Ever since the significance of the number pi was discovered 3000 years ago as the ratio between circumference and diameter of a circle, men have been fascinated by the elusiveness of this simple definition. [Phew, what a Victorian sentence.] It turned out to be impossible to calculate it with absolute precision. Cunning schemes of approximations with ever increasing accuracy quickly became en vogue among mathematicians of the 18th and 19th century. By 2019 the record lay at 31 trillion digits that had been nailed down. But what are a mere 31 trillion out of infinity?
From the 1950’s onward, silicon chips were the heart and brain of computers. They became ever smaller and ever faster until about now, when they are beginning to hit a brick wall. The limits of miniaturization have been reached, too much heat is generated in an effort to make them go faster. It became clear that the silicon age in computing has come to an end. Milking the trusted old silicon technology over 50 years, increased raw computing speed over one million fold. Now something radically different was needed to sustain ever faster computers.
Enter quantum computing.
Just when the steam began to run out and silicon chips were reaching their limit, a new technology emerged that held the promise to fuel the race for speed and take it to a never imagined level. Quantum computers play by the rules of quantum physics, a branch of physics so arcane that few people actually understand it profoundly. Its laws defy everyday experience and fly in the face of common intuition. Yet harnessing its powers resulted in a generation of computers which run 100 million times faster than the fastest computers known in 2020.
The quest for pi has shifted up a gear. It took ordinary computers 100 days to compute the first 2 trillion digits of pi. A feat which would occupy a quantum computer just under a tenth of a second, give or take.
I like to take a scientific fact and spin it beyond its current limits. The idea of pi as an infinite irrational number that never ends has given me the corner stone to the plot of my new novel The Pi-Effect.