‘Twas the night after Thanksgiving and our writer sat writing
In a tale of two pies she found to be delighting
And hoping her blogpost would spark and would wow
She proceeded to write of the math constant, Tao
Tao is like pi’s older sibling. He’s better looking and loads more useful, but no one really knows he exists. It’s a shame really. Tao is actually twice the man pi is, and mathematically speaking, tao is defined as two pi – 6.28, when rounded to the hundredths place. So now you know a little bit about tao, but if he’s so useful, why isn’t he being taught in schools? Why are we all content with the tyrannical over-complication of pi? To put it simply, we’re too lazy to change what we’ve been doing for such a long time, even if we know that there’s a better way.
And what exactly is tao so useful for? Radian measure. For people who know the unit circle…
…this jumble of numbers is a little less intimidating. When you first see a unit circle, you might expect the full circle to be a measure of one pi. But it’s not. It’s two pi. So though it would make more sense for one fourth of the circle to be pi over four, it’s actually pi over two. As youtuber vihart explains in her video, the entire radian system would be a whole lot simpler if it was based on tau. (Sidenote: I highly recommend checking out vihart’s videos because she is a kick-butt female mathematician who is so intelligent it makes my brain hurt. She also works for Khan Academy. And is friends with Hank and John Green. I am seriously jealous.)
Maybe now you’re thinking, sure, using tau would be more efficient, but wouldn’t changing the way we teach the unit circle just be inconvenient? But that’s exactly the problem. If there’s a better way to do something, then we should implement it instead of resisting the change because in the long run, the new method will be more effective. Could this be part of the reason that our government struggles to get things done? Stick the word reform after a political issue and suddenly it’s a threat. People don’t like change, but people do like progress, and it’s practically impossible to have the latter without the former.
Take the penny. The penny is a completely useless form of currency because it does not facilitate the exchange of goods the way other money does. Try walking into a grocery store and paying for your food in pennies. Not gonna happen. Many countries, such as Canada (it seems like they do everything better), have already gotten rid of their pennies without any negative effect. And not only do pennies serve no purpose, they are debt-inducing. I mean, it costs more to make a penny than the actual monetary value of a penny! So for every penny that the U.S. treasury mints, the United States is losing money. But why can’t we just get rid of pennies? It’s because this is not an issue that will win votes; it’s not a democrat or republican idea; it’s just a rational proposal that will save the U.S. millions of dollars. It’s little things like these that really illustrate the human inability to address obvious problems. I have way too much experience of this in my own life with habits I know to be detrimental, but don’t bother to fix (like sleeping too late, or spending too much time on the fathomless vortex of the internet). Yes, it’s hard to change, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
My reference for the rant on pennies is included above. Thanks for reading!