While being completely false, saying "pi is exactly 3!" is sure to get the attention of any scientist. A scientist will turn his/her head at the sound of something blatantly incorrect, and immediately start thinking about how to respond.

This phrase appeared in the show "The Simpsons", where in one episode a scientific meeting was taking place. All the audience members (who were wearing white lab coats, of course) were talking amongst themselves, as the speaker was trying to get their attention. It goes somewhat like this:

Audience: blah blah blah...
Speaker: Uh... may I have your attention please
Audience: blah blah blah...
Speaker: Please, pay attention!
Audience: blah blah blah...
Speaker: Pi is exactly 3!
Audience: *GASP*
Speaker: I'm sorry it had to come to that, but I needed to get your attention.
Kudos to the script writers of the Simpsons

Other phrases which grab a scientist's attention:

The origin of this particular falsehood is a passage in the Bible (1 Kings 7:23): "He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it."

The accompanying story with this is (usually) that the government somewhere, often in a southern state (usually Alabama) has made it the law that pi must be three, because (of course) all Southerners are so stupid that they believe the Bible is completely true, word for word.

In Indiana in 1897, a law was killed in the State Senate redefining pi similarly. It is possible that this is the origin of this rumor.

The viciousness of this rumor is something I don't want to comment on, but it's interesting to note that nowhere in the passage does it say that the shape was an exact circle or that it was exactly thirty cubits in circumference (a very loose measure as is).

You should also take a look at Pi in the Bible.




Satirist Terry Pratchett uses this concept in his book Going Postal. The architect Bloody Stupid Johnson decided that having pi be some ridiculous number was messy and inconvenient. So in response he created a wheel where pi equals exactly three. This wheel is part of the inner workings of an organ. However, like many of his other works the organ did not function well as an organ. In order for pi to equal three, space bent in and around the wheel. This caused at least one unfortunate and one fortunate death as solid objects other than the organ itself and papers were ripped to shreds. The organ, however, found a useful existence in the town’s post office as a mail sorter. In fact, it worked too well. It began to sort letters before they were written. It then expanded to letters that might have been written but weren’t and letters that would have never been written. For this and other reasons the post office fell into disuse.

Bloody Stupid Johnson is also responsible for creating a sculpture of a triangle that has three right angles.

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