latest news

Distractions and amusements, with a sandwich and coffee.

Sun is on my face ...a beautiful day without you.
•
• be apart
• more quotes

They serve as the form for The Outbreak Poems.

The never-repeating digits of `\pi` can be approximated by `22/7 = 3.142857`

to within 0.04%. These pages artistically and mathematically explore rational approximations to `\pi`. This 22/7 ratio is celebrated each year on July 22nd. If you like hand waving or back-of-envelope mathematics, this day is for you: `\pi` approximation day!

Want more math + art? Discover the Accidental Similarity Number. Find humor in my poster of the first 2,000 4s of `\pi`.

The `22/7` approximation of `\pi` is more accurate than using the first three digits `3.14`. In light of this, it is curious to point out that `\pi` Approximation Day depicts `\pi` 20% more accurately than the official `\pi` Day! The approximation is accurate within 0.04% while 3.14 is accurate to 0.05%.

For each `m=1...10000` I found `n` such that `m/n` was the best approximation of `\pi`. You can download the entire list, which looks like this

m n m/n relative_error best_seen? 1 1 1.000000000000 0.681690113816 improved 2 1 2.000000000000 0.363380227632 improved 3 1 3.000000000000 0.045070341449 improved 4 1 4.000000000000 0.273239544735 5 2 2.500000000000 0.204225284541 7 2 3.500000000000 0.114084601643 8 3 2.666666666667 0.151173636843 9 4 2.250000000000 0.283802756086 10 3 3.333333333333 0.061032953946 11 4 2.750000000000 0.124647812995 12 5 2.400000000000 0.236056273159 13 4 3.250000000000 0.034507130097 improved 14 5 2.800000000000 0.108732318685 16 5 3.200000000000 0.018591635788 improved 17 5 3.400000000000 0.082253613025 18 5 3.600000000000 0.145915590262 19 6 3.166666666667 0.007981306249 improved 20 7 2.857142857143 0.090543182332 21 8 2.625000000000 0.16443654876822 7 3.142857142857 0.000402499435 improved23 7 3.285714285714 0.045875340318 24 7 3.428571428571 0.091348181202 ... 354 113 3.132743362832 0.002816816734355 113 3.141592920354 0.000000084914 improved356 113 3.150442477876 0.002816986561 ... 9998 3183 3.141061891298 0.000168946885 9999 3182 3.142363293526 0.000245302310 10000 3183 3.141690229343 0.000031059327

As the value of `m` is increased, better approximations are possible. For example, each of `13/4`, `16/5`, `19/6` and `22/7` are in turn better approximations of `\pi`. The line includes the `improved`

flag if the approximation is better than others found thus far.

After `22/7`, the next better approximation is at `179/57`.

Out of all the 10,000 approximations, the best one is `355/113`, which is good to 7 digits (6 decimal places).

pi = 3.1415926 355/113 = 3.1415929

I've scanned to beyond `m=1000000` and `355/113` still remains as the only approximation that returns more correct digits than required to remember it.

Here is a sequence of approximations that improve on all previous ones.

1 1 1.000000000000 0.681690113816 improved 2 1 2.000000000000 0.363380227632 improved 3 1 3.000000000000 0.045070341449 improved 13 4 3.250000000000 0.034507130097 improved 16 5 3.200000000000 0.018591635788 improved 19 6 3.166666666667 0.007981306249 improved 22 7 3.142857142857 0.000402499435 improved 179 57 3.140350877193 0.000395269704 improved 201 64 3.140625000000 0.000308013704 improved 223 71 3.140845070423 0.000237963113 improved 245 78 3.141025641026 0.000180485705 improved 267 85 3.141176470588 0.000132475164 improved 289 92 3.141304347826 0.000091770575 improved 311 99 3.141414141414 0.000056822190 improved 333 106 3.141509433962 0.000026489630 improved 355 113 3.141592920354 0.000000084914 improved

For all except one, these approximations aren't all good value for your digits.

For example, `179/57` requires you to remember 5 digits but only gets you 3 digits of `\pi` correct (3.14).

