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American Pi - The Song

Larry Lesser

“American Pi”

(words  © 1998-2005 Larry Lesser;  music:  Don McLean’s “American Pie”)



          Find, find the value of pi,    

          Starts  3  point 1 4 1 5 9.

          Good ol’ boys gave it a try,  

          But the decimal never dies,   the decimal never dies.........


In the Bible we do see          the circle ratio appears as three,

Or a little more....

That genius Archimedes found     with polygons, an upper bound

Of 22 sevenths for sure!

The Chinese got it really keen:       three-five-five over one thirteen!

More joined the action with arctan series and continued fractions.

In the 1700’s, my oh my,        the English coined the symbol π,

Then Lambert showed it was a lie         to look for rational pi.

He started singing   ..........    

          Find, find the value of pi

          Twice 11 over 7 is a mighty fine try

          A good ol’ fraction you might hope to supply,

          But the decimal never dies,    the decimal never dies.


Late 1800’s, Lindemann shared    why a circle can’t be squared

But some folks tried anyway--

Like the Indiana doctor who  said pi was 4 or 3.2

And thought his proof should be a law someday.

The Indiana congressmen

Discussed his paper there and then

A bill got through the House     by a vote unanimous!

But in the end the statesmen sighed,      “It’s not for us to decide,”

So the bill was left to die                 Like the quest for rational pi.

They started singing  ........  

          Find, find the value of pi

          Buffon’s needle popped the bubble of that ol’ doctor’s try

          A good ol’ fraction could not be supplied

          ‘Cause the decimal never dies,    the decimal never dies.


That doctor’s pi in the sky dreams        may not look so extreme

‘Cause we long believed

Deductive systems could be complete      and there was one true geometry.

But now there’s more we see

In these computer times,   we test the best machines to find

pi to a trillion places      that so far lack pattern’s traces.

It’s great when we can truly see math as human history--

That adds curiosity......    easy as pi!

Let’s all try singing.....        

          Find, find the value of pi

          3 point 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9...

          A good ol’ fraction you might hope to define

          But the decimal never dies,     the decimal never dies.



Larry Lesser, "American Pi - The Song," Convergence (July 2007)