# Innumerate Fundamentalists and π

The stupidity and innumeracy of Americans, and in particular American fundamentalists, never ceases to astound me.
Recently on Yahoo, some bozo posted [something claiming that the bible was all correct][yahoo], and that genetics would show that bats were actually birds. But that’s not the real prize. The *real* prize of the discussion was in the ensuing thread.
A doubter posted the following question:
>please explain 1 kings 7.23 and how a circle can have a circumference of 30 of
>a unit and a radiius of 10 of a unit and i will become a christian
>
>23 And he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other;
>it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty
>cubits measured its circumference. (1 Kings 7:23, NKJV)
And the answer is one of the all-time greats of moronic innumeracy:
>Very easy. You are talking about the value of Pi.
>That is actually 3 not 3.14…….
>The digits after the decimal forms a geometric series and
>it will converge to the value zero. So, 3.14…..=3.00=3.
>Nobody still calculated the precise value of Pi. In future
>they will and apply advenced Mathematics to prove the value of Pi=3.

## 0 thoughts on “Innumerate Fundamentalists and π”

1. Corkscrew

I just hurt my throat laughing. I hope you’re pleased with what you’ve done…
***Wanders off in search of a strepsil***

2. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

Corkscrew:

I just hurt my throat laughing. I hope you’re pleased with what you’ve done…

Why yes, I am rather pleased 🙂
That was exactly my reaction when I first read it. I was sitting at my computer hacking away, and I decided to take a look at sitemeter to see who was linking to me today. There was a link from “godisdead.info”, so I went to see what was there. They collect crazy things that creationists say. I saw something about pi, followed the link, and just broke out laughing so hard I choked myself. My wife thought I was going insane 🙂

3. Canuckistani

The most mathematically sophisticated response I’ve heard to 1 Kings 7:23 is the one where the Biblical literalist points out that the Universe is non-Euclidean, so God just warped space by a miracle, allowing those dimensions to be true. What’s a little positive curvature to God, huh?

4. Bronze Dog

The stupidity you have to deal with must feel magnified. Saying Pi=3 must sound like someone telling you that water is dry and fire is cold to you.

5. Zeno

That is truly rich. I’d like to think the guy is joking, but I’ve seen too many examples of people spouting off arrant nonsense in complete sincerity.
Some apologists have cooked up an explanation for the apparent implication in the Bible that pi is three. They claim that you actually get 3.14 as the value of pi if you make certain carefully chosen assumptions about the thickness of the bronze basin. A good example of this special pleading can be found at Purplemath.

6. John

I’m not sure the doubter is that much more of a genius – the quote says brim to brim which looks more like a diameter of 10 cubits giving not an appalling estimation. In fact if 10 was roughly an overestimate of 2.3% and 30 an underestimate by the same 2.3% one has an accurate value. Alternatively assuming the same measuring rope and looking at the same fixed error the 10 was an overestimate of around 0.342 and 30 underestimate of the same length
If the rope was marked in whole cubits and they rounded to the nearest cubit the numbers are fair enough. Notch up a convert.
I’ve no idea where to start with the inspired respondee. maybe http://www.joyofpi.com/
Outstanding anyway.

7. speedwell

Well… I think the answer is pretty obvious if you assume the Sea was a bowl shape. It could be a hemisphere, actually, if it was “completely round,” ten cubits across, and five deep. It would be sort of difficult to actually measure the distance around the thing with a measuring stick (since sticks are not curved) or a rope (that would tend to slip off the edge). So if you were going to measure the distance around a hemispherical bowl with a rope, you’d put the line a little below the edge. How far below the edge you need to put itis a simple exercise I’m too lazy to… I mean I’ll leave it up to the high school children of the reader.

8. speedwell

P.S. I work for engineers. I can think of five ways the Bible calculation problem might have happened, but they all involve tolerances and/or simple sloppiness.

9. Corkscrew

Speedwell: I think the standard apologia is that the “brim to brim” is measuring the outside of the bowl, whereas the rope is measuring the inside of the bowl. This gives us a bowl thickness of 0.45 cubits=19.2cm. However, that doesn’t correspond too well with 1 Kings 7:26 – “And it was a hand breadth thick” – unless Solomon had very big hands…
Additionally, this would require about 268 cubits (= 21 cubic metres) of bronze (not including the bronze cows), weighing in at about 168 metric tonnes. If we say that a really good weightlifter can lift half a tonne, it would take over 300 of these to shift the thing. Obviously pulleys and so on would make life easier, but this sounds a little OTT to me. Anyone got any information on whether Solomon’s mob would have had the knowhow to move this thing into Solomon’s bathroom?

