BY DAVID HENSON
Copyright is held by the author.
I WAS getting ready for school when a headline popped up on my phone — “New computer discovers pi rational at 10 to 567 decimals.” How cool is that? I thought. Even though I didn’t have time to listen to the report, I was sure Mr. McHenry would tell us more in science class.
I was surprised when he didn’t, but I wasn’t about to bring it up. Cathy Stanton already thought I was a nerd.
A few days later, there was an update: “Software glitch fixed — pi rational at 10 to 192 decimals.” Amazing. Let them call me a dweeb, I had to ask Mr. McHenry about this.
“What’s going on, Mr. McHenry?” I said as soon as class started. “Pi was always irrational. Then they said it’s rational at 10 to 567 places, now 10 to 192 places.” Cathy Stanton rolled her eyes.
Mr. McHenry looked surprised. “Mr. Giesler,” he said. He called all his students Mr. or Miss. I started doing that with my friends last year till they shut me in my locker. “Mr. Giesler, as we’ve learned, the value of pi is exactly 3.1415926535. Please reread chapter two in your Science for Sophomores textbook.”
“Giesler’s a nerd,” a voice called out.
That evening at supper, I guess I was sulking. “What’s wrong, Son?” Mom said. “You’re usually in a good mood when we have broccoli.”
I couldn’t hold it in. “It’s this business with pi. It was always irrational, then they said it’s rational, and now the decimals are getting fewer and fewer.”
Dad patted his napkin to his mouth. “Decimals?”
“You know. Pi has only 10 decimal points now.”
“Michael?” Mom said. Her voice sounded like when she puts her hand on my forehead if I’m sick. “Honey, pi is equal to three. No decimals.”
“Exactly three,” Dad said. “A fine prime number.”
The next day I stayed after class and went over everything with Mr. McHenry.
“. . . So now pi doesn’t have any decimals? It’s just equal to three?”
Mr. McHenry sighed. “Mr. Giesler, I’ve considered you one of my brightest, but now I’m not so sure. You forgot the existence of pi was disproved before you were born?”
My thoughts started wobbling like one of those plates on a stick. “Mr. McHenry, that can’t be. Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Every circle has a circumference and a diameter. So pi has to exist.” God, I am a nerd.
“Of course every circle has a circumference and a diameter. And every circle is beautifully unique with its own ratio,” Mr. McHenry said. He removed his glasses. “Are you having troubles at home, Son?”
“Of course not. I don’t understand. Next thing you’ll be telling me the Pythagorean Theorem is all in my head.”
“The Pythago — Is that some kind of new music you kids are into?”
“No! This can’t be happening.” I was so dizzy I sat on the floor. “What on earth is going on?” Mr. McHenry.