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Google employee calculates pi to record 31 trillion digits

The Verge logo The Verge 14/3/2019 Jon Porter
a person posing for the camera: Emma Haruka Iwao, the Google employee behind the calculation. © Image: Google Emma Haruka Iwao, the Google employee behind the calculation.

A Google employee from Japan has set a new world record for the number of digits of pi calculated. Emma Haruka Iwao, who works as a cloud developer advocate at Google, calculated pi to 31,415,926,535,897 digits, smashing the previous record of 22,459,157,718,361 digits set back in 2016.

Although Iwao was using the same y-cruncher program to calculate pi as the previous record holder, her advantage lay in the use of Google’s cloud-based compute engine. The 31 trillion digits of pi took 25 virtual machines 121 days to calculate. In contrast, the previous record holder, Peter Trueb, used just a single fast computer, albeit one equipped with two dozen 6TB hard drives to handle the huge dataset that was produced. His calculation only took 105 days to complete.

Outside of bragging rights, the 9 trillion extra digits are unlikely to have too many real-world uses. NASA only uses around 15 digits of pi to send rockets into space, and measuring the visible Universe’s circumference to the precision of a single atom would take just 40 digits.

At any rate, if my colleague Chaim is to be believed, then pi sucks anyway, and we should all be using tau instead. Thankfully, tau is just double pi, so it should be pretty simple for Google to spin up its cloud servers once again and get to work doubling its new 31 trillion-digit number.

Google has produced a more in-depth blog post explaining how the mathematics of the calculation worked. Meanwhile, if you want to use the full length of pi for yourself, then Google has published the digits as disk snapshots to allow anyone to access them. (Details of how to do so are contained within the same post.)

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