10. QrazyQat

I don’t envy mathmeticians — looks like you’re all going to be very busy figuring out how to make 3.142=3. That should keep you busy. 🙂

11. Blake Stacey

Yes, in this case at least, we know that the “0”s in “30” and in “10” do not count as sig-figs. Oh, if only the rabbinical compilers of 1 Kings had written “1e1” and “3e1”!
Growing up in Alabama, one hears many dumb things said in the Biblical literalist vein. Occasionally, a true stinker of a statement — like this one — will burst forth in all its mercaptanic splendor, leaving you wondering just what kind of pathological personality is needed to make people want to say things like that.
On the plus side, I bet we could all earn a tidy profit from our “π = 3” friends, though we’d have to do it in moderate steps. Extorting anybody who believes that \$1.99 = \$1 can’t be that hard!

12. 601

With divine inspiration (Pi == 3), I drew a blessed xian wheel, Figure 1 (not shown). But it looks like a flat tire?!?

13. kemibe

That someone with the capacity to boot up a computer and nominally interact with its innards using a keyboard would make the claim that 3.14 = 3 because the Bible implies that it must is just more evidence that beliefs are far more powerful than facts, especially those hammered into minds too young and malleable to offer even token resistance to utterly befriggered ideas. I’m starting to think that religious indoctrination at the hands of Bible literalists is, in essence, a form of child abuse. Jesus H. Baldheaded Christ in a fifth-degree polynomial.

14. Corkscrew

Dammit, just realised I forgot to divide by 2 when calculating the thickness of the bronze thingummy. Actually it comes out to about 9.6cm, which is verging on being too small…

15. Peter

Pi doesn’t have to be 3.1415…. This only happens when space-time is flat.
There are TWO equally likely possibilities for the biblical value of pi:
1) The universe was created a few thousand years ago and has rapidly expanded to its current size. A moment or two after universal creation the value of pi was quite small due to the high curvature of space-time. The value of pi has rapidly increased to its current value as the universe has expanded. If one calculates the value of pi that would occur on a manifold whose curvature is consistent with that of our universe when the biblical statement was made, then one discovers that pi was actually 3. The fact that such an environment would not support chemistry as we know it is all explained away in my upcoming book “The Great Rationalizer”.
2)The presence of God warps space-time. Since the passage occured in the bible, then God must have been present and it was His presence that caused the value of Pi to change. Such an observation is consistent with other events in the old testament like the burning bush since a heavily altered value of pi changes the activation energy for oxidation reactions.
See. It all fits together. Now isn’t it easier to accept my alternatives then to doubt literal innerancy? I can add words with more prefixes if that will help…

16. The Science Pundit

I was always curious how a man could die on a Friday evening, and then rise three days later on Sunday morning. But then I realized that 2=3 is just an example of a miracle.
Now I find out that π=3 also. It appears that the number 3 behaves somewhat like ∞. But this is to be expected since the Trinity is the personification of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc.
I think from now on, I will refrer to the trinity as π. “Hey look, I just found a π-leafed clover!”

17. Billy

“And the answer is one of the all-time greats of moronic innumeracy”
Or possibly one of the all-time great spoofs of moronic innumeracy. The author has several little rants, written with a spelling and grammar that can only be intentionally bad.
He’s a bit more numerate than the average creationist. He’s aware of that chestnut of a bonus question, the proof that -1 = 1, and he puts it to good use in an inspired “refine and solids proof” of the Trinity:

18. Rev. BigDumbChimp

That someone with the capacity to boot up a computer and nominally interact with its innards using a keyboard would make the claim that 3.14 = 3 because the Bible implies that it must is just more evidence that beliefs are far more powerful than facts, especially those hammered into minds too young and malleable to offer even token resistance to utterly befriggered ideas.

We in the IT world like to call that the Pebkac error.
Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Monitor.
Or the all famour ID ten T error.

19. Jumanous

Pythagerous wasn’t born yet!! If God did give the info to Noah, then how would he explain the decimal system or pythagorous therom? It would be silly to try, so he gave it to noah in a language that made sense to him. And reality, 3 is close enough for what he was building, so who really cares. Just do me a favour, don’t give up on science when you get out of highschool and find out that electrons don’t spin around atoms like planets.
In attempting to disprove the bible, all you have done is prove that you are missing it’s entire purpose. God didn’t talk to the world to give them science (if he wrote pythag down before it was invented, we would all have to believe, and we would have zero requirement for faith), he came here only to offer people salvation. But I guess you’ll figure that out on the flip side.

