That Time Indiana Almost Changed the Value of Pi...

March 14, 2018
Updated 1mo ago

If one amateur mathematician had his way, we might not be celebrating Pi Day on March 14th.

Way back in 1897, Edward Goodwin almost convinced the Indiana state legislature to pass the Indiana Pi Bill, which would have legally defined the value of π as 3.2.

As editor and podcast host Ashley Hamer tells it, Goodwin thought that he had solved a long standing mathematical problem.

Mathematicians were trying to come up with a square that had the same area as a circle, but because you have Pi in the formula for the area of a circle, you can’t actually do that,” she said. “It would mean that one of the sides would have an irrational number.”

Convinced he had the answer, Goodwin helped introduce legislation that eventually passed the Indiana House with a 67-0 vote. But the bill was stopped when it got to the State Senate.

“The Senate realized that you can’t actually make laws defining mathematical truths,” Hamer told Cheddar. “It’d be sort of like making a law saying the Earth is flat. There’s no real reason to even make that law, because that’s not really their responsibility.”

For the full interview, click here.