AOH :: PI3.TXT|
Alabama redefines Pi to exactly 3 to bring it in line with Biblical Truth (tm)
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - NASA engineers and mathematicians in this high-tech
city are stunned and infuriated after the Alabama state legistature
narrowly passed a law yesterday redefining pi, a mathematical constant
used in the aerospace industry. The bill to change the value of pi to
exactly three was Pi symbol introduced without fanfare by Leonard Lee
Lawson (R, Crossville), and rapidly gained support after a
letter-writing campaign by members of the Solomon Society, a traditional
values group. Governor Guy Hunt says he will sign it into law on
The law took the state's engineering community by surprise. "It would
have been nice if they had consulted with someone who actually uses pi,"
said Marshall Bergman, a manager at the Ballistic Missile Defense
Organization. According to Bergman, pi is a Greek letter that signifies
the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is often
used by engineers to calculate missile trajectories.
Prof. Kim Johanson, a mathematician from University of Alabama, said
that pi is a universal constant, and cannot arbitrarily be changed by
lawmakers. Johanson explained that pi is an irrational number, which
means that it has an infinite number of digits after the decimal point
and can never be known exactly. Nevertheless, she said, pi is precisly
defined by mathematics to be "3.14159, plus as many more digits as you
have time to calculate".
"I think that it is the mathematicians that are being irrational, and it
is time for them to admit it," said Lawson. "The Bible very clearly says
in I Kings 7:23 that the alter font of Solomon's Temple was ten cubits
across and thirty cubits in diameter, and that it was round in compass."
Lawson called into question the usefulness of any number that cannot be
calculated exactly, and suggested that never knowing the exact answer
could harm students' self-esteem. "We need to return to some absolutes
in our society," he said, "the Bible does not say that the font was
thirty-something cubits. Plain reading says thirty cubits. Period."
Science supports Lawson, explains Russell Humbleys, a propulsion
technician at the Marshall Spaceflight Center who testified in support
of the bill before the legislature in Mongtomery on Monday. "Pi is
merely an artifact of Euclidean geometry." Humbleys is working on a
theory which he says will prove that pi is determined by the geometry of
three-dimensional space, which is assumed by physicists to be
"isotropic", or the same in all directions. "There are other geometries,
and pi is different in every one of them," says Humbleys. Scientists
have arbitrarily assumed that space is Euclidean, he says. He points out
that a circle drawn on a spherical surface has a different value for the
ratio of circumfence to diameter. "Anyone with a compass, flexible
ruler, and globe can see for themselves," suggests Humbleys, "its not
exactly rocket science."
Roger Learned, a Solomon Society member who was in Montgomery to support
the bill, agrees. He said that pi is nothing more than an assumption by
the mathematicians and engineers who were there to argue against the
bill. "These nabobs waltzed into the capital with an arrogance that was
breathtaking," Learned said. "Their prefatorial deficit resulted in a
polemical stance at absolute contraposition to the legislature's
Some education experts believe that the legislation will affect the way
math is taught to Alabama's children. One member of the state school
board, Lily Ponja, is anxious to get the new value of pi into the
state's math textbooks, but thinks that the old value should be retained
as an alternative. She said, "As far as I am concerned, the value of pi
is only a theory, and we should be open to all interpretations." She
looks forward to students having the freedom to decide for themselves
what value pi should have.
Robert S. Dietz, a professor at Arizona State University who has
followed the controversy, wrote that this is not the first time a state
legislature has attempted to redifine the value of pi. A legislator in
the state of Indiana unsuccessfully attempted to have that state set the
value of pi to three. According to Dietz, the lawmaker was exasperated
by the calculations of a mathematician who carried pi to four hundred
decimal places and still could not achieve a rational number. Many
experts are warning that this is just the beginning of a national battle
over pi between traditional values supporters and the technical elite.
Solomon Society member Lawson agrees. "We just want to return pi to its
traditional value," he said, "which, according to the Bible, is three."
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