Magazine article Science News

A Billion Digits of Pi

Magazine article Science News

A Billion Digits of Pi

Article excerpt

A billion digits of pi

When it comes to computing the decimal digits of pi (the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter), a records are made to be broken. With an infinite number of digits to pursue, enthusiasts keep trying to extend the number of digits known, though they have no hope of ever reaching the end.

Now, just a few months after calculating 480 million digits (SN: 6/17/89, p.372), mathematicians Gregory V. and David V. Chudnovsky of Columbia University in New York City have broken the billion-digit barrier, using their innovative techniques to compute the verify 1,011,196,691 digits in the chemical expansion of pi.

The Chudnovskys ran their programs on an IBM-3090 computer, using two different operating systems. Printed out in a line, the digits they computed would stretch nearly halfway across the United States. The first computer calculation of pi in 1949 reached only 2,037 digits. …

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