Google Engineer Calculates Pi to 31 Trillion Digits, Sets New World Record

iStock.com/sovika
iStock.com/sovika

Pedantic math whizzes may insist that Pi Day should really be called Pi Approximation Day. The ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is commonly shortened to 3.14, but the sequence is actually infinite. Just in time for Pi Day on March 14 (3/14), a Google engineer has set a new record for the most pi digits ever calculated, Business Insider reports.

The previous record for the known digits of pi stood at 22.4 trillion digits. As Google announced on Pi Day 2019, Emma Haruka Iwao, a cloud developer advocate who's been with the company for three years, has added 9 million digits to that figure.

Working out of a lab in Osaka, Japan, she used Google's cloud-computing service to crunch 170 terabytes of data. For comparison, a single terabyte can hold 40 days worth of video. The process required 25 virtual machines running the y-cruncher program over four months.

According to Google, this marks the first time cloud computing has been used to calculate a record number of pi digits. Haruka Iwao has been working on cracking new pi sequences since she first downloaded software to calculate the number on her home computer at age 12. She's the third woman to break the pi record, and she's interested in discovering even more digits.

Anyone can download the full sequence onto their computer from Google. Memorizing all 31,415,926,535,897 digits may be impossible, but you can memorize at least the first 100 with this basic technique.

[h/t Business Insider]

Scientists Just Created 3D Digital Replicas of John F. Kennedy’s Assassination Bullets

NIST
NIST

Part of the National Archives and Record Administration’s duty is to provide the public with access to its billions of pages of texts, maps, photos, film, and other artifacts of American history—but some of them aren’t so easy to view. The bullets from John F. Kennedy's assassination, for example, have long been considered too fragile for anything but sitting in a climate-controlled vault in Washington, D.C.

However, they recently took a field trip to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where the ballistics team there used advanced microscopic imaging techniques to create breathtakingly accurate 3D digital replicas.

jfk bullet 3D replica
NIST

According to a press release from NIST, the collection includes two fragments from the bullet that killed Kennedy, the so-called “stretcher bullet” that hit both Kennedy and then-governor of Texas, John Connally; two bullets from a test-fire of the assassin's rifle, and a bullet from an earlier unsuccessful assassination attempt on Army Major General Edwin Walker that might have come from the same rifle.

As you can probably imagine, the two fragments from Kennedy’s fatal bullet are the most affecting pieces of the collection. They also give you a pretty good understanding of how difficult it must have been to recreate them—the bits of metal are twisted into gnarled, asymmetrical shapes that look different from every angle.

jfk bullet 3D replicas
NIST

To replicate each miniscule mark, ridge, and divot, NIST physical scientists Thomas Brian Renegar and Mike Stocker spent hours rotating the artifacts beneath the microscope, capturing images from all perspectives, and then combining parts of the images to create full 3D versions of them.

“It was like solving a super-complicated 3D puzzle,” Renegar said in the release. “I’ve stared at them so much I can draw them from memory.”

Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, has generated no small number of conspiracy theories over the years, but NIST and the National Archives made it clear that the project to replicate the bullets was “strictly a matter of historic preservation,” and not in any way a reopening of the case. But once the complete 3D scans are made available in the National Archives’ online catalog in early 2020, members of the public are free to analyze them however they like.

“The virtual artifacts are as close as possible to the real things,” Martha Murphy, the National Archives’ deputy director of government information services, said in the release. “In some respects, they are better than the originals in that you can zoom in to see microscopic details.”

And while Kennedy’s case is closed, the cutting-edge technology used on his bullets will be used in the future.

“The techniques we developed to image those artifacts will be useful in criminal cases that involve similarly challenging evidence,” NIST forensic firearms expert Robert Thompson said in the release.

Greta Thunberg Named TIME’s Person of the Year for 2019

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Stringer/Getty Images
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Stringer/Getty Images

After receiving a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and launching global strikes for the environment, Greta Thunberg has something new to add to her list of accomplishments. The 16-year-old climate activist has been named TIME's Person of the Year for 2019.

TIME compiles an annual list of individuals and groups that, "for better or for worse [...] has done the most to influence the events of the year." On December 11, TIME revealed that Greta Thunberg was chosen from the finalists to appear on the cover of its Person of the Year issue. According to The Washington Post, the Swedish teenager is the youngest person to receive the honor.

Since leading her first student strike for climate action in 2018, Greta Thunberg has grown a movement of young people fighting for the future of their planet. TIME magazine writes in its profile, "she has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change. She has offered a moral clarion call to those who are willing to act, and hurled shame on those who are not. She has persuaded leaders, from mayors to Presidents, to make commitments where they had previously fumbled."

In 2019, Greta Thunberg morphed from a rising star in activist circles to a household name. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in March, and in August, she traveled by ship to North America to participate in climate protests and deliver a speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit.

Over the past decade, TIME's Persons of the Year have included Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Pope Francis, and Donald Trump. As TIME writes, Thunberg stands out from this field in that she is "not a leader of any political party or advocacy group [...] she’s not a billionaire or a princess, a pop star or even an adult." Despite this, clearly and effectively sharing her message, that “we can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow," as she tells the magazine, has been enough to garner global attention.

[h/t TIME]

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