# Moving Pi-ctures

Today, as I’m sure you’re aware, is Pi Day - a day for the festive
consumption of pies and quiet self-reflection. In the spirit of the
holiday, I’d like to present a point for discussion: *Everyone has a
great talent for at least one thing.* That this is true for at least
*some* people is seen through even a cursory glance at a history book:
George Washington was really good at leading revolutions, Michelangelo
was an outstanding ceiling painter [1], and Batman was the
best at solving complex riddles (especially in English, pero
*especialmente* en
español).
But I’m certain that this holds for everyone. What’s your talent? Mine,
as those of you who read this blog should know very well by now, is
certainly *not* doing physics. Nope, my talent is watching TV. Seriously
guys, I watch TV like a boss [2]. In light of this talent, I
thought I would describe a few instances in which I have seen pi
represented (for better or for worse) in TV and movies. Over the last
few months, I have been re-watching a lot of the TV show
*Psych* with my good friend and
fellow Virtuosi contributor, Matt “TT” Showbiz [3]. For the
uninitiated, *Psych* is a detective show where the main characters
(Shawn and Gus) run a (fake) psychic detective agency, which allows them
to solve mysteries, engage in various shenanigans, and make an
inordinate number of references to *Tears for Fears* frontman Curt Smith
[4]. In one of the episodes, Shawn and Gus enter a room where
a long train of digits is written across the top of the wall. It soon
becomes evident that these are the digits of pi and the camera is sure
to zoom in on the famous first few digits to reassure us. But there are
hundreds of digits written out and I have very little faith in TV prop
people when it comes to background mathematical expressions. So I
decided to check it out.

Pi on the Wall (click to enhance for texture)

Using a neat little pi searcher, I checked to see if (and where) this sequence appeared in pi. Turns out it’s legit and (almost!) correct. The first 105 digits of pi (counting after the three) are:

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482534211706

7982148

where I have underlined the 99th, 100th, and 101st digits. Looking back at the writing on the wall, we see that the 100th digit has been duplicated.

So close! Oh well, nobody is perfect. Even though there is an error
here, I very much appreciate that whoever was doing the set design
decided to use the *actual* digits of pi. All too often I see
nonsensical equations in the background of TV shows and movies when it
would take *exactly the same* amount of work to put real equations
there. So congratulations to you, O nameless prop-making intern!, for
giving an accurate (well, to a part in 10^100) value of pi. Neat, so
are there any other TV shows or movies that have pi in them? Well,
there’s Pi. *Pi* is film
by Darren Aronofsky (*Requiem for a Dream*, etc) about a mathematician
looking for patterns in the stock market. It’s a pretty good movie with
a really cool
soundtrack
by Clint Mansell. It also appears to display the digits of pi in the
opening credits. But does it? To the Youtube-mobile! You can watch the
opening credits here if
you like and here is a still image of the relevant section.

Looks pretty cool, huh? But once we get past the slick aesthetics, we see that something doesn’t seem right. This number they are showing appears at first glance to be our good friend pi, but after the 8th digit the cover is blown and we see that this is actually some impostor number!

More like Darren Aron-wrong-sky.

Now, I fully understand that this has no bearing whatsoever on the film
and, in the grand scheme of things, is not a Big Deal. But it would have
been just as easy to put the *real* digits of pi here instead of just
random filler. The only way that this could possibly be better than the
real deal would be if it is actually a secret code. I have not yet ruled
this out, as the movie is entirely about looking for meaning in
seemingly random numbers. Unfortunately, the difficulty in transcribing
the numbers from the screen greatly outweighs the very small chance that
this isn’t just gibberish. Four hundred Quatloos to anyone who can tell
me if this is a code or not!

[1] And an above average Ninja Turtle to boot. [back]

[2] Yes, I am putting my TV watching skills on par with the talents of
George Washington. In fact, the stoic way in which I persevered through
the entirety of *The Sarah Connor
Chronicles*in
under two weeks was described by historian David McCullough as
“Washingtonian.” These are simply facts. [back]

[3] The extra “T” is for extra talent. [back]

[4] A duo can *absolutely* have a frontman. For evidence, feel free to
ask the not-George-Michael-guy from *Wham!* or the not-Paul-Simon-guy
from *Simon & Garfunkel*. [back]

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