Category Archives: STEM

How the value of Pi was discovered by a genius – You will be amazed!

I remember being introduced to Pi as a given. Something that I had to accept. An axiom that everyone had agreed with for thousands of years, so no one ever thought to explain where it came, how it was discovered and wether it had any relationship to anything else.

To me it made no sense. It was a magic number ordained from above. Just follow the rules and everything would work out nice and neat and you’d get 20/20 in the exam.

Except that I was one of those annoying kids who hated following rules unless I could see some sense to them. I needed to know the reasons and logic behind the rules. I’m afraid I’m still like that! I was also a very visually-minded kid. I came top in Geometry, while we were using compasses and dividers and scissors and glue, but as soon as we had to involve a bit of arithmetic or algebra… off the ladder I slipped, and down the snake I slid to the bottom of the class.

When writing my book about Archimedes, the man who invented the death ray, I had to get to grips with Pi and explain it, as if to a kid from Ancient Rome.

As I researched the definition of Pi, I had an epiphany – a moment of physical shock and pleasure and enlightenment – even elation. There is actually a reason why Pi equals 3.14 etc. It is dead simple and was worked out by a genius. Why did no one ever tell me this story?

We all naturally assume that the rest of the world think the same way that we do. They don’t. There are billions of ways to wire up a brain. Add family, culture and genetics into the mix, and you can safely assume that no one else thinks like you.

Mathematicians live in a wonderful, shiny world of stainless steel and glass. Any anomalies can be rectified by shifting assumtions one place to the left and creating a different mathematical model (God bless Gödel and his incompleteness theorems!)

Education has recently become obsessed with S.T.E.M. (which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Art has been almost eradicated from the curriculum, leaving a large percentage of the student body lost, mystified and unsatisfied.

There are children who think visually, who think musically, who think in words or emotions, some who think in body movement, all effectively excluded from S.T.E.M., the new orthodoxy in education.

While science, technology, engineering and mathematics are important for the future of the nation, we have to remember that we are humans and not robots. We need all that makes us human. That includes art, music, story, drama, dance… in short, the humanities.

The technological revolution was initially powered by steam, and so should the new technological revolution be powered by S.T.E.A.M.

Adding an A for Art in to STEM keeps humanity in the curriculum and includes the excluded. Steam makes sense of and celebrates arcane subjects, making humans of those who would impose inhumanity on others. We are not robots. We are human. It is art AND science that makes us so.

Watch the video and find out how Archimedes discovered Pi. It may not be true a true story, it may have been embellished over the years, but that’s what makes us human. We are hard-wired to learn from great stories. Leave art, investigation and story out of the mix and we are no longer human.