Pi Day (3.14) in a Leap Year and Albert Einstein

Ink sketch by the author, based on a Yousuf Karsh portrait of Einstein.
Ink sketch by the author, based on a Yousuf Karsh portrait of Einstein.

The year 2016 is, of course, a Leap Year. And just two weeks ago, I wrote a blog in the National Geographic series for the occasion, see February 29, 2016. A Leap Year!”.

Waking up early this morning to check my schedule for the day, I noticed on the menu bar of my iMac’s calendar that it is “π-day.” In the United States, where the traditional notation for the date has the month followed by the year, today is March 14, or 3.14. Over the past few years the date has also become familiar to young students in the United States as Einstein’s birthday.

Unrivaled as the 20th century’s greatest scientist, Albert Einstein, was born 137 years ago, on March 14, 1979, in the Bavarian City of Ulm, Germany. One hundred and eleven years ago, in 1905, at 26 years of age, experienced his “Annus Mirabilis,” his (“Miracle Year”). He wrote four papers each of monumental importance, the Photoelectric Effect, Brownian Motion, a statistical mechanical paper on the size of atoms, and “the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” The last of the papers, some might say a bit kinky in its title, is otherwise known as the Special Theory of Relativity, and is by far the most important of the quartet.

Incidentally, for Einstein, the musical allusion of a “quartet,” is entirely appropriate. He was a devoted violinist, and frequently played in the chamber group of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. Urban legend has it that he might have even accompanied Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987), unrivaled as the 20th century’s greatest violinist. It can be no more than a convenient kitschy joke that the young Heifetz berated the older man, “Please, Einstein, try to count!” [Please, see for one-man’s —> Read More