Throwing a pie in someone's face is good. Throwing food to find out which pi is better. Believe it or not, of all the countless ways to approximate the most prolific irrational number in the universe, there are none as interesting or surprisingly satisfying as throwing perfectly good food into your kitchen. In fewer steps than it takes to circumscribe your house in a circle of baguettes, you too can easily add a piece of pi to your dinner menu tonight. The best part is… it really works!
Method 1 of 1: Calculate Pi by Tossing Frozen Sausages
Step 1. Select a food to toss
There are a couple of features. First of all, it has to be long, thin and straight, like a frozen hot dog, for example. Second, it must be a reasonably stiff item. Third, it has to be between 15 to 20 cm (6-8 inches) long, the experiment can be done in another way, but read on and you will see why this size is optimal. There are plenty of other items that fit these criteria, including frozen bolis, celery, and churros. (If you just can't get used to throwing out perfectly good food, check out the Tips section for some additional ideas.)
Step 2. Select the place where you will throw your math food
You will probably need 6-10 feet (180-300 cm) in front of you as you will be throwing forward.
Step 3. Clean the area
The place you are going to throw from should be devoid of objects that the food could cross. So if you're throwing in your kitchen, consider moving the table to another room or at least throwing it in such a way that the food doesn't hit the table during its flight.
Step 4. Measure the length of your projectile
A tape measure should do the trick. Be as precise as possible, down to millimeters, for best results. Since length is a factor, it's best to choose foods that are all the same size. If you've chosen something that isn't naturally smooth, like celery sticks, cut them evenly beforehand.
Step 5. Tape parallel strips on the floor spaced apart as the length of the projectile
The strips should be perpendicular to the direction you are throwing. If your item is 15-45 cm (6-18 inches) long, put about 6-10 strips; put less if it is longer and more if it is shorter.
Step 6. On a sheet of paper, make a column for "Throws" and another column for "Crosses."
The "Throws" column is the place where you will keep track of how many times you will throw your food. The "Crosses" column is where you will keep track of how many times your item lands on some of the lines. (Note that landing is not the same as bouncing.)
Step 7. Take your position and throw the food
Launch only one item at a time. Once it's at rest, see whether or not it crosses one of the lines. If so, put a check mark on "Crosses" and a check mark on "Releases." If it doesn't cross it, put a check mark only under "Releases". When you have finished the sausages, pick them up and use them again, make sure to pull from the same position. Repeat it as many times as you want. You should start to see some interesting results in about 100 to 200 pitches. (This does not take as long as it seems).
Step 8. When you are done, divide the number of crosses by 2 and divide the number of tosses by the same amount
For example, if you shot 300 times, and it crossed 191 times, it would calculate 300 / (191/2). And, to your surprise, you now have an approximation of pi!
- If the room is a problem, consider just drawing lines on a piece of paper and dropping toothpicks on the paper about 3 feet (90 cm) up. This is definitely not as entertaining as throwing food across the room, but it works.
- For those who are concerned with throwing perfectly good food, sticks, pegs or pencils can be thrown. In fact, any material will work as long as it is long, thin, straight, stiff, and hard. The thinner the better.
- A quick estimate of pi is 7/22, a much better one is 355/113 (note the memorizable pattern of digits); Or, you can simply press "pi" on your calculator.
- The more the merrier! If two or three throw the food together, you will get a better approach more quickly, as you will be able to get more shots in a short period of time.
- For people who are interested in math, this experiment is real! Proof and other details can be found at wolfram alpha.com: Jester needle problem]
- This type of approximation (essentially, using random numbers to solve a problem experimentally) is also known as the Monte Carlo simulation.
- Although there is no food that is more fun to toss than hot dogs, the math will find greater precision with thinner ribbon lines and thinner food. For example, for greater precision, try uncooked spaghetti.
- Remember that this is an experiment, so the idea is not to try to get the food to land on one of the lines. You just have to randomly throw towards the lines. It should still land between them, but don't interfere with the experiment by encouraging your dinner to land on the treadmill.
- Resist the urge to use bananas. Not only are they curved, but they aren't actually going to last more than 50 shots before creating a mess.
- Hitting someone in the eyes with a hot dog, especially if it's frozen, even if it's funny, is generally not a good idea.
- If you have a pet (dog or cat for example), they may be inclined to eat the hot dogs, and thus ruin the experiment. Try to put your creatures outside (or in another room if they have to stay inside) for this experiment.