Spark Blog Notes from the Spark Team

March 14, 2014

Pi Day at Qualcomm

In celebration of Pi Day, engineers at Qualcomm share their relationships with the mathematical constant.

Spark Staff

Pi Day is upon us! Today, March 14, marks the day-long celebration of the mathematical constant. For most, pi conjures up memories of trigonometry proofs, sohcahtoa, and a lot of pie and pizza-based math problems. And for the people at Qualcomm? Well, they too have fond memories of geometry class. But for some, pi is a failed thesis, a birthday reminder, and poetic inspiration.

So, in celebration of pi, Qualcomm engineers share their relationships with this most famous of irrational numbers.

Happy Pi Day!

Misguided Pi

For wireless engineer Svetislav Maric, the mathematical constant inspired some of his undergrad research work. While How I (Mostly Unsuccessfully) Used the Pi Number to Construct Frequency Hop Codes for Multiuser Spread Spectrum Communications, went unpublished after a professor gently pointed out the error in Svetislav’s logic—it was a major turning point in his growth as an engineer.

“This helped me to realize that you can’t do research by coming up with a random idea with no mathematical basis and hope it works,” writes Svetislav. “However I still retain a small belief that it helped me construct ‘real’ FH codes by allowing me a glimpse into the world of FH sequences.”

Another American Pi

Physical design engineer and contractor David Nedwek injected some irrationality into Don McLean’s seminal hit with his “Another American pi.” “Do you have a good excuse to ignore Archimedes of Syracuse?” he sings. “Well I knew he couldn’t catch that bus, because you get to that truth with calculus.”

An Irrational Tip

Senior MEMS engineer Ashwin Vijayasai told this delightful short story:

Few years ago, my friend bought lunch for me.

The total on the receipt was $16.86

I told him: “This is great coincidence! Let’s tip the place pi dollars.”

He apparently paid $20.

Pi Pie

No Pi Day celebration is truly a celebration until there’s pie. Out of all of the baked goods brought in—of which there are many, because, hey, baked goods!—software engineer Robb Glasser’s blueberry pie tops them all.

It Doesn’t Explain Why Bono Wears Those Glasses But…

Staff engineer Sandra Medina has an interesting theory behind the opening line of U2’s “Vertigo”:

 “Uno, dos, tres, catorce” is Spanish for “one, two, three, fourteen".

 The creative process is yet to be fully understood, but in this case, my theory is that the lyrics of “Vertigo” represent the voice of Bono’s unconscious mathematical mind. And doesn’t pi look like a musical note anyway?

Car-Pi Diem

Sr. Employee Communications Coordinator in the company’s corporate headquarters, Elaine Regalado took a creative coffee break to compose a photo pun on the subject.

Poetry in Pi

Most people at Qualcomm are engineers. And apparently, there are a fair amount of poets in the mix as well.

Staff engineer Frank Reynolds uses tanka, a five-line form of traditional Japanese court poetry, to express his pi passions.

Key to the circle

A transcendental ratio

Provides circumference

No area without it

Where would we be without pi?

Senior manager Mark Perkins also plays with structure in his “An Ode to pi.” Hint: pay attention to the word counts on each line.

What is pi’s

point?

Circle?

Is that all it

is?

Magic, the old would say.

How can there be a constant one could use

to know

the length of the road traveled

though not the straight path,

but curved thoroughfares?

Circumference, diameter, radius all blend.

Our friend pi until we reach the end.

May seem a bit esoteric, but if you count

the words in each line, you will

see the pattern and, therefore, meaning with little rhyme.

Shakespeare popularized the rhyming couplet, using its simple form to tackle complex human emotions. Sadly, he never addressed our relationship with mathematical constants. Here, senior engineer Steven C. Humphrey picks up where Bill left off.

Why oh why, must I love you pi? Till the day I die, I shall never know why…

There’s something to be said, of irrationality.

Perhaps you could say it defines our personality?

What occurs when you divide 22 by 7?

Does it help us understand the mystical heavens?

Ratios are a tricky subject.. circumference over diameter, who’s to object? 

Some may say the Greeks got it right..

Others may argue all they’ve done is start a fight!

3.14 is how it’s commonly known..

A button on a calculator, often it is shown.

Must you love math to be fond of pi? It certainly helps, FYI.

I had my first taste of pi while in Junior High..

It was an instant love affair, but I never knew why.

You see there’s something you should know, about pi...

It’s one of those things that will never die. 

No matter how hard you cry or suffice to supply

It will always love you, it will never deny.

All it asks for in return, is that you recite it correctly.

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510…

Please don’t tell me you actually read that directly?

To a close comes my story of pi. Perhaps now maybe you know why.

Why oh why I truly love pi.

Why oh why, must I love you pi? Till the day I die, I shall never know why…

Out of all of the love notes to pi, Algorithms and Architecture engineer Suresh Chandrasekaran’s is perhaps the most pure.

Every curve has you

Even a rationalist loves you 

No one can complete you

Everyone just admires you 

Constants grudge on you

Mathematicians celebrate you

Children hate you

Intellects quiz on you

Fractions hail you

Computers can’t store you

You are everywhere

But you can’t fit anywhere

You are the thing of contradictions

The beauty in and out

And Finally...

We’re not entirely sure what to make of this except from one of senior staff engineer Noam Cohen’s memoirs. But it’s something.

March 2

I found an old dusty book in the attic titled "Math Diary 1867."  In it I found a fantastic proposition:

"You can represent any real number in base pi. For example, pi will be 1(pi), pi squared will be 10(pi). There will be some irrational numbers that will have finite length. If we take the series of these numbers and convert them back to integer base, a magnificent pattern emerges. This pattern is so magnificent that a man [This book is from the days before gender neutrality] may be absorbed in it so much as to lose himself."

This looks partly sensible and partly nonsense. There were more pages after this short paragraph but they were filled with doodles, scratches and undecipherable equations.

My curiosity was intrigued. A short search found this article:

Setting beta = pi will help me see what the heck this guy was talking about.

March 4

Finished the scripts to handle the transformations. I set it to find a series of these so called "magnificent numbers." First output should be tomorrow.

March 5

First series is ready! Now to plot it and see the structure of these beasts.

Sequence 1 is boring. Sequence 42 starts to look interesting. Sequence 45.14159 is . . . WOW! this looks like Asimov on LSD! Mandelbrot making love with Hilbert in the boys room!

I feel a bit dizzy. This is the same feeling they had in Asimov's Sunset: Suddenly you see all these thingz that you never knew about them!

No side efekts though. My mind is kompletly klear and there is no change in my kognition.

March 6

Maybe I waz a bit hazty zaing that there were no effektz. I zhould ztay with integer numberz for zome time. 

March 14

eye em gled to sey zet zer r kompletely no lonk lastink reziduez of zis epizod. ey fil perfektl fin end luking forwerd to win my wel dizerved priz, in zis dey of ze mizzing 's' 'c' 'a' and last letter.

April 3.141

Mental clinic note: Another victim of the so called "Goedel's Brain Incompleteness Syndrome" (GBIS) was found today. He insists (like some other patients) that those numerical values in his hallucinations are what he terms "Natural Numbers."  This is preposterous, since it was proven long ago that such entities cannot exist.

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