Museum of Science and Industry celebrates Pi Day

By Shanley Chien

Pie lovers and math enthusiasts unite! The Museum of Science and Industry is celebrating Pi Day this Saturday by giving away a free slice of pie or pizza to the first 314 attendees to arrive.

“The [museum’s] food court will typically have three or four selections of toppings and we’ll have dessert pies like coconut cream,” said Beth Boston, communications manager at the museum.

Guests will receive a voucher at the ticket stand and can redeem them at the museum’s Brain Food Court on the lower level.

The mathematical constant pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and that approximate value is 3.141592653. As an irrational fraction, decimal representation is never-ending.

That’s why Pi Day is celebrated every March 14, and this year is particularly special because it marks the next two digits in the constant’s succession: 3.14.15. (If you’re especially enamored, don’t forget to set your alarms for 9:26:53 a.m. and p.m. so the date and time represent pi’s first 10 digits.)

Boston said attendees can complement their math-themed day by visiting the museum’s new permanent exhibit: “Numbers in Nature.” The exhibit explores numerical patterns that are seen in the natural world, such as the golden ratio in spirals, Voronoi diagrams in cracks, and fractals in snowflakes.

The highlight of the exhibit is its centerpiece “Mirror Maze,” which features an 1,800-square-foot hallway of mirrors. The maze is designed with repeating equilateral triangles and mirrored walls to give it the appearance of infinite hallways.

Children explore the Mirror Maze in the Museum of Science and Industry’s new 1,800-square-foot permanent exhibit. (Museum of Science and Industry)

“By showcasing that fascinating numerical patterns that are all around us, we hope that both kids and adults alike will become inspired to discover more about how math, as a part of the STEM fields, is a strong and important presence in our daily lives,” said Kurt Haunfelner, MSI’s vice president of exhibits and collections in a press release. Stem fields cover science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

While some mathematicians, like University of Chicago math professor J. Peter May, plan on staying at home and proving theorems for Pi Day, others will take advantage of the homophonic pun and indulge their sweet and savory tooth.

“My family usually celebrates Pi Day by baking pies: pumpkin pie, apple pie, chicken potpie, etc. We typically invite some friends over or do a potluck type of thing,” said Dustin Belt, math lecturer at Northwestern University. “It is fun for the kids because they get to eat pie, and we talk about why on earth mommy and daddy are letting them eat so much dessert.”

But as much fun as it is to consume pie, Belt said it’s also important to take the day to appreciate the importance of math.

“We talk about the number pi, and that the day is also a fun way to remember about how math in general affects our lives in little and big ways everyday,” he said.

The Museum of Science and Industry is located at 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr. and is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Photo at top: Pi Day Pie (Tarehna Wicker/Flickr)
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