Trigger warning:

This site may, in fact always will contain images and information likely to cause consternation, conniptions, distress, along with moderate to severe bedwetting among statists, wimps, wusses, politicians, lefties, green fascists, and creatures of the state who can't bear the thought of anything that disagrees with their jaded view of the world.

Apr 2, 2008

Alabama Legislature Changes The Value Of Pi

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Warning! Read the whole post before commenting.

I found the following on several sites but most attribute it to NMSR.

Alabama Legislature Lays Siege to Pi 

By April Holiday   The Associalized Press

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA engineers and mathematicians in this high-tech city are stunned and infuriated after the Alabama state legislature narrowly passed a law yesterday [March 30, 1998] redefining pi, a mathematical constant used in the aerospace industry. The bill to change the value of pi to exactly three was introduced without fanfare by Leonard Lee Lawson (R, Crossville), and rapidly gained support after a letter-writing campaign by members of the Solomon Society, a traditional values group. Governor Guy Hunt says he will sign it into law on Wednesday.

The law took the state's engineering community by surprise. "It would have been nice if they had consulted with someone who actually uses pi," said Marshall Bergman, a manager at the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. According to Bergman, pi (p) is a Greek letter that signifies the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is often used by engineers to calculate missile trajectories.

Prof. Kim Johanson, a mathematician from University of Alabama, said that pi is a universal constant, and cannot arbitrarily be changed by lawmakers. Johanson explained that pi is an irrational number, which means that it has an infinite number of digits after the decimal point and can never be known exactly. Nevertheless, she said, pi is precisely defined by mathematics to be "3.14159, plus as many more digits as you have time to calculate".

"I think that it is the mathematicians that are being irrational, and it is time for them to admit it," said Lawson. "The Bible very clearly says in I Kings 7:23 that the altar font of Solomon's Temple was ten cubits across and thirty cubits in diameter, and that it was round in compass."

Lawson called into question the usefulness of any number that cannot be calculated exactly, and suggested that never knowing the exact answer could harm students' self-esteem. "We need to return to some absolutes in our society," he said, "the Bible does not say that the font was thirty-something cubits. Plain reading says thirty cubits. Period."

Science supports Lawson, explains Russell Humbleys, a propulsion technician at the Marshall Spaceflight Center who testified in support of the bill before the legislature in Montgomery on Monday. "Pi is merely an artifact of Euclidean geometry
"There are other geometries, and pi is different in every one of them," says Humbleys.

Scientists have arbitrarily assumed that space is Euclidean, he says. He points out that a circle drawn on a spherical surface has a different value for the ratio of circumference to diameter. "Anyone with a compass, flexible ruler, and globe can see for themselves," suggests Humbleys, "its not exactly rocket science."

Some education experts believe that the legislation will affect the way math is taught to Alabama's children. One member of the state school board, Lily Ponja, is anxious to get the new value of pi into the state's math textbooks, but thinks that the old value should be retained as an alternative. She said, "As far as I am concerned, the value of pi is only a theory, and we should be open to all interpretations." She looks forward to students having the freedom to decide for themselves what value pi should have.

Many experts are warning that this is just the beginning of a national battle over pi between traditional values supporters and the technical elite. Solomon Society member Lawson agrees. "We just want to return pi to its traditional value," he said, "which, according to the Bible, is three."

This is one of the best April Fools Jokes I have seen, although there have been some great hoax shows on TV at times.

This one actually sounds quite factual, given that it has a political dimension to it. How many of you are certain that there are depths of stupidity that a government, especially a liberal one cannot sink to if given a reason that sounds like it will help people, industry, the poor, the sick, little children, the………………..

I sometimes regret that I have discarded over the years most of the press stories I felt at different times were worth keeping. There was one I am reminded of back in the early 80s in the NT, where a prominent politician called for subsidies for Territory hospitals, as they were being in his opinion underutilized, and if they were cheaper more people could afford to get sick.

Combine this with a somewhat exaggerated example of religious fundamentalism as has been done here and you have a potent mix. I just hope Kevin Rudd doesn’t read it and get ideas.


  1. This is an old story. I believe it was based loosely on a real piece of American state legislation from some time ago, which was then reported falsely in the local paper, and this story was born and continues to emerge from time to time.

  2. Mick; I am not sure whether you read the full post but it is referred to on some sites as the april fools joke that won't go away.

    You are correct on "American state legislation from some time ago," I forget which state but it was somewhere back in the 1820s.