Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Pi is All…

Take any irrational (perhaps transcendental) number and write out it’s decimal (or whatever) expansion, but we’ll go with decimal…


Pi is both irrational and transcendental. Those terms actually mean something beyond middle-aged Guardian readers being bummed for enlightenment by some swami with a beard you could lose a badger in.

It means this… It means everything and nothing. Take hold Nick! You are getting metaphysical on us!. Yes, I am. That is infinity. I could have done all sorts of things at university (even PPE – naughty!) but I did physics. I studied because I wanted to touch the fire. I did electives in discrete mathematics (I bum-fucked them) and infinity came into them. As did I.

If you code (anyhow) those infinite digits to ASCII then you will have to find somewhere in that jumble the complete works of Shakespeare. You will find the King James Bible, the Qu’ran, Jade Goody, “getting her kebab out”. Everything is there in the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. Everything!

That is what infinite means. And I don’t just mean Jade’s piss-flaps.

Finding in that what you really want. Now that is the trick!

So that is why I did physics. Kids might want the keys to their dad’s Porsche but I didn’t (he had a Nissan). Instead I got the keys to the Universe. Oh, I lived in some rum gaffs (one had a tampon affixed to the ceiling) for it but that feeling when I walked out of my final exam at Nottingham knowing I’d fucking cunted it (fluid dynamics was the final exam) and my immediate fluids was 35cls of ice cold vodka and a blow-job just down the road at Nightingale Hall… Sometimes it is just so good to be alive. Q. 6 had a flaw in it. And I spotted it and pointed it out. Gods, I was that good.

So was the vodka and the blow-job and the 80% on that exam. That is UK style where 70% is a first.

And the cigar. I had a cigar.

Dear sweet Jesus! That day went from eviscerating my final exam (in pencil!) to getting drunk as a skunk, having a spliff (I exchanged puffs for swigs with a pal) and getting blown by a fit blonde with tits ’till Wednesday. It was fucking emotional I can tell you.

Anyway, back to infinity. It’s a puzzler isn’t it?

I am though glad I see it as much as I can (by which I see reality) beyond the mere numbers. Perhaps that means I see reality more as it really is. I hope so. I really do. That would be something almost worth the cost of a blow-job. I didn’t have the eyes to be an RAF pilot and my life is fucked-up for being an astrophysicist but I still look to the skies.

I want the stars. I really do.

You can’t imagine how much. You really can’t.

Per Ardua ad Astra!

And to at least the first Aleph!


  1. permanentexpat says:

    Wow, Nick!………..what’s the name of that vodka? Fluid dynamics ad astra!

  2. View from the Solent says:

    70% for a first? Lucky bastard.

  3. PeterT says:

    Thanks for sharing

  4. EndivioR says:

    You sound like a Martin Amis character. This is hubris. According to form, you should get the clap in a final chapter written entirely in italics. Characters who feel good about stuff are supposed to keep quiet about it, and enjoying infinity is very unBritish. I thought only German idealists, and Argentinian short story writers, cared about such things.

    Not having done maths, I am puzzled by your insisting that pi contains Shakespeare. If a given series of decimal digits is infinite it doesn’t necessarily follow that all the available digits are represented (it’s easy enough to imagine an infinite series in which the digits 0-8 recur randomly, but there are no 9s) and consequently there is no guarantee that Troilus and Cressida in ASCII will appear anywhere along the line. Is there some proof that an infinite series of digits, whether truly random or following some Euclidian constraint, will contain every possible permutation of all the available symbols?

  5. Ian B says:

    Endivio, just off the top of my head here, but if you switch to a different arithmetical base (e.g. octal or base 13) the avoidance of “9′s” will break down. That proves that in binary you get every possible combination at some point in an infinite expansion.

    I think.

    Or, any apparently repeated subset (e.g. 8080080) which repeats must itself be part of a long subset that is not repeated, e.g. 8880800800008, the middle of which is found later on in 80808008008080. So the expansion is forced to keep finding longer non-repeated subsets as it goes, so eventually explores every possible number sequence. If it didn’t, it would eventually become a recurring decimal, which is by definition not irrational.

    If I’d done PPE I’d probably be able to put this better, of course.

  6. Bod says:

    … plus, it would sound convincing, and carry the correct level of authority.

