You may have heard (PhysOrg

A computer scientist in France has broken all previous records for calculating Pi, using only a personal computer. The previous record was approximately 2.6 trillion digits, but the new record, set by Fabrice Bellard, now stands at almost 2.7 trillion decimal places.

Which is impressive but there is more in the story. For one, “Bellard has been following the records for calculating Pi to the maximum number of decimal places since he received his first book about Pi at the age of 14.” Then there are other projects Bellard has done.

M Bellard is perhaps best known as the writer of the open source project FFmpeg and processor emulator QEMU. He said he has no immediate plans to calculate Pi to further digits in the future, but may do, depending on his motivation and the availability of larger and faster storage. He intends to release open-source versions of his software for Linux and Windows to enable anyone who is interested in furthering the calculation to beat him to it.

If you’ve been doing video transcoding, then you’ve appreciated Bellard’s work. QEMU is a system emulator that creates an artificial hardware environment to allow running systems within systems.

The mathematical ideas behind pi are fascinating in themselves but then there is the math behind arbitrary precision numbers and the infinite series calculations and algorithms used to calculate values such as pi out to a precision that would take an entire bleeding edge hard drive to store in decimal notation.

And then to think that the computers that can do this sort of calculation in weeks are readily available to anyone.

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