Dr. Wilson Celebrates Pi Day (3/14) at
March 14, 2003
MSSM Math teacher
It was a remarkable Pi Day at The Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, Maine. Math teacher Patrick Farrell and others organized a series of events destined to place MSSM in the record books. Nate Conroy, who is a student at MSSM, had been memorizing pi on his own before hearing of Dr. Wilson a year ago. Nate Conroy, Dr. Wilson, and two MSSM alumni, Alison Wood (currently at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and Emily Rehmeyer (currently at Univeristy of Vermont) recited pi under stringently controlled competition conditions with their eyes on two records: the then-current United States third place record of 1505 digits, set by Edward C. Berberich as the 1974 World Record, and the then-current French record of 555 digits, set by Fabrice Lamborelle in 2001. The event drew the attention of the local press, with a Dr. Wilson and Nate Conroy being interviewed by a local TV crew. Dr. Wilson correctly recalled a ten-digit block of pi selected at random from a table of pi digits, while Nate Conroy recited a large block of the beginning digits at blazing speed.
During the official recitation attempts, the four pi reciters were videotaped reciting pi as verifiers, official witnesses, and interested students watched, some by closed-circuit TV. The conditions were unforgiving: the position of the first error would determine the record, and official verification forms would not be completed until witnesses had ample time to review the videotapes.
It was a triumph of math phenomenon Nate Conroy over performing mnemonist Dr. Wilson. Nate Conroy recited 1,248 digits at blazing speed without error, the more remarkable because he does not use any mnemonic devices that he is consciously aware of, relying instead on a feeling for the swing and pattern of the digits themselves. Dr. Wilson endured several false starts, at one point starting over after having recited over 500 digits without error; officially, he recited over 1,192 digits without error. Alison Wood and Emily Rehmeyer turned in good performances as well; Emily came within six digits of breaking the French record of 555 digits, while Alison recited 351 digits.
The pi recitation event was followed by a full medicine show by Dr. Wilson, featuring speed memorization of a deck of cards, the memorization of a dictionary, and recitation of ten-digit blocks of pi selected using a large wheel of fortune.
He followed the performance with a talk on mnemonics, explaining in detail the multiple mnemonic systems behind his performances and answering questions from students.
|Pi whiz Nate Conroy ruled the day!|
Students at The Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, Maine, celebrate a holiday that isn't on many people's calendars: Pi Day. Pi Day celebrates pi, the number that is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi is an irrational number, meaning that it cannot be written as the ratio of two whole numbers. The value of pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits, never repeating or showing any pattern. Because the value of pi is approximately 3.14, March 14 (3/14) has come to be Pi Day. It is a day for teachers, students and others to celebrate many aspects of this famous number.
This year, students at MSSM are adding something new to their many Pi Day activities: Dr. Wilson's Memory Elixir. Dr. Wilson, a world-famous entertainer from Bar Harbor (web site: memoryelixir.com), will appear at MSSM in an old-time medicine show to promote the virtues of Dr. Wilson's Memory Elixir, "a wholesome blend of natural extracts of thirty different herbs and root vegetables that promotes and revitalizes the capacity for learning and memory, strengthens the nerves, and effectively wards off cataleptic neuroplexy." Dr. Wilson mixes showmanship and amazing feats to convince audiences of the virtues of his marvelous elixir, "the crowning achievement of modern medical science."
This aspect of Pi Day is not as irrational as the number itself, because Dr. Wilson has memorized pi to over 5,000 digits. He will demonstrate this during the medicine show using a large Wheel of Fortune and handouts listing the digits of pi in a grid of ten-digit blocks.
Prior to the show, he will attempt to set the official Maine record for most digits of pi memorized, as he recites digits of pi while blindfolded. Several MSSM students will join him, attempting to set records as well. The attempts to set records will be subject to official rules and elaborate precautions to ensure legitimacy, including videotaping for later review.
As if that were not enough, Dr. Wilson is scheduled to give a lecture on mnemonics (techniques to assist memory) to a smaller group of students. It is unusual for the showman to share his techniques, but in recognition of the abilities of students at MSSM on this special day, he promises to reveal all.
|More on Pi Day at Wikiverse.|