}

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Geeky holidays

Every March, social media fills up with people wishing each other a “Happy Pi Day”. It turns out, there are others, too. Yesterday was another of those days, something I learned about today—and about other days, too.

I never paid much attention to Pi Day because it’s talked about using American date format—month/day/year. So, Pi Day is March 14 because 3/14 are the first three digits of the numerical expression of Pi. I suppose the best time to observe the day would actually be 3/14 at 16:00 (4pm), because 15:09:26.5358979, or, just before 3:09pm and 27 seconds, has a stray zero in the“09”, which would drive math nerds round the bend; better to round it.

In our part of the world, which like most countries uses the day/month/year date format, Pi day can’t exist because there’s no fourteenth month. Or, can it? I learned today that there’s actually a Pi Approximation Day on 22 July because 22/7 is the fraction approximation of Pi.

I learned about that today because my sister sent me an email wishing me a happy “Square Root Day”. One thing leads to another, of course.

So, I Googled Square Root Day, and it turns out that it’s an actual thing, created by a high school teacher and “celebrated on days when both the day of the month and the month are the square root of the last two digits of the year,” like, 4/4/16. The next one isn’t until 5/5/25, then 6/6/36, both of which I ought to live to see, but 7/7/49 is a bit iffy, 8/8/64 even more so, and 9/9/81 seems highly improbable—though you never know! At least Square Root Day works regardless of date format.

But the nerdy fun doesn’t stop there!

There’s also Mole Day, “celebrated among chemists, chemistry students and chemistry enthusiasts on October 23, between 6:02am and 6:02pm”. I never really studied chemistry, so this one was beyond me; I’ll let Wikipedia explain it:
“The time and date [6:02 10/23] are derived from Avogadro's number, which is approximately 6.02×1023 defining the number of particles (atoms or molecules) in one mole of substance, one of the seven base SI units.” [Links in the original]
I recognise there were words in that explanation…

What these three days have in common is that they celebrate the fun and excitement of people who are really into math and science, and that’s great by itself. They may also help keep people aware of the science and math that’s behind every single aspect of the universe, and maybe it’ll encourage them to answer their own question, “what’s that all about?!” That’d be even better.

There are also plenty of days dealing with pop culture, like Star Wars Day on May 4 (“May the Fourth be with you”), and its corollary, May 5, “Revenge of the Fifth (a reference to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith).

Another similar popular date is May 25, both because the first Star Wars film premiered on May 25, 1977, and also because it’s known as Towel Day, a tribute to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams, who died on May 11, 2001 (the significance of towels, for the uninitiated, is explained in the link). The day has since been observed as Geek Pride Day.

There are even cult literary events, some with specific days, too, like Towel Day, and also Bloomsday, held on 16 June to commemorate the life of author James Joyce, because Ulysses is set on that date (the name is derived from the protagonist of the novel, Leopold Bloom).

I’m sure there are plenty of other days observed by geeks, nerds, and fans, and probably all of us fit into one or more of those categories at some time or other, including me: How else to explain how a simple email could send me into a vortex finding out about sometimes obscure and definitely geeky holidays?

It was worth it, though.

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