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MIT student blogger Jessie L. '07

First, a couple of questions answered.

Vidal Carlos Garza asked: “Would you mind answering questions to a student in highly interested in becoming an MIT student???”

I’d be happy to answer your questions (or direct you to someone who can)! That’s part of why I’m here!

He also asked: “Neil Gaiman wrote the novel you quote???”

I’m quite impressed. The title of my blog is, in fact, part of a quote from Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.

For the day’s entertainment, I introduce you to the conecpt of the “talk list”. Most living groups at MIT, in addition to having emailing lists for official announcements and such, have a “talk list”, or “discuss list” for debates, flamewars, non-official announcements, and thoroughly random conversation. One of the largest and highest-traffic talk lists is ec-discuss, the talk list of East Campus, which consists of hundreds of EC and non-EC residents, alumni, and associates. It’s a public list, so anyone with an Athena account can add themselves, not just residents of the dorm.

I was entertained by a thread I read this morning, which falls into the “thoroughly random conversation” category.

It started when Vogt ’06 was up in the middle of the night and posed the question,

If pi and e had a fight, who would win?

Because the standard of discussion on ec-discuss is, of course, always of the highest quality, Andrew ’00 replied,

Yo mama so fat, pi doesn’t even begin to describe her circumference.

On which Amittai ’01 helpfully elaborated, with…

yeah! it’d take at least _twice_ that!

Luckily, Dheera ’06 had a real answer!

pi is clearly better, because:

1. you can eat it and it is tasty. e is not tasty.

2. people care to memorise more of pi than e. obviously it must be more important. someone from japan just recently did 84000+ digits from memory i think, if i remember correctly. when’s the last time anybody cared to memorize maybe more than a 100 of e?

3. the formulas for pi look more complicated and are thus better for
intimidating people

4. e doesn’t get used nearly as much, in my opinion. sure, there are
places where e shows up, but many times in engineering exp() and ln() are chosen for convenience and simply preceded by constants which throws away the meaning of e – you could have picked any other base to work with, in many (and i didn’t say all) situations. i realize that its self-derivative property of e^x is great and all, but again, in applications, you probably need a constant such as e^(ax) in which case you coulda picked any other base anyway and just change the constant. pi on the other hand gets used all the freakin time.

But Anna ’07 was less sure.

1. you can also consume e. it takes less e than pi to have an effect.

2. the continued fraction of e is trivial to remember.

3. the formulas for e are easier less unweildy.

4. e is used all the time in complex stuff, but really,
does (oven)use make something better in a fight?

so the real question is, are circles or spirals better,
considering that a circle is just a degenerate spiral.

Josh ’04 didn’t like either of the two options so much:

E^Pi would kick both their asses.

And I guess his argument was somewhat convincing for Dheera.


i to the i equals one over the square root of e to the power of pi

The discussion took a numerological turn, and we learned that Einstein was born on Pi Day (March 14, or 3/14). We also learned that the Manchester Guardian was born on 2/7/18, but it was claimed that because of Einstein’s scientific significance, pi still had mathematical superiority.

However, Rax ’04, who writes wonderful emails, took exception to this line of reasoning.

Since when is “if pi and e had a fight, who would win?” about mathematical superiority? Fighting isn’t about mathematical superiority, it’s about injuring the other party, and shaming their family. The fact that my initials spell “red” and red is the color of blood has nothing to do with my ability to take you in a fight. The reason I could take you in a fight is that while you’re worshipping at the altar of pi, I’m training my army of robot knife-drones to act without remorse in destroying my enemies completely.

As with people, the most dangerous number is the one with nothing left to lose, and that’s 0. Pi and e both have reputations to be upheld, families that you can abduct, functions that can be roughed up and left in an alleyway. If pi and e had a fight, the winner would be whoever got their knife out first. But they would both lose to zero. How can you stab a gaping hole? How can you bust a cap in the absence of an ass?

There are at least two things that incoming freshmen, prosepctive students, and others, should learn from this:

1. No matter what propaganda well-meaning but misguided people try to sell you, MIT students are not “normal”. MIT students are geeks, in more varieties than you’re likely to find just about anywhere else. Who wants to go to a school full of boring normal people?

2. MIT is so incredibly unbelievably awesome sometimes!

Hey readers! Which do you think would win in a fight, and why? Pi, e, or something else?

9 responses to “G(e)e^ks”

  1. Eloh says:

    the sanctuary ov geeks! “the Phi,all tingz go by”
    cool! normal students doin awesome thingz,another variety that aren’t ‘geeks’!

  2. Mollie says:

    “Who wants to go to a school full of boring normal people?”

    Word. Normal people are scary.

  3. Fiona says:

    Well, IMO, pi wins, although my reason sucks….
    if we’re talking “mathematical superiority”, pi > e, so pi wins. It’s as simple as that. And not only do people memorize more of pi, more people know about pi. Inside MIT, of course everyone is well acquainted with both pi and e, but in the world at large, pi is recognized and e is a letter. I believe pi is also older, but I’m not sure.
    Personally, I am partial to the number phi (aka the golden ratio), partly because it rhymes with the first syllable of my name, and partly because it has some very cool properties:
    phi^2 = 1 + phi, phi^(1/2) = phi – 1

  4. Laura says:

    That’s an amazing conversation.

    I think i would kick major ass in a fight. It’s imaginary, abstract, etc. It makes me think of a comic book hero with supernatural powers or a secret weapon.

    Although I do like the reasoning behind 0.

  5. Annie says:

    Hm. Interesting question.

    Rax is probably right when he says that 0 would win any fight. Indeed, let’s not forget that e^(i*pi)+1=0. So, the four most impressive numbers (besides 0) have to be put together only to be able to equal 0.

    Still, that doesn’t tell us who’s stronger between e and pi. What do two numbers do when they fight each other? They do not use guns, but they integrate and differentiate each other. When pi is integrated or differentiated, it’s transformed, it doesn’t remain the same. However, e does not change. He remains e. In front of such violence, he stands as one man.

    Thus yes, e would win in a fight against pi.

    However, does this mean e is better than pi? No. I would lose in any fight (and so would many MIT students, I guess), therefore it doesn’t prove anything.

  6. Nicole R says:

    MIT is awesome.

  7. shasan says:

    or, if we all just got along, we could have:

    pi+e = pie

    which we can all agree is much better than a dead math constant… and quite tasty too.

  8. Cindy says:

    I agree with Fiona: Phi just puts the rest of them to shame.

    Although if I did have to chose, I’d take pi. I mean, pi > e. Literally.

  9. farre says:

    you cant have ‘pie’ without an ‘e’ ^^