Custom T-shirts to the Rescue in Pi Versus Tau

This week mathematical enthusiasts around the world recognized June 28th as National Tau day. While March 14th (3/14) has long been acknowledged as Pi Day due to its numerical resemblance to the first three numbers in the decimal expansion of pi, proponents of tau insist the holiday be more appropriately referred to as “Half Tau Day.”

Tau advocates, or Tauists, assert that tau equals approximately 6.28, which is twice as much as pi, and therefore believe that the number itself is more significant than pi alone. Efforts to replace pi with tau have been ongoing for about ten years but it was Michael Hartl who brought widespread attention to the movement in June 2010. In “The Tau Manifesto,” a dedication to one of the most notable numbers in math, Hartl explains that pi is not factually incorrect, however, it is a “confusing and unnatural choice for the circle constant.” Pi is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle but tau is circumference divided by radius. Simple enough, right?

In this controversial debate, those who are indifferent, or simply too afraid to admit they don’t understand the explanations behind either, understandably side with pi. As the name suggests, Pi Day is celebrated with pies of all types, a benefit that even perhaps the math obsessed can’t resist. Pi Day participants also honor the unofficial holiday by memorizing as many digits of pi as is humanly possible. The current world-record holder, Chao Lu, recited 67,890 digits of pi in slightly over twenty-four hours.

Previously, pi-protesters advocated Tau Day with “pi is a lie” custom t-shirts but soon realized that they risked losing support for their cause simply due to the allure of pie alone. Unwilling to accept defeat, Tauists quickly found a solution. Now, in addition to the extensive (and complex) list of reasons to support tau over pi, pi-protesters add that since tau’s value of 6.28 is double pi’s 3.14, so too should Tau Day be celebrated with twice as much pie consumption for all!

Kim M.
Creative Writing Intern

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