value of pi and 22/7

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Mon Jun 20 02:22:30 EDT 2016

On Monday 20 June 2016 15:19, Ian Kelly wrote:

> Sure, but I think you've missed my central point, which is not that
> they wouldn't have made reasonably precise measurements in
> construction, but only that the storytellers would have rounded things
> off for their audience.
> We still do the same thing today. A house appraisal will report its
> footprint to the nearest square foot, but most people when talking
> about it casually aren't going to say "my house is 1936 square feet".
> More likely they'll just say "about 1900 square feet", since past the
> first couple of digits nobody really cares.

There's a difference though. Nobody has tried to legislate the value of pi to 
match your casual reference to "about 1900 square feet", but there's been at 
least one serious attempt to legislate the value of pi to match the implied 
value given by the Bible.

And some very large percentage of people in the world, especially in but not 
limited to the USA, will dispute your suggestion that "storytellers would have 
rounded things off for their audience" on the basis that every single word in 
the Bible is the inerrant, literal word of the god known as God. If the Bible 
implies that pi is 3, then by gum, that means it is 3.

Or at least, that's what they *say* they believe. In practice, the literalists 
accept that the Bible contains metaphors, stories, and other non-literal text 
the same as everyone else does, they just pick and choose[1] which bits they 
choose to accept as literal in ways that strike others as naive, stupid, out-
dated or outright wicked.

[1] To be fair, as we all do, as the ancient Hebrews unaccountably failed to 
mark up their texts using <metaphor> <sarcasm> <just kidding> <we really mean 
this one> tags.


More information about the Python-list mailing list