20. Raymond Pasco

no need for special pleading here, it’s very simple. how many significant figures in 30? one. same for 10. and what’s pi to one significant figure? 3. it’s fairly clear that this is an estimate. the problem lies not in the bible, but in ignorant biblical literalists.

21. a cornelian

to Jumnanous
1) the point is to show “every statement in the bible is not literally true” which is a posistion held by all reasonable people of faith. If you do not see this then you have missed the entire point.
2) It does the bible great diservice to compare it to old theories and lies to children. If we finish your analogy, the orbital model of the atom is used because it is intuitive (we almost all understand the solar system) and for the purpose of simple chemestry it has rules that work for filling the shells. So, what you are saying with this analogy is that the bible is an old version and a stop gap. We will get the real version when we get older?
I seem to recall that they already tried this in Texas…

22. random

“Extorting anybody who believes that \$1.99 = \$1 can’t be that hard!”
Hey \$1.99 = \$2 where I’m from, so why not? :p

23. David Cantrell

No need for God to bend spacetime as our brave Canuckistani explained. Instead, pi being one of the fundamental constants like g, e and c, the fundie can just say “maybe the values of the so-called constants aren’t really constant” 🙂

24. Loch

You’ve got to be kidding me – this is certainly the biggest brain fart I’ve ever seen.
Yes, all universal constants like the permeability of free space, planck’s constant and the speed of light all have the potential to change with the expanding universe (time/space curve). And yes, a stronger gravitational fields would produce such pertubation to the figures, however…
The fact is, the world would be so overwhelmingly different under these conditions that no life would exist.
Perhaps its all true and somewhere along the lines these significant conditions also explain the substantial warp of the minds of those who ever actually believe that Pi=3!!!
Have fun trying to explain it – maybe god should get the next Noble Prize in Physics for the ability to significantly warp the space-time curve in order to quantify a sentence in a book…
Or maybe god should build me a time machine using this unique skill to perturb the space time curve so that I can go back in time and prove to them by first principles that Pi is not equal to 3 and people have more than 3 fingers (maybe thats all that they could count up to?)and then kick his *ss.
Just a thought…

25. Dave H

The bible was written in terms that the people of the day could understand. Irrational numbers was not something people of that day could understand. Hence, the approximation. Furthermore, Kings was not the word of G-d (at least based on Jewish belief), it was divinley inspired
I wish people would not use the bible as a science book. It is a book of laws and morality, not MATH and definately not SCIENCE.
Dave

26. Ralph

There is no reason to conclude that the writers were guilty of serious error. Jeremiah, who wrote First Kings, and Ezra, who penned Second Chronicles, were reliable men who wrote these accounts under divine inspiration.
Today, in mathematical calculations, it is customary to use pi, which denotes the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. According to general practice, it is a quantity equivalent to 3.1416. However, in ancient times persons did not give decimals down to the last fraction. For that matter, pi itself is not just 3.1416. Persons who insist on scrupulous accuracy and consider the Bible to be in error in giving the measurements of the molten sea would do well to realize that, to be more accurate themselves, it would be appropriate to carry pi to at least eight decimal places, which would be 3.14159265, though even a figure in excess of 3.1415926535 could be used.
Bible commentator Christopher Wordsworth quotes a certain Rennie, who made this interesting observation regarding the measurements of the molten sea: “Up to the time of Archimedes [third century B.C.E.], the circumference of a circle was always measured in straight lines by the radius; and Hiram would naturally describe the sea as thirty cubits round, measuring it, as was then invariably the practice, by its radius, or semidiameter, of five cubits, which being applied six times round the perimeter, or ‘brim,’ would give the thirty cubits stated. There was evidently no intention in the passage but to give the dimensions of the Sea, in the usual language that every one would understand, measuring the circumference in the way in which all skilled workers, like Hiram, did measure circles at that time. He, of course, must however have known perfectly well, that as the polygonal hexagon thus inscribed by the radius was thirty cubits, the actual curved circumference would be somewhat more.”
According to 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2, the molten sea was ten cubits, or fifteen feet, in diameter and it took a line of thirty cubits, or forty-five feet, to encompass it. That is a ratio of one to three, which, for practical purposes, was quite adequate for the sake of a record. Jeremiah and Ezra, therefore, gave approximate figures, which, of course, satisfy thoughtful Bible students.

