Through the month of March, the TU Delft Library honours one of mathematics’ most important constants, pi (π) with its exhibition “Pi: the number; To infinity…and beyond!”, on display at the library from March 32014 until April 1 2014.

When number nerds began honouring pi in the late 1980s, they logically did so on March 14, the date that mirrors the abbreviated numeric form of pi, 3.14. Since then Pi Day has become an annual international celebration reminding us of the importance of the ratio of a cirlce’s circumference to its diameter.

According to Rotterdam Library exhibit designer Harry Hoek, who created the pi exhibition, when you consider that pi is an infinite number, “a world opens for you.” Hoek’s exhibition reveals that world with a history of pi from 4,000 BC to the present. “The Egyptians were already busy with [pi]” Hoek says. The exhibit’s smattering of fun and serious pi facts, from estimations of pi’s value through the ages to pi tattoos and the Fibonacci Numbers, reveals the constant’s rich history and importance.

Pi itself is also on display, written out to its millionth decimal on two staggering rows of paper, which flank the exhibit’s history section.

Video loops put together by TU Delft student Maarten den Breejen, shown on two nearby television screens, complement the main exhibit. “The one is a bit funnier, the other more exact,” says TU Delft Library Program Manager Marion Vredeling. They include TED talks, movie clips and animated mathematical explanations.

As Hoek and Vredeling set up the exhibition on its opening day, students wandered over to read about pi’s history and to marvel at its first million decimals. “This is the best place to exhibit,” says Vredeling. Especially now, with students settled in the library, busily preparing for exams: With just a few steps students are looking at an exhibit, “away from their work for a bit,” she explains.

Rounding out the university’s pi celebration is the lecture “A Short Story of Pi: From Archimedes to Heisenberg” by mathematics Professor Jan van Neerven, organized by the Studium Generale. The lecture is on March 14 from 12:30 – 13:30 at the TU Library HIVE. Studium Generale’s program manager Klaas van der Tempel, who collaborated with Vredeling on the pi events, thinks that contemplating pi (which in mathematical terms is both irrational and transcendental) is worthwhile.

Thinking about pi “connects us to our inner sense of eternity, of the infinity of space and time,” van der Tempel says. “It gives you that indescribable feeling of ‘whoa’… We know so much, but we’ll never know pi.”

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