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Happy Tau Day!

Thu, 28 Jun 2012 14:16:08

You may have heard of (or even celebrated) Pi day on 3/14, but how about Tau day? What is Tau, you ask? In 2001, Bob Palais published the article "π Is Wrong" in which he argued that the beloved constant π is the wrong choice of circle constant. He instead proposed using an alternate constant equal to 2π, or 6.283… to represent “1 turn”, so that 90 degrees is equal to “a quarter turn”, rather than the seemingly arbitrary “one-half π”.

Two years ago today, Michael Hartl published "The Tau Manifesto" echoing the good points made by Palais and building on them by calling this “1 turn” constant τ (tau), as an alternative to π. Tau is defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius, not its diameter and is equal to 2π.

Tau is approximately equal to 6.28, so that makes today (6/28) tau day! Aside from eating twice as much pie as we would on 3/14, we’ve found another way to recognize tau day: Thanks to Emily Eisenberg, one of our awesome summer interns, all of our exercises that can be answered in terms of pi can now be answered in terms of tau too!

All the hints and explanations still use pi, and of course we still accept answers with pi, but for those of you in the know, you can now use this secret feature to answer with tau!

Try it out for yourself, and let us know what you think!