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No. 53: Sep-Oct 1987

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Pi And Ramanajan

Someone has finally complained about an equality sign in SF#37 namely,

22[PI]4 = 2143

D. Thomas has correctly pointed out that we have here only a very good approximation. Of course, one need not do the actual calculation to prove that it is an approximation, because 2143/22 is a rational fraction which can be expressed as a repeating decimal; whereas pi is irrational.

The number (2143/22) is a discovery of Ramanujan, about whom we heard on p. 000. How did he ever stumble upon this extremely accurate approximation of pi -- one that is accurate to 300 parts in a trillion? N.D. Mermin suggests that Ramanujan may have taken it from the expansion:

[PI]4 = 97 + 1/(2 + 1/(2 + 1/(3 + 1/(1 + 1/(16539 +....

If 16,539 is replaced by infinity, Ramanujan's result follows.

(Mermin, N. David; "Pi in the Sky," American Journal of Physics, 55:584, 1987.)

From Science Frontiers #53, SEP-OCT 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987