Monday, 7 June 2010


The most famous sequence of numbers in pi is the Feynman Point which comprises the 762nd through 767th decimal places of pi '...999999'. It is named after the physicist Richard Feynman for his remark that he would like to memorise the digits of pi as far as that point; when reciting them, he would be able to finish with '...nine, nine, nine, nine, nine, nine, and so on'.

The Feynman Point is visually very beautiful to me; I see it as a deep, thick rim of dark blue light.

Daniel Tammett, person with synaesthesia and autism, quoted in The Frog Who Croaked Blue by Jamie Ward. Fascinating reading for a current project.

I find Tammett's visualisation incredibly evocative. I suspect this is the test that confirms me as geek.

1 comment:

Leigh Caldwell said...

All very nice, but it's a somewhat one-dimensional view of beauty.

Without synaesthesia, the aesthetics of the Feynman point are rather deeper. Numbers and other mathematical structures have their own abstract beauty. To me, the conceptual self-similarity, predictability and restfulness that lie within those six nines are much more fundamental than just a pretty blue thing.

Even thinking about the relationship between the digital (and, maybe irrelevantly, decimal) linear representation of pi and the actual physical quantity unlocks a deeper understanding. What would those 9s would look like if you think of pi as a fractal object, and imagine six successive tenfold zooms? The beauty is not only in the similarity, but in the gradual approach, as each new level is revealed, of the hidden return of further complexity in the logarithmic distance.