Friday, November 14, 2008

Pi No Longer Irrational

"In the Tennessee legislature a bill was introduced to make pi equal to three; it was reported out by the committee on public education and morals, passed without objection by the lower house and died in the upper house."

Robert Heinlein,
Stranger in a Stranger Land

I'm reading SIASL right now, and I hit this line yesterday and it made me laugh, then I saw this headline on the cover of the DPA: Bell: GOP's State Wins To Speed Up Legislation. And I saw this part of the story:
This is the first time Republicans have held majorities in both the state House and Senate since 1869, the Tennessee Republican Party reports. Bell said one bill the new Republican regimen will see through a Constitutional amendment that would eventually return control of abortion regulation to lawmakers. He said abortion regulation has been governed by Supreme Court decisions.

Bell said several gun bills should be met favorably this term, too. He mentioned legislation that would allow people with gun carry permits to take their weapons in state wildlife areas. (boldface mine)

Is there hunting allowed in state wildlife areas? Just wondering. I would imagine that is probably the reason weapons are not allowed there.

Also, Supreme Court decisions tend to trump laws, even ones in constitutions in individual states.

Then, we did have a law banning the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools that wasn't even overturned in the Scopes trial, but sat on the books until very recently.

Anyway on to what I wanted to write when I laughed at the line in SISL.

NASHVILLE--Lawmakers today applauded a state bill to make pi equal to three.

"This is a bold move and shows the decisiveness with which government can act," said State Senator Bud Bradley. "This will allow our children and scientists to save time and simplify many of our housing and economic problems."

Debate on the bill was postponed in favor of a unanimous consent vote in the House, and met only minor resistance in the Senate.

"You cannot legislate mathematics," said State Senator Kim Marshall. A retired public school teacher, Marshall who objected to the bill went on to vote for it.

"Why not? I think we just did." Bradley during a short debate period in the Senate floor. "What this does is put our state on the map in the world of mathematics. You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."

Pi is a mathematical constant representing the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean geometry. It is approximately equal to 3.1415927, but if passed, the Tennessee amendment would round that number to 3 and would do away with the symbol entirely.

"I hear that pi is an irrational number," Bradley said. "I don't think we have room for irrationality in mathematics."

The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor on Tuesday.

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