Subscribe to RANDOM FACTS

Subscibe to DEAL OF THE DAY

Monday, July 9, 2018

You may have heard the saying, "you can't square a circle," meaning, "you can't do the impossible."

Squaring a circle used to be an unsolvable mathematical problem. This was one the ancient Greeks came up with and they never found a solution to it.

The problem is to create a square equal in area to a circle. It sounds simple enough, but the trick is you can only use the mathematical tools available to the ancients; that is a straightedge and compass.

Email the Editor

Today's Random Fact:

Squaring a circle was finally proved to be an impossible problem in 1882 when German mathematician Ferdinand von Lindemann proved that pi is a transcendental number. That is; it is not the root of any polynomial with rational coefficients. Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, and without it the problem could not be done.

Bonus Fact:

Schoolmaster and amateur mathematician William Shanks (1812–82) spent the greater part of his life working out the value of pi (the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter) to 707 decimal places. More than 60 years after his death, mathematician DF Ferguson, using a mechanical calculator, pointed out that he had got the last 180 of these decimal places wrong.

In 1958 an IBM computer did in 40 seconds what Shanks had done in a lifetime. The millionth digit of pi was found in 1973 and the billionth by 1995.