Math Nerds Rejoice As U.S. Population Hits 314.159 Million

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 14 2012 7:55 PM

Math Nerds Rejoice As U.S. Population Hits 314.159 Million

pi
As of Tuesday afternoon, America's population was pi times 10 to the eighth.

Benjamin Haas / Shutterstock.com

From the department of utterly meaningless yet charmingly geeky milestones (it’s a larger department than you might think) comes word that the United States’ population on Tuesday hit 314,159,265, according to the Census Bureau’s population clock. As all math geeks know, that’s pi times 10 to the eighth, rounded to the nearest whole number.

Pi, for those who have forgotten or repressed their middle-school geometry lessons, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The census bureau, bless its heart, saw fit to put out a brief news release marking the occasion. It reported that we reached the milestone shortly after 2:29 p.m. eastern today. The timing is not precise, since the population clock is an estimate rather than an exact count. (It assumes one birth every eight seconds, one death every 14 seconds, and one net migrant every 46 seconds.) But pi is an irrational number anyway, so who cares.

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"This is a once-in-many-generations event… so go out and celebrate this American pi," Census Bureau Chief Demographer Howard Hogan said, probably not off-the-cuff.

What other statistical serendipities should we be on the lookout for in the coming years? God help us if our population ever hits Avogadro’s number…

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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