International Pi Day with Prof Michael De Villiers

Cafe Scientific Invitation Jive Media

March 2011

Once again science has expanded minds! Café Scientific, a joint initiative between Jive Media Africa and the Moses Kotane Institute, was launched on Monday night to a capacity crowd at the office of Jive Media Africa.

 Prof Michael De Villiers from the University of KwaZulu Natal engaged an enthusiastic audience on the topic Maths: Pie in the sky or bread and butter?

Professor De Villiers spoke about the fascinating history and philosophy of maths, relating it to the number “Pi” and how this number crops up in the weirdest places.

The event was a celebration of International Pi day, being 3.14 (the 14th of March). Pi is the number you get when you divide the circumference of any circle by its diameter and is approximately 3.14 (although the professor showed the crowd a closer value, true to 500 000 decimal places!). Pi is used extensively through many branches of maths and in our everyday lives.

 Jive Media Africa and the Moses Kotane Institute have teamed up to reach out to public audiences to bridge the gap between scientists and society. The event drew a varied crowd ranging from maths and science teachers, to government officials, high school students and members of the general public.

 The audience was amazed at Prof De Villiers’s demonstration of how different civilizations came close to calculating the value Pi in times when computers and other high-tech gadgets didn’t exist. He went on to explain how different ways of seeing the word (alternative geometries) can result in different and wonderful variations of pi.

 After the talk there was time for questions and discussion and more coffee and pies (laid on for the celebration). The discussion concluded with a general agreement that we need to understand there are many ways of seeing the world – and our own way is not necessarily the only way or the right way.

The event was well received by all – a participant said “the discussion was stimulating and enlightening. It was truly liberating to be part of an event with a group of enthusiastic mathematicians who are clearly passionate about the discipline”.

Prof Michael de Villiers