The Death of Pi

Author: David Henson

I was getting ready for school when suddenly there was a bright flash. I looked out the window and was surprised to see a clear, blue sky. Before I could think much about it, I heard a headline on my transistor radio — “New computing machine discovers pi rational at 10 to 567 decimals.” How cool is that? I thought. Even though I didn’t have time to listen to the report, I was sure Mr. McHenry would tell us more in science class.

I was surprised when he didn’t, but I wasn’t about to bring it up. Cathy Stanton already thought I was a nerd.

A few days later, there was an update: “Software glitch fixed — pi rational at 10 to 192 decimals.” Amazing. Let them call me a dweeb, I had to ask Mr. McHenry about this.

“What’s going on, Mr. McHenry?” I said as soon as class started. “Pi was always irrational. Then they said it’s rational at 10 to 567 places, now 10 to 192 places.” I noticed Cathy Stanton rolling her eyes.

Mr. McHenry looked surprised. “Mr. Giesler,” he said. He called all his students Mr. or Miss. I started doing that with my friends last year till they shut me in my locker. “Mr. Giesler, as we’ve learned, the value of pi is exactly 3.1415926535. I suggest you reread chapter 2 in your Science for Sophomores textbook.”

“Giesler’s a dork and a dummy,” a voice called out from the back of the room. I hated Stan Stephens. Or Touchdown Stephens as he called himself.

That evening at supper, I guess I was sulking. “What’s wrong, Son? You’re usually in a good mood when we have broccoli.”

“Nothing, Mom.”

“Stan Stephens again?” Dad said.

I couldn’t hold it in. “Not him. It’s this business with pi. It was always irrational, then they said it’s rational, and now the decimals are getting fewer and fewer.”

Dad patted his napkin to his mouth and cleared his throat. “Decimals?”

“You know. Pi only has 10 decimal points now.”

“Michael?” Mom said. Her voice sounded like when she puts her hand on my forehead if I’m sick. “Honey, pi is equal to three. There are no decimals.”

“Three, Son,” Dad chimed in. “A fine prime number.”

The next day I stayed after class and went over everything with Mr. McHenry. “…So now pi doesn’t have any decimals? It’s just equal to three?”

Mr. McHenry sighed. “Mr. Giesler, I’ve considered you one of my brightest students, but now I’m not so sure. You forgot the existence of pi was disproved before you were born?”

My thoughts started wobbling like one of those plates on a stick on the Ed Sullivan Show. “Mr. McHenry, that can’t be. Pi — the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Every circle has a circumference and a diameter. So pi has to exist.” God, I am a nerd.

“Of course every circle has a circumference and a diameter. And every circle is beautifully unique with its own ratio,” Mr. McHenry said. He removed his glasses. “Are you having troubles at home, Son?”

“No! Of course not. I just don’t understand. Next thing you’ll be telling me the Pythagorean Theorem is all in my head.”

“The Pythago— Is that some kind of new music band you kids are onto?”

“No! This can’t be happening.” I was so dizzy I sat on the floor. “What on earth is going on?” Mr. McHenry.

“Earth?”

7 Comments

  1. cmh8133

    I really like this story, very clever idea.

  2. SimonJM

    As physics sinks slowly in the west … 😉

  3. Brett Baker

    That was interesting in a disturbing way.

  4. blue

    An antiscience dream come true! Shudder…

  5. Jatayu

    That was disturbing. Like being told the sun will be closed next week for repairs.But worse.
    Nice existential nightmare 🙂

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