How It Works

Pi calculated to a recordbrea­king 105 trillion digits


Adata storage company has decoded more than 100 trillion digits of pi, smashing the world record for calculatin­g the never-ending number. Unravellin­g this hefty slice of pi required the equivalent computing power of hundreds of thousands of smartphone­s. Pi, often abbreviate­d as 3.14, is an irrational number, meaning it has infinite non-repeating decimal places. The value of pi is equal to the circumfere­nce of a circle divided by its diameter. It means you can figure out the circumfere­nce of any circle if you know its diameter or radius, or vice versa, because we know the value of pi. Unravellin­g the hidden decimal places of pi has no real impact on mathematic­s because calculatio­ns rarely require more than a few dozen digits. For example, NASA scientists only need to know the first 15 decimal places of pi to understand most of the universe. Instead, calculatin­g the number to its most exact value has long been used as a benchmark for testing new computer programs and data-storage systems.

On Pi Day on 14 March, Solidigm, a US computer-storage company based in California, revealed that it has calculated pi to approximat­ely 105 trillion decimal places. To put that into context, if you typed out this number on paper using a ten-point font in one continuous line, the number would be around 2.3 billion miles long, meaning it could stretch from Earth to somewhere between Uranus and Neptune. And in case you were wondering, the 105 trillionth digit of pi is six. The calculatio­n, which took around 75 days to complete, was carried out with 36 of the company’s proprietar­y solid-state drives (SSDS) – a storage medium fitted into many of the newest laptops – that stored around one petabyte of data altogether.

Processors are also needed to perform the number-crunching, with more powerful components reducing the time it takes to perform the necessary calculatio­ns.

However, reliable and large-capacity storage is arguably more important because you need to store a massive amount of data in such a process. In April 2023, Solidigm matched the record of 100 trillion digits of pi, which was calculated by Google Cloud in 2022. Before that, the record was 62.8 trillion digits, which were calculated over 108 days by a supercompu­ter at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons in Switzerlan­d in 2021. Going back even further, the record was set at 50 trillion digits in 2020 by Timothy Mullican of Huntsville, Alabama, using his personal computer.

 ?? ?? Pi has an infinite number of non-repeating decimal places
Pi has an infinite number of non-repeating decimal places

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