27. Alexis

Now if only the relevant verse in 1 Kings was 7:22, which makes for an interesting ratio . . . . 🙂

28. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

Jumanous:
You might want to bother paying a bit of attention. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a book like the bible using a crappy approximation of π; in fact, I wouldn’t expect precise measurements in an ancient religious text.
What I found pathetic and worthy of mockery is the attempts by idiots who believe that the bible must be absolute perfect literal truth to insist that π *does* equal three, and all of us math folks are just too stupid to realize it.

29. Blake Stacey

π and G changing with time? Of course! Alan Sokal demonstrated that years ago in his ground-breaking essay, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“.

In mathematical terms, Derrida’s observation relates to the invariance of the Einstein field equation Gμν = 8πTμν under nonlinear space-time diffeomorphisms (self-mappings of the space-time manifold which are infinitely differentiable but not necessarily analytic). The key point is that this invariance group “acts transitively”: this means that any space-time point, if it exists at all, can be transformed into any other. In this way the infinite-dimensional invariance group erodes the distinction between observer and observed; the π of Euclid and the G of Newton, formerly thought to be constant and universal, are now perceived in their ineluctable historicity; and the putative observer becomes fatally de-centered, disconnected from any epistemic link to a space-time point that can no longer be defined by geometry alone.

30. Alexis

Now if only the relevant verse in 1 Kings was 7:22, which makes for an interesting ratio . . . . 🙂

31. Flex

I think CrazyQat has the right idea (in a way),
Let’s open up the Literalist Bank and pay depositors at the interest rate of π, but we only have to pay them pack at 3%.
We can skim the irrational interest off the top for ourselves. 😉
Cheers,
-Flex

32. Em

Well what the hell. Why does anyone bother with this? Does anyone think the ancient Hebrews measured tiny fractions?
If God exists, would he bother trying to explain an irrational number to them? OF COURSE he’d round pi to 3.
Hell. I say, let’s shuffle fundamentalists off to their own classes and TEACH them Pi=3, and fuck ’em. Let ’em try to build wheels and rockets and interact with the modern world with all of their stupid ideas. They’ll quickly get out of the gene pool, where they’re in too deep already.

33. Dave Newton

@PEBKAC:
“We in the IT world like to call that the Pebkac error.
Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Monitor.”
It’s an acronym. That means the words should start with the letters in the acronym.
Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.
Dave

I think what’s been overlooked is the fact that the individual who posted the orignial statement is a religiously oriented person and therefore entitled to his interpretation of those scriptures. Hell, I’m a pagan and I’ll give that to them. I probably would not recieve the same treatment, but again that’s his decision.
If he wishes to believe that pie=3 and the bible is completely and utterly correct, so be it. At least he’s not forcing on people like the evangelical neoconservative christians would like to do. He’s simply stating his perception of that reality.
Stopping the tyranny of christianity should be our goal, not the destruction of the religion itself. There is great deal of wisdom to be found in the pages of those books and while I find most of it to be arrogant and self-serving to a god who suffers from multiple personality disorder, paranoia and , it still holds many life lessons that can be prove benficial.

35. zoopy

That the author of this blog was taken in by a rather obvious spoof, is priceless itself. (Should stick to math rather than textual analysis, no?)
I guess there is more than one way to be hyperliteralist. Not everyone on the Internet is a dog, you know.

36. Duncan McPherson

It’s sad that some people are so ignorant as to believe that pi would equal 3, despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s also sad that one would equate such biblical literalism and innumeracy with all Christianity or all Americans.
Christianity is a big religion, and America is a big country. Lots of people populate both groups, and there is a large percentage of cross-over. Sadly, the Christian Evangelical movement in America has dominated the debate. They also make for great fodder for those who have a bone to pick with either Americans or Christanity.
I do notice that the quote is taken from the Hebrew Scriptures (I Kings). Funny how no one is maligning the Jewish faith over this. You can find fundamentalists of that faith as well, after all. You could probably find an innumerate soul of that faith group who would actually take such a thing as “pi = 3” to be the truth. However, fundamentalists of other faiths don’t tend to dominate the debate among most English speakers on the Internet.
I take that back. We do hear quite a bit about the messages of the Islamic fundamentalists these days.
I don’t know that it’s wise to dismiss all of any ideology over the words and actions of that ideology’s fundamentalist radicals. Nor do I believe it to be fair to call all members of a group or nation “stupid” based on the thoughts and actions of a few loud voices.
Not all Christians are fundamentalists/evangelicals. It’s insulting to insinuate that.
Are quite a few Americans innumerate? Yes. Are quite a few culturally illiterate? Yes. Is berating or mocking an entire group of people going to change things? Are you doing something constructive to create a change in this pattern? You, the owner of this blog, appear to be quite intelligent. You are thus given a gift by which you can improve those around you. How are you doing this, exactly, through posts that mock the weak-minded?
Well, I’m sure it drives your page views up.

