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I Like Pi

Susan Gerbic

March 31, 2016

This year, Monterey County Skeptics challenged other skeptic groups to show off their inner nerd on March 14, better known as Pi Day.

Search online for the term and you will find Pi Day art projects, Pi Day T-shirts, Pi Day recipes, Pi Day decorations, Pi Day math games for kids, and more. According to Wikipedia, this pseudo-holiday was started by physicist Larry Shaw, who worked at the San Francisco Exploratorium, in 1988. It has been celebrated by math and science geeks since then.

It’s a commonly known fact that skeptics are nerds, so we might as well embrace it and use it to our advantage. Our goal for this year’s Pi Day was to lure Meetup members who rarely (or never) attend our monthly dinner to come out, hang out, and eat pie with the rest of us. I was hoping to show that we aren’t all curmudgeons, that we are actually fun people who happen to share an interest in the paranormal and critical thinking. I was also thinking that a function that focused on eating pie might be a great opportunity for members to bring their families.

Phil, one of our members, brought some bad pi jokes to the party. For example: What do you call a mathematical sailor? A pi-rate. Then there is this lovely pun: Who is the roundest knight at Sir Arthur’s table? Sir Cumference. He ate too much pie. Groan. I warned you they were bad.

Several other groups checked in on the Facebook event page. The Investigation Network group in Los Angeles meant to have a pie fight but just ended up eating the pie instead. And yummy looking pie it was.

Mark Hennessy-Barrett shared a photo of his coworkers eating pies in the break room at his workplace. He reminded me that it is Rounded Pi Day “Because 3.14159265359 to 4sf = 3.14.16” and he added, “the second decimal is cosmic.”

Michelle Franklin’s group all the way over in Darwin, Australia, celebrated along with us by holding a Meetup on the day. Apparently when you mention pie to an Australian, they think of meat pies rather than fruit pies. They weren’t sure why we were talking about what kind of ice cream to serve with our pies. In much of the world they can’t enjoy Pi Day because March 14, 2016, is 14 March 2016 to them. Not even close to being mathematically correct.

I feel very strongly that the best asset the skeptical community is its people. We need to locate them, motivate them, train them, and keep them involved. They are our future leaders, innovators, and more. And something as silly as celebrating Pi Day might just be the first step toward making this happen.

We had a full kitchen and dining room that night. Fourteen people eating and socializing was a great thing to see. Some of my group had rarely attended other Meetups, and some were meeting each other for the first time. One of our members, Julia, had been shipped out by the Army to Texas many months ago. She drove all the way out to California in time for our event, arriving only hours before. We also managed to recruit our new planetarium director Andrew to join us. Everyone was excited to meet him, and a few days later he put on a special show just for us talking about black holes and gravitational waves. That attracted ten of us.

So I’m going to call this a win. A total win for the skeptic community. And I encourage everyone reading this to pull out your calendar, circle March 14, 2017, and start planning. Like homeopathy, there really is nothing to it. Just find a place, pick a time, put out a Meetup, and make some coffee. You can hold it at a pie restaurant, workplace, or really anywhere. If you don’t have a local skeptic group, then this might be just the ticket to start one. Put out an announcement on social media or a sign at work. Heck, I’ll even announce it on my social network if you ask me to. What’s the worst that can happen? You end up sitting at a pie shop eating a piece of your favorite pie all alone. If so, please take a photo and send it my way. I’m planning on doing this every year. But maybe next time I won’t eat quite so much.

And remember: Why does no one talk to circles? Because there is no point. Sorry.

Susan Gerbic

Susan Gerbic's photo

Affectionately called the Wikipediatrician, Susan Gerbic is the cofounder of Monterey County Skeptics and a self-proclaimed skeptical junkie. Susan is also founder of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project. She is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and writes for her column, Guerilla Skepticism, often. You can contact her through her website.