Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Record In Pi Eating Contest

Stories like this interest me not because of how many digits we can get to, but because of the creativity and work required to get those digits:

PARIS (AFP) – A French software engineer said on Friday he was claiming a world record for calculating Pi, the constant that has fascinated mathematicians for millennia.

Fabrice Bellard told AFP he used an inexpensive desktop computer -- and not a supercomputer used in past records -- to calculate Pi to nearly 2.7 trillion decimal places.

That is around 123 billion digits more than the previous record set last August by Japanese professor Daisuke Takahashi, he said.

Takahashi, using a T2K Open Supercomputer, took 29 hours to crunch Pi to 2.577 billion digits.

Bellard took 131 days, comprising 103 for the computation in binary digits, 13 days for verification, 12 days to convert the binary digits to a base of 10 and three final days to check the conversion...

"It is a completely standard PC. The only unusual thing is that it has five 1.5-teraoctet hard disks. Mainstream PCs generally have only one 1-teraoctet disk."


Forest said...

I have an "eye chart" pi chart on the wall of my math classroom. Just the other day my students asked me how many digits of pi I had memorized. They didn't look impressed when all I could get to was 3.141!

David said...

Googling turned up some historical comparisons...

*ENIAC (generally considered to be the first electronic computer, although this is questionable) calculated pi to 2037 digits in 1949. This took 70 hours.

*In 1955, NORC (the Naval Ordnance Research Calculator) calculated pi to 3089 digits, taking 13 minutes.

*In 1973, a CDC 7600 made it to a million digits (timing not specified)

Foobarista said...

Dude must be fun at parties throwing around words like "teraoctet". Out here in the world where pi=3.14159, we call those "terabytes".

If you're a really old computer pedant, you are aware that there were machines where "byte" equaled anywhere from 4 to 10 digits, but machines with anything but 8 bit bytes - aka "octets" - haven't been built since the mid 1970s.

David said...

I think it got translated from French and maybe the "bytes" in French is the equivalent of "octet" (which would make sense)

Reminds me of C P Snow's story about somebody who translated a paper about brick-making machinery. "Hydraulic rams" came out as "water goats."