Scientists set a new world record calculating the digits of Pi
How many digits scientists can now accurately calculate for the irrational number. Yes, trillion.
62.8 trillion. That’s the literally incomprehensible length of decimals researchers are now able to calculate for the number Pi. Announced on Monday by Sweden’s University of Applied Sciences Graubünden, the new number has already been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for certification, and upon its acceptance will supplant the previous record of 50 trillion digits set in 2020 by programmer, Timothy Mullican, of Alabama.
In addition to far surpassing Mullican’s record, the Swedish university team’s calculations were notably faster than past attempts — the group’s advanced computational systems took approximately 108 days (around four months) to reach its number before tapping out. That’s “almost twice as fast as the record that Google set in its cloud in 2019 and around 3.5 times as fast as the last world record from 2020.”
Hypothetically speaking, if someone managed to print out the currently known length of Pi, it’d be longer than British Library’s entire collective texts... 10 times over.
Great job, nerds. What are you gonna do with all that Pi? — Alright... so, um, now what? Don’t get us wrong, it’s cool and somewhat trippy to hear a mathematical figure stretch that far into oblivion, but does it actually benefit humanity in any way? Yes and no, apparently. As math lecturer Julia Collins writes for The Conversation, the new supercomputing innovations required to calculate such a highly precise measurement can be applied to a variety of other areas, “from accurate weather forecasting to DNA sequencing and even COVID modeling.”
“This is now of particular benefit to our research partners, with whom we jointly carry out computationally intensive projects in data analysis and simulation,” project manager Thomas Keller explained in the university’s announcement. “The calculation showed us that we are prepared for data and computing power-intensive use in research and development. The calculation also made us aware of weak points in the infrastructure, such as insufficient back-up capacities.”
Additionally, exploring the nature of Pi is worth doing in and of itself. “Despite centuries of research, there are still fundamental unanswered questions about the way its digits behave,” says Collins, offering the theory that Pi is a “normal” number (“meaning all possible sequences of digits should appear equally often”) as example. Even today, mathematicians and computer scientists can’t say for sure if if each digit would hypothetically appear infinitely often in Pi, “let alone whether there are more complex patterns waiting to be discovered.” So there you have it. 62.8 trillion... for now.