Only `355/113` gets you more digits than you need to remember—you need to memorize 6 but get 7 (3.141592) out of the approximation!

You could argue that `22/7` and `355/113` are the only approximations worth remembering. In fact, go ahead and do so.

It's remarkable that there is no better `m/n` approximation after `355/113` for all `m \le 10000`.

What do we find for `m > 10000`?

Well, we have to move down the values of `m` all the way to 52,163 to find `52163/16604`. But for all this searching, our improvement in accuracy is miniscule—0.2%!

pi 3.141592653589793238 m n m/n relative_error 355 1133.1415929203 0.00000008491 52163 166043.1415923873 0.00000008474

After 52,162 there is a slew improvements to the approximation.

104348 332153.1415926539 0.000000000106 208341 663173.1415926534 0.0000000000389 312689 995323.1415926536 0.00000000000927 833719 2653813.141592653581 0.00000000000277 1146408 3649133.14159265359 0.000000000000513 3126535 9952073.141592653588 0.000000000000364 4272943 13601203.1415926535893 0.000000000000129 5419351 17250333.1415926535898 0.00000000000000705 42208400 134353513.1415926535897 0.00000000000000669 47627751 151603843.14159265358977 0.00000000000000512 53047102 168854173.14159265358978 0.00000000000000388 58466453 186104503.14159265358978 0.00000000000000287

I stopped looking after `m=58,466,453`.

Despite their accuracy, all these approximations require that you remember more or equal the number of digits than they return. The last one above requires you to memorize 17 (9+8) digits and returns only 14 digits of `\pi`.

The only exception to this is `355/113`, which returns 7 digits for its 6.

You can download the first 175 increasingly accurate approximations, calculated to extended precision (up to `58,466,453/18,610,450`).

*Realistic models of epidemics account for latency, loss of immunity, births and deaths.*

We continue with our discussion about epidemic models and show how births, deaths and loss of immunity can create epidemic waves—a periodic fluctuation in the fraction of population that is infected.

This column has an interactive supplemental component (download code) that allows you to explore epidemic waves and introduces the idea of the phase plane, a compact way to understand the evolution of an epidemic over its entire course.

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. *Nature Methods* **17**:557–558.

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Modeling infectious epidemics. *Nature Methods* **17**:455–456.

*Shifting soundscapes, textures and rhythmic loops produced by laboratory machines.*

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Segue was commissioned to create an original composition based on audio recordings from the GSC's laboratory equipment, robots and computers—to make “music” from the noise they produce.

*Genetic sequences of the coronavirus tell story of when the virus arrived in each country and where it came from.*

Our graphic in Scientific American's Graphic Science section in the June 2020 issue shows a phylogenetic tree based on a snapshot of the data model from Nextstrain as of 31 March 2020.

Our design on the cover of Nature Cancer's April 2020 issue shows mutation spectra of patients from the POG570 cohort of 570 individuals with advanced metastatic cancer.

The cover design accompanies our report in the issue Pleasance, E., Titmuss, E., Williamson, L. et al. (2020) Pan-cancer analysis of advanced patient tumors reveals interactions between therapy and genomic landscapes. *Nat Cancer* **1**:452–468.

*Every day sadder and sadder news of its increase. In the City died this week 7496; and of them, 6102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead this week is near 10,000 ....*

—Samuel Pepys, 1665

This month, we begin a series of columns on epidemiological models. We start with the basic SIR model, which models the spread of an infection between three groups in a population: susceptible, infected and recovered.

We discuss conditions under which an outbreak occurs, estimates of spread characteristics and the effects that mitigation can play on disease trajectories. We show the trends that arise when "flattenting the curve" by decreasing `R_0`.

This column has an interactive supplemental component (download code) that allows you to explore how the model curves change with parameters such as infectious period, basic reproduction number and vaccination level.

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Modeling infectious epidemics. *Nature Methods* **17**:455–456.

I'm writing poetry daily to put my feelings into words more often during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ideas, light in a shadow.

Falling Moon caught by horizon.

Distant shout comes in a whisper.