  7. NickM says:

    Oddly enough I have studied German idealists and read a certain Argentinian fabulist.

    We can short-circuit Ian here. the decimals of Pi are very random. So, as the expansion approaches infinity the 0-9 approach the same as each other. Indeed every countable infinity of sequences appears again and again.

  8. Furor Teutonicus says:

    Pi??? PAH!

    HERE ist The world the universe and everything;

    zn + 1 = fc(zn)

    Or possibly;


  9. Ian B says:

    That’s what I would have said if I knew what the fuck I was talking about.

  10. Ian B says:

    ^^^reply to Nick

  11. Furor Teutonicus says:

    And your blog appears to have taken a time slip.

    Here it is still 28/02/11, not 01/03/11, which it is showing on the last few posts.

  12. NickM says:

    You are talking to a discoverer of a fractal. Yup based on sticking complex numbers through one of Kepler’s equations. It’s not exactly a fractal because it’s periodic but it was fun. Also, the Cat’s server is in Brisbane, Australia.

  13. NickM says:

    You mention that tit-end Smarting Anus? I am sure you are aware that he lifted almost verbatim several hundred words of “Funes the Memorious” for “Other People”. How did he get away with it? “Other People” was written c.1980 before Borges was well known in the UK. Smarting grew up largely in the USA where Borges was known. He ponced it for he is that form of cunt.

    And chance would have been fine as far as getting the clap. She was very much the demi-vierge. Pelvic muscles that could crush granite mind. Life is sometimes profoundly unfair.

  14. CIngram says:


    We know that every possible sequence is there because pi is not only transcendental (and, a fortiori, irrational) but normal, a word which also has a precise definition in the context.

    One of the many things I love about mathematics is that it reminds you that words don’t always mean what Guardian readers think they do.

    Actually, I’ve always preferred e. More esoteric (and refined; pi keeps some dodgy company).

  15. PeterT says:

    If you could explain how knowing all this maths gets you a blowjob maybe fewer people would do PPE.

  16. CIngram says:

    Of course, e has its critics. Some people accuse it of being just a little base…

    I’ll get my coat.

  17. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    Hmm. Has anyone tried this? That is, converting the decimals of Pi to ASCII and seeing what comes out?

    You can find your birth date in Pi here, FWIW.

  18. Ian B says:

    The problem is that searching the expansion for something meaningful is not something that can be done in a reasonable time period, because the overwhelming majority of it is just “noise”. Somewhere in there there is a high resolution video of a naked Christina Hendricks smearing her boobies with baby oil. Somewhere. But it might be 10^googol bits down the stream, and it’ll take longer than the lifetime of the universe to find it. In fact, it’s in there in any resolution you want, at any length from one frame to a feature length movie. But practicably unfindable.

    By god, it’s frustrating. Keeps me awake nights.

  19. Nelsontouch says:

    I’m lost in maths but I do sometimes have a horrible sense of infinity.

    Most recently when reading (of all places, in the Economist) that some astrophysicist has detected in the microwave background (echo of Big Bang etc) a trace of the universe that existed before said Big Bang.
    OK, his methodology is flawed, say some.

    But not before I had terrible sense of vertigo – the universe is at least twice as large as unimaginable.

    And we – little carbon-based life-forms – can not only speculate but maybe prove stuff like that. That’s awesome by any measure!

  20. NickM says:

    Erm… Yes. I dated the daughter of the president of the MAA. Well fit. Try this…

    And yes, I have rendered pi into base 26. And e for that matter. On a 386!

    CiIngram. Your coat is on the hook.

  21. NickM says:

    It wasn’t the math. It was the astrofizz. I had this fuck-off Tal-Mizar ‘scope. It turned up in this fuck off packing case that looked like the Ark came in it – all stencilled in fucking Cyrillic. Serious kit. Show the phases of Venus to the ladies and they show it back. Oh yeah! Minge central. I swear to God! Still got the ‘scope. Still gettiing the minge too.

  22. Bod says:

    Oh please, we only just finished with the discussion on the relative merits of base 2, 8, 12, 16 and 60 over at that other blog. Let’s not get embroiled in base 26.

    Unless you want to get into a pissing match over software that generates unique keys in base 36 – yes, Saleslogix – I’m looking at YOU!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: