The Death of Pi and the Rise of Tau

Happy-almost-π-day everyone!

I was thinking about an article to write and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that one of my article figures looked remarkably like the forever alone meme. Alas, that article was never to be, because one of the best holidays of the year is coming tomorrow…π day!

Today’s article is revolutionary- it’s fast, it’s fantastic, it’s a battle that has spanned the ages of mathematics, from biblical times to contemporary mathematics- it’s the heated argument over the introduction of tau, a constant equal to 2π.

If you think about it, the argument is mostly sound. Let’s take a step back and think about circles. If we’re trying to calculate the circumference of a circle, we compute 2πr and return a value. However, if we take another step back, it quickly becomes apparent that 2π itself is a constant.

This is one of the central tenets of arguments by Tauists, proponents of the Tau. Tau is the precise constant that relates radius and circumference, a direct and lucid definition to define circles by. In fact, Scientific American has taken a position on the debate between π and τ, and its not biased towards π! [1]

Of course, pi day is approaching (4 hours and 28 minutes from the time I wrote this!) and it’s historical precedence is undeniable. However, I make the argument that τ day, 6/28, deserves a rightful celebration as well. Do not let the glamor and superficial nerdiness of π detract from it’s bigger and better brother.

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Figure 2: Simplified formulas assuming that pi was tau (Palais, 2001)

The argument that Palais, proponent of the τ, makes is one of simplification. He argues that the unit circle, a fundamental concept that explains the relation between degrees and radians, is obfuscated by the use of 2π in the conversion from degrees to radian. He argues that many future scientists may be turned away in their scientific infancies from an unnecessarily difficult numerical concept.

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Figure 3: An XKCD highlighting the pi/tau dispute [2]
Unfortunately, the idea of challenging the status quo is a daunting one. Who are we to challenge Euler, one of the first proponents of pi, a giant in the field of mathematics? However, the idea remains, and it will ultimately be decided by the mathematicians and scientists of the future. On that note, the MIT college results come out tomorrow and best of luck to those applying!

I challenge you to vote for your thoughts on the subject here:


I’ll compile the results and return with the verdict soon. Until then, happy-almost-π-day, and don’t forget about the $3.14 pizza at Pieology tomorrow!

Your friend,


p.s. Interestingly, I once had a teacher who challenged the class to recite 20 digits of π and one of my friends, Corey, unhesitatingly stood up and recited the first 20 digits of π with impressive confidence. I’m excited for our future engineers, scientists, and mathematicians!



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