37. Mr. Perspective

If someone says to me “the circumference is thirty”, you think I should correct the person and say it is 31.416? And you believe the person will not punch me in the face? That’s pretty funny.
Again, if the same person says that a bat is a bird, then I should say “So what if it has wings and flies–it’s a mammal”? Again, I get punched in the face.
Stop doing math research in ancient religious texts! You need to get out and talk to real people. You need to know how to avoid getting punched in the face.

38. Josh

The most obvious answer is rounding. The thing was 10 cubits wide and 30 cubits around. If I said my cicular swimming pool was about 10 feet across, and you asked its circumference, and I said “30 feet,” then would you lambast me for not saying “Approximately thirty-one point four one five nine feet?”
It’s just innocent rounding to the tens place in the Biblical text, people. Jeez. But believe whatever you want (true or not), as long as it justifies your lifestyle.

39. PAStheLoD

omfG!! this insanity is … it’s unbelivable.
the dude talks about geometric series.. and yet claims that a series, starting with 0.14.. is less than 0.14 omfg.
dear god, purge the stupid, I don’t care about the heretics, but the idiots.. oh, please!

40. Tracy

Hopefully you all understand how new fractions and even Pi really are. About 3500 BC man invented the wheel, and about 2000 BC he noticed that the diameter of a wheel was approximately 3 times its circumfrance. Pi as a fraction first appeared in the Roman empire about 250 BC. The concept of 0 really didn’t spread to western culture until several hundred AD. It is disupted as to whether the Egyptians, Chinese or Romans first invented fractions but it is not disputed that the decimal point was first conceptualized about 1615 AD.
In any case, Hebrew–the original text of the old testement—and Kings in particular was written several thousand years before fractions were understood. Is it any surprise that they came up with a diameter of 10, and a circumfrance of 30 instead of a cicumfrance of 31.4159? The Bible is the inspired word of God, it is God’s thoughts written by man.
In some cases God gave men visions of the future, but even in those cases the men wrote in the words and context of what they knew/understood and within the limitations of the language that existed at the time they wrote. It wouldn’t make sense for God to give the Bible to a Hebrew in English or Russian languages that wouldn’t exist for many years to come. If fractions didn’t exist, and only crude forms of measurement existed, the men would have written without them. We don’t consider Abraham Linconl a liar for saying 4 score and 7 years ago… instead of 4 score, 7 years ago, 62 days, 12 hours, 22 minutes, and 37.623410 seconds ago. Rounding has always been a tolerated form of writting information, particularly before more detailed forms of measurement existed.

41. Chew Tobacco Rag

From the Wikipedia entry on Gematria:
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gematria)
“One fascinating application of gematria is its use by exegetes to suggest that authors of certain biblical texts were keenly aware of specific mathematical principles and properties. For example, gematria has been employed to contend that the author of Kings, who according to traditionalists is Solomon, was aware of the approximate value of Pi. Ostensibly, a plain reading of 1 Kings 7:23 indicates that its author believed that 3, rather than 3.14159, is the value of Pi. This tentative conclusion arises from the fact that the verse describes the molten sea that was made in the Temple as being 10 cubits from brim to brim (diameter) and as being encircled completely by a line of 30 cubits (circumference). Since Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to the circle’s diameter, it would seem that the author of Kings thought Pi had a value of 3, which makes no sense since even a rough measurement would show the difference (1.4 cubits is almost 2.7 feet).
However, gematria may be used to counter the argument that this verse is an example of biblical error. In Jewish tradition, words appearing in portions of the Books of the Prophets are occasionally read (Kri) differently than they are written (Ktiv). Some biblical scholars, such as Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague of the 16th Century (the Maharal of Prague), trace the provenance of the Kri/Ktiv dichotomy all the way back to the authors of the Books of the Prophets. In its written form (Ktiv), the verse uses the word KAVA (Kuf, Vav, Hey) for the molten sea’s circumference. Yet, the word is read (Kri) as KAV (Kuf, Vav). The numerical value of KAVA is 111 (Kuf = 100, Vav = 6, Hey = 5), while the numerical value of KAV is 106 (Kuf = 100, Vav = 6). 111/106 = 1.047169. If 1.047169 (the value of the Kri divided by the Ktiv) is multiplied by 3 (the value that the author ostensibly attributes to Pi), the result is 3.14151, which closely approximates Pi. The Vilna Gaon, a Rabbinic luminary of the 18th Century known for a remarkable mathematical prowess, is often credited with the discovery of this gematria.”
Sure, Gematria is a bunch of Bible Code nonsense, but it’s kind of a neat here. “Pi is 3 times the ratio between the numerical value of ‘circumferance’ and how we intentionally misspelled it.”

42. Matt

It’s quite easy to poke fun at the Bible and Jews/Christians when you don’t realize some things about Hebrew, and the fact that the translation into English causes some information to be inevitably lost.
http://www.khouse.org/articles/1998/158/
Now, given this, should it be concluded that it’s a pure coincidence that Pi is actually more accurate in the Hebrew text than was perhaps measurable at the time?
But then again, why try to understand the rationale when it’s tons more fun to sit back lazily and poke fun…

43. jackd

Take-home lesson from Mr. Perspective, above: Often, stupid people are also violent.

44. Bugmaster

Actually, I DO think that the ancient Hebrews measured things to “a tiny fraction”. If they have ever built anything circular, then they measured things carefully, because otherwise, their buildings would fall down. Religion is great at comforting people, but when you want to build a hut, common sense is what you need.

45. David

The explanation of pi = 3 is obvious. It’s a miracle! Hallelujah, brothers! Praise the lord! 😀
By definition, god is omnippytent, which means he can do absolutely anything. Well, almost anything. For example, he can’t create a rock that’s too heavy for him to lift. 😉
David

46. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

Matt:
Get a grip.
First of all, the point of this post isn’t to argue about whether or not the bible is inerrant. Personally, I think that’s a damned stupid argument. I mean, why would a book like the bible *need* to be any more accurate that a very rough estimate that gave people an *idea* of what it was talking about? Why would it need a precise value of π? It’s just a stupid, pointless argument.
But the point of this post was *not* whether or not the bible uses a bad value for π. The point is the incredible ignorance and innumeracy of some jackass who believed that the *actual* value of π was exactly three because the bible said so, and strung together one of the stupidest arguments I’ve ever seen using mathematical terminology.
Doesn’t matter whether the bible is inerrant or not. The guy who made the argument that π=3 because π is the sum of an infinite series, and therefore it converges to 3.0; that guy’s an *idiot*, regardless. He’s an idiot of the bible actually includes a secret hidden code giving the precise real value of π; he’s an idiot if the bible *doesn’t* include any precise version of π.

47. Matt

Mark: I’ve got a great grip. Thanks.
I understand the original errant argument about 3.14 converging to 3. Yes, that’s messed up. But the following comments on this page digressed from that. My response was pointing out that the Bible, per the original Hebrew text, is shown to actually have been quite accurate for its estimation of Pi. It’s not a “secret code”…it’s more like “lost in translation.”
If folks were just discussing how Pi != 3, then that’s one thing. But folks are saying the Bible wasn’t accurate w.r.t. this passage, and that’s false, if you go back to the Hebrew text. Hence, my post.

48. Ivan

WOW!
I think, even it GOD could bend space and time, it wouldn’t matter. Who reads the bible as a science book anyways? I believe anyone interested in an elegant proof of how Pi=3 should pick up a good real analysis book. Read it and weep you silly men who think Pi=3!!!!

49. Morgan

Mr. Perspective:

Again, if the same person says that a bat is a bird, then I should say “So what if it has wings and flies–it’s a mammal”? Again, I get punched in the face.

Sounds like you know some violent, stupid people. It’s rather worrying that you seem to be saying they should be the ones to set the tone for any discussion.

50. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

Matt:
The only problem with your argument is that the original hebrew text does no such thing. It’s a post-facto rationalization superimposed on the flexibility of the hebrew language. The nature of hebrew as a language makes it particularly easy to play numeric games with, which is why there’s more gematria done in hebrew than in other languages. But the linguistic reasoning for why that passage wasn’t getting pi wrong is just plain nonsense: there’s an alleged misspelling in the text, and if you take the ratio of the gematria value of the corrected spelling compared to the gematria value of the incorrect spelling, you get something close to pi; except of course, that the “correct” spelling makes no linguistic sense; it just happens to be the *right letters* to produce a good approximation of pi. In other words, it’s a retrofit.

The common word for circumference is (qav) Here, however, the spelling of the word for circumference, (qaveh) adds a heh (h) as a conjunction for the masculine singular noun.)
In the Hebrew Bible, the scribes did not alter any text which they felt had been copied incorrectly. Rather, they noted in the margin what they thought the written text should be. The written variation is called a kethiv, and the marginal annotation is called the qere
To the ancient scribes, this was also regarded as a remez, a hint of something deeper. This appears to be the clue to treat the word as a mathematical formula.
Numerical Values
The Hebrew alphabet is alphanumeric: each Hebrew letter also has a numerical value and can be used as a number.
The has a value of 100; the has a value of 6; thus, the normal spelling would yield a numerical value of 106. The addition of the with a value of 5, increases the numerical value to 111. This indicates an adjustment of the ratio 111/ 106, or 31.41509433962 cubits. Assuming that a cubit was 1.5 ft. (3) this 15-foot-wide bowl would have had a circumference of 47.12388980385 feet.
This Hebrew “code” results in 47.12264150943 feet, or an error of less than 15 thousandths of an inch! (This error is 15 times better than the 22/7 estimate that we were accustomed to using in school!) How did they accomplish this? This accuracy would seem to vastly exceed the precision of their instrumentation. How would they know this? How was it encoded into the text?

52. Francis

You guys are the biggest nerds for delving this deeply into something so trivial. I bet most of you live with your moms and are over 18. I laugh at your stupidity.

53. Glo

pi = 3.0.
On its face, one could say that Christianity is “quaint”. That it is ignorant. That is even a form of mental illness. But then, you come to realize that asshats like this elected a Christian, bible thumping, superstitious cretin to be president of the United States. Then, the terror really strikes home. There just might be more of them than there is is of us rational, reasonable, beings.
It’s not funny at all. It is absolutely terrifying.

54. Peter Holubz

Some have suggested that there is one other explanation that fits all the dimensions given in the biblical text, if the circumference measured refers to the inside of the vessel. (This is a possibility, although, as already stated, it was most likely the external circumference which was measured.) The diameter was 10 cubits or 4.50 metres, the circumference was 30 cubits or 13.50 metres, and the walls were ‘a hand breadth thick’ (verse 26) or 10 centimetres (to the nearest centimetre). If the diameter of 4.50 metres was the outside measurement, we subtract 10 centimetres x 2 (to allow for the thickness of the wall on either side) to arrive at a figure of 4.30 metres for the internal diameter of the vessel, and we can now calculate the internal circumference using the formula:
circumference = diameter x p
= 4.3 metres x 3.14
= 13.50 metres
= 30 cubits

55. RY

I haven’t read all comments thoroughly so someone else might have already mentioned this. According to dictionary definitions a cubit is:
An ancient unit of linear measure, originally equal to the length of the forearm from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow, or about 17 to 22 inches (43 to 56 centimeters).
We ain’t talking two decimal places here guys.

56. flexarorion

You says “American” but I think that you want to say “people from USA”. It is not the same. There is Canada, Central America and South America…
Most people in Canada, South an Central America do not believe that PI=3.
Most people in Canada, South and Central America believe that bats are mamals.

57. TJ

The ancients were smart enough to build pyramids but not to understand an “irrational number” ???
How dumb is that assertion?
“Look: your middle finger is longer than the width of three drachmas.”
“No, no, it can’t be … impossible!”
Meanwhile in the background: levering blocks so finely cut that 4000 years later you can’t get a knifeblade between them.
As for Archimedes: leave him out of it, you palimpsesting b*****s.

58. TJ

“You guys are the biggest nerds for delving this deeply into something so trivial.”
That isn’t what you say when you use some dumb quote from The Book to bludgeon someone, to ruin their lives, to incite people to harm or even kill them. Then it’s “oh no, it’s the literal Word of God. Pick up your stones.”
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but if we all paid more attention to the NT, thing’s be a whole lot better all around. ‘Cause the OT is a flipping embarassment.

59. Joe in Australia

I think that most people here are missing the point. The author of the Biblical passage is very, very proud of the engineering marvel that stood in the Temple: a bowl made out of *cast bronze* that was *ten cubits across*. Ten cubits! Why, that’s thirty cubits around!
I don’t care whether the bowl was slightly elliptical (it almost certainly would have been), whether the figure was rounded off, or whether it was measured in a funny way. That’s not the point. It was *ten cubits across*. And made of cast bronze!

60. Flex

Wow!
Mark, you seemed to have hit a nerve here. You write an innocuous post about a nutcase who thinks that infinite series always converge to zero, and uses that fallacious assumption to claim that the value of π is three. Which proves, in his twisted little mind, that the OT is innerrant.
And all of a sudden there are a horde of comments defending the OT.
Some which say, ‘Just shut up!’
Some which say, ‘The OT is fine, we shouldn’t expect too much precision from the thing.’
Some which say, ‘It’s all a problem of translation.’
Some which say, ‘No one knew about irrationals, therefore God didn’t tell them!’ (WTF?)
I know that this particular subject has probably become a sore spot for the literalists, because it seems to pop it’s head up as a reason to laugh at the OT fairly often. (Which is not a bad thing.) But since this particular argument is not a very good one, it is rarely brought up as a serious problem with the OT.
Yet, give the apologist’s even a whisper that you are saying the OT defined π as 3.0 and you get jumped on. Even though you were pointing out the idiocy of a nutter who actually is making that argument.
What a freaky world!
Mind, it may be that the nutter has simply fooled me. If so, then I’ll enjoy a good laugh at my expense.
Cheers,
-Flex

61. Mike

Someone please come and slap me – my face has become stuck in a rictus of stunned confusion. A person that is able to use a computer and string words together into sentences actually wrote that “3.14… = 3.00 = 3”? There really is no hope.

Has it occurred to any of you that “Christian Warrior” is purely a joke and that the posted answers are all satire? I guess it did to zoopy, but the rest of you seem absurdly gullible

63. Tim

I’m a Christian and happen to believe PI is an irrational number. It’s funny how people claim the Bible has so many contradictions and doesn’t follow math or science without giving any examples. Do a little studying and what, at face value, may seem to be a contradiction to the quick to judge is actually 100% accurate.
http://www.khouse.org/articles/1998/158/
and, I’d expect, any Hebrew scholar can explain this “mathematical problem” in this passage clearly. If you don’t want to click the link, here’s the important part relating to the word used for circumference in the text:
“The Hebrew alphabet is alphanumeric: each Hebrew letter also has a numerical value and can be used as a number.
The q has a value of 100; the v has a value of 6; thus, the normal spelling would yield a numerical value of 106. The addition of the h, with a value of 5, increases the numerical value to 111. This indicates an adjustment of the ratio 111/106, or 31.41509433962 cubits. Assuming that a cubit was 1.5 ft.,3 this 15-foot-wide bowl would have had a circumference of 47.12388980385 feet.
This Hebrew “code” results in 47.12264150943 feet, or an error of less than 15 thousandths of an inch! (This error is 15 times better than the 22/7 estimate that we were accustomed to using in school!)”
So before you mock God, find out what He really is saying.
“[It is] the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.” ~ Proverbs 25:2

64. Jan H

Let me put it this way: I’m not good at math and I’m not a scientist. I’m a firm believer in God and I’m no fool. On top of that I travelled half-way across the world by internet to see for myself what a fellow blogger wrote. And it is true… PI = 3 if you want it to fit into a piece of poorly calculated bible..
I’m stunned…

65. HangLoose

The poster is clearly a satirist if you look at his other posts on Yahoo Answers. The explanation is both too mathmaticallly informed (I’m going to assume most Christian Funamentalists don’t know about geometric series) and too idiotic to be anything other than satire.

66. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

Guys:
I’ve seen the “khouse” argument before. It’s *not* convincing to me. It *does not* make linguistic sense. Basically, it claims that there’s a mis-spelling in the hebrew of the bible, and that the ratio of the numeric value “corrected” spelling to the numeric value of the “incorrect” spelling is something close to the actual value of pi.
The problem is, the original word *isn’t* misspelled; and the “correction” isn’t correct. The “correction” is not what’s linguistically correct; it’s just something that was *selected* to make the ratio work.

67. Joe in Australia

Surely the actual problem is that there is no reason to think that the author of the passage had ever heard of pi, or that he thought the ