved the most exact-yet summation of the constant, which describes the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
Pi has numerous applications, including in construction and space flight, but as David Harvey, a mathematician at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told The Guardian, “I can’t imagine any real-life physical application where you would need any more than 15 decimal places.” Other computer scientists have said that 39 digits should do, because that specificity gives you the circumference of the observable universe to within the diameter of a single atom.
So why the extra 62.79… trillion digits? Thomas Keller, who managed the calculation at the University of Applied Sciences, said in the release that the updated constant was a sort of technology demonstration for the supercomputer, which is housed at the university’s Centre for Data Analytics, Visualisation and Simulation.
To calculate such a large number requires a huge amount of memory and processing power. The ultimate pi result took 63 terabytes of space to save, and the computer needed 108 days and nine hours to calculate it, nearly twice as fast as the speed set by Google’s cloud in 2019. Further details on the specifics of the calculation can be found on the project’s website.
The researchers won’t make the entire number public until the Guinness Book of World Records certifies their result (whether Guinness has a full-time data scientist on board for this sort of thing, I’m not sure). For now, we’ll have to be satisfied with just the final 10 digits, which the team shared. That piece of pi: 7817924264.