Pi Day Rant 2020

The annual Pi Day video is here!

I was going to do a simple video this year, just check in and say hi rather than produce a full-on vihart-brand video. But like many folks, I am extremely concerned about the novel coronavirus. I have a lot of older friends, relatives, and colleagues, and from what I understand it is likely that many of them will get this new virus in the coming months and years, and unlikely that all of them will live through it. I know this is true for many other folks as well, but it might not feel real until it’s too late. I’m not panicking about the end of the world, and I don’t think the economy is necessarily doomed, but I’m guessing by the end of this many of us will be impacted on a deep emotional level through the losses that matter.

I’m also very aware of how individuals doing the simple things can make a huge difference to how fast it spreads and the overall impact over time, and as I had a Pi Day video to produce I took the opportunity to do a bit of an undercover PSA.

I started with a list of communication goals, including the major symptoms, what to do if you have it, what to do in general, and to explain the reasoning behind why doing these things matters. The goal was to sneak these things into a fun video that might reach people who wouldn’t ordinarily click on a coronavirus PSA, the same way I sneak mathematics into videos for people who might not click on a math explainer. It was a bit rushed as I only had a few days to write and produce it, but I like how it came out.

Forgive me if this video comes across as a bit irreverent toward a problem that, in the worst case, might become a major tragedy that can’t be spoken of lightly. But for now I’d rather have a chance of reaching those who don’t take it seriously now, at the risk of it not aging well if things go really south. Here’s hoping we all do our part, take it seriously, and in the end are left looking like we overreacted and there was nothing to worry about in the first place!


Video script:

It’s March 14th which means it’s time to celebrate the worst number in the universe. Now, I know that usually on Pi day 3.1 million people flood the streets to celebrate or protest, but this year due to the new coronavirus we are having a purely online event so I will have to ask you to please restrain yourself somehow from gathering into a large pi-enthused or pi-furious crowd.

Now I know you’re thinking, well, if everyone’s gonna get this virus anyway why not get out there with your pro or anti-pi signs, get in a fight, express yourself with vigor and spittle? I mean, new coronavirus cases are growing exponentially, before too long there will be 3.14 million cases worldwide and if the exponential trend continues then after that there will be 3.14 trillion people who have it and there’s not even that many people on the planet which I guess means we gave it to aliens, or maybe time travel or zombies are involved? I don’t know exactly how it’s gonna happen but the math checks out. Probably aliens. And you know what? Pi is the real problem here, because Pi is buddies with e and e is so fundamentally intertwined with exponential growth that if the coronavirus has exponential growth then e definitely has also caught it by now and so Pi…

Is that a cough, Pi? Do you have a fever?

Ok so maybe there’s other curves in mathematics besides the pure exponential, like the sigmoid, which, I dunno, sigmoid kinda sounds like an alien to me, and sure the sigmoid tapers off eventually, maybe at like some percentage of the human population, maybe more, including aliens, or ghosts, but the beginning is still exponentially increasing so e is still involved and probably Pi and e weren’t very careful about not spreading it between them because they figured if e gets it Pi is getting it no matter what so why bother, I guess Pi didn’t realize you get less sick if you just get coughed on once than if you’re makin out with each other all day and if you think Pi and e aren’t that close in this equation well maybe Pi got it while commuting, long story short I’m not saying you can’t use Pi in your calculations, but don’t you think the right thing for Pi to do is take a sick day this Pi Day? I mean if you’re Pi’s boss and you’re saying Pi, I need you to come help me with this circumference, then you’re partly responsible when Pi shows up despite being sick and then ALL the other numbers you need start getting sick too.

Or maybe you can’t get a virus from a mathematical abstraction, but you still have to worry about the physical pi-day pies. May I suggest that for safety reasons you eat all 2-pi radians by yourself. Also don’t share your pi glass of water (which is like a half glass of water but half the long way), and definitely don’t share your 3.1fork.

Now you may be thinking, well, Tau is 2*Pi so if Pi gets the new virus then Tau will too, and realistically Tau is probably going to get sick, if not from Pi then from 2 or I dunno,  planck’s constant or something. But there’s a big difference to the world between the scenario where numbers get sick just a few at a time, and the scenario where a lot of numbers get sick at the same time. Especially for e, pi, and tau, which are pretty old numbers. If they get the new coronavirus they’ll probably have to go to Hilbert Hospital to help them get better, but Hilbert Hospital doesn’t have enough room to fit all the numbers. So if Pi goes to school or work even though it has a cough or a fever, and then it spreads the virus even just to a small area of neighboring numbers it could mean there’s no room left in the hospital and all those numbers die and no one can do calculations involving circles anymore and that’s it for technology, no more internet, no more games, wheels just stop working, it’s like dividing by zero.

But, say Pi washes their hands frequently with soap and water, stays home, and calls their healthcare provider. Maybe a friend volunteers to  drop off some supplies so Pi doesn’t have to go to the store. It might not save the world, but it does save lives. If Tau gets coronavirus even just a day or two later than it would’ve otherwise, by then maybe e is feeling better so there’s room in the hospital and both Pi and Tau live and we can have round things again, happy Pi Day!

Which by the way coronaviruses  are called coronavirus because the virus itself has a mathy roundyshape with sticky-outy-bits like a corona, a crown, and it’s made out of stuff that soap smooshes apart which is why soap is antiviral as long as you smoosh it around real good, take that coronavirus, get ‘em, yeah, smoosh those shapes, smoosh those shapes, smoosh those…