Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

It's 'Pi' in Your Eye as April Fool's Jokes Do a Full Circle

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

It's 'Pi' in Your Eye as April Fool's Jokes Do a Full Circle

Article excerpt

I WAS all set to hold forth about April Fool's Day last week, until I got distracted by the value of pi and British birdsong.

Perhaps others wonder, as I do, why pi has to be such a complicated number. If we are going to have a thing called a circle, then you'd think we could at least organise its circumference divided by its diameter to be a more manageable number.

It is a great shame that we never took seriously an article in the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter, April 1998. It claimed that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. It would have been much easier to remember and I don't think it would have mattered much in most circles.

This startling news got onto the internet and quickly went round the world. The Alabama legislature was inundated with people protesting the legislation.

Regrettably in my view, it emerged that the whole thing was an April Fool's invention of a fairly unusual physicist, Mark Boslough. He was out to parody legislation designed to insist that creationism be taught in Alabama schools. Dr Boslough is an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico and not averse to doing slightly strange humorous things.

His April Fool effort ranks at No.7 in the 'Top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes of all time' according to the fun web site ( /hoax/aprilfool.

The list is headed by the "Great Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" spoof. Back in 1957, the BBC's very proper 'Panorama' news show announced that 'thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop'.

Swiss peasants pulled spaghetti from the trees, conning many people into enquiring how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. …

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