Date: 7/15/96 at 9:38:19 From: Louis Newton Subject: Irrational Pi Dear Dr. Math, Why is pi considered an irrational number when it's defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter?
Date: 7/15/96 at 12:9:14 From: Doctor Paul Subject: Re: Irrational Pi I think before we answer this we should define what it means for a number to be irrational. Then this problem is simple. An irrational number is one that can not be defined as a fraction p/q for any integers p and q. That is, the number can not be written as one whole number divided by another whole number. Your question is a good one. If Pi is the ratio of the circumference to its diameter, then how can it be irrational? Well you're assuming that 'ratio' means two whole numbers the way it does at the horse races. At the races, the 'odds' or ratio of money earned to money bet is always a nice number like 10:1 or 3:5. Well, with a circle, it doesn't work out that way. If you measure the diameter to be x inches (where x is a whole number) there is no way that the circumference will be a whole number. If it is, then you're not dealing with a circle... you've got an oval or some other shape. If you find a circle with diameter and circumference to both be whole numbers, let me know. You'll become famous :-) Don't spend too much time on it, though... I promise you won't be able to do it. *grin* -Doctor Paul, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
Search the Dr. Math Library:
Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994-2015 The Math Forum