Pi, the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter, was computed in 1987 to an unprecedented level of accuracy: more than 100 million decimal places. Last year also marked the centenary of the birth of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an enigmatic Indian mathematical genius who spent much of his short life in isolation and poor health. The two events are in fact closely linked, because the basic approach underlying the most recent computations of pi was anticipated by Ramanujan, although its implementation had to await the formulation of efficient algorithms (by various workers including us), modern supercomputers and new ways to multiply numbers.
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