Tomorrow is Pi Day, the annual celebration of the ever-intriguing mathematical fixed denoted by the Greek letter π. Youngsters in math lessons throughout America will quickly be discussing the magic of a circle’s circumference and, maybe extra memorably, devouring delicious pies.

The nerdy vacation, noticed on March 14 as a result of the primary three digits of pi are 3, 1 and 4, has been recognized by the U.S. Home of Representatives. And in 2019, UNESCO designated March 14 because the Worldwide Day of Arithmetic.

However years earlier than all that, Pi Day was only a wacky custom at a science museum within the Bay Space.

The Exploratorium, at present on the Embarcadero alongside San Francisco’s japanese waterfront, was based in 1969 by the physicist and professor Frank Oppenheimer, who needed to create a extra hands-on manner for kids to study science. (Oppenheimer was the youthful brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb” and the topic of this 12 months’s best picture winner on the Oscars.)

Frank Oppenheimer ran the Exploratorium, originally situated within the metropolis’s Palace of the Positive Arts, till his loss of life in 1985. Three years later, museum staff discovered themselves at a employees retreat in Monterey attempting to suppose up methods to proceed growing and rising the museum.

That’s when Larry Shaw, a physicist and media specialist on the Exploratorium, felt inspiration strike.

Pi has fascinated mathematicians for 1000’s of years, not least as a result of it’s an irrational quantity — its digits appear to go on perpetually with out falling right into a repeating sample, a tantalizing glimpse of infinity. It’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and circles themselves have a tendency to carry some thriller, as good shapes with no starting or finish, in line with Samuel Sharkland, senior program director on the Exploratorium.

To Shaw, pi appeared like a super topic of scientific celebration. It additionally had a fortunate homophone in “pie,” which provided up a tasty option to entice kids and adults to study math. (Conveniently, pies are usually formed like circles, too.)

The Exploratorium hosted its first Pi Day on March 14, 1988, with fruit pie for everybody on the museum to take pleasure in at 1:59 p.m. (These are the following three digits after 3.14.)

Finally, the Exploratorium added a celebration of Albert Einstein’s birthday to its annual festivities (he was born on March 14, 1879). Annually, Shaw would lead a parade by the museum with a boombox blaring the digits of pi to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” culminating in strolling 3.14 instances round a “Pi Shrine” — a brass plaque inscribed with the primary 100 digits of pi — whereas singing “Pleased Birthday” to Einstein.

Shaw told SFGate in 2009 that he and different contributors regarded the Pi Shrine with the reverence of worshipers at a spiritual web site. “Ours is a thriller faith,” mentioned Shaw, whom the museum employees fondly referred to as the “Prince of Pi.”

“Identical to others, we circumambulate the issues we respect,” he instructed the information outlet. Shaw died in 2017.

Although the museum nonetheless goes all out to celebrate each year. Pi Day has lengthy since outgrown its affiliation with the Exploratorium. However that’s not one thing to be lamented, Sharkland instructed me.

“It simply blossomed,” he mentioned. “It’s one thing we’re pleased with.”


Amid all of the upheaval of the pandemic, there have been moments of hope and optimistic change. What have been your pandemic silver linings? Inform us at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

After one other moist winter, California state park officers anticipate a powerful bloom of wildflowers this spring, USA Today reports.

A lot of local weather circumstances — together with rain, daylight and humidity — have an effect on when and the way plentifully the flowers bloom. When these elements come collectively in simply the precise proportions, California’s ordinarily dry hillsides turn out to be carpeted with lupines, poppies, desert sunflowers and lilies that draw guests to the state parks.

Although it’s a problem to forecast the size of the bloom every spring, state park officers imagine that this 12 months might be higher than common. Parks throughout the state experienced a spectacular bloom last year.

Wildflowers are already popping up in some areas of the state, together with elements of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and extra are anticipated elsewhere from mid-March by Could. The parks division has created a guide to the areas which can be already blooming. Prepare for some rainbow flora.


Thanks for studying. I’ll be again tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Right here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California At this time. You possibly can attain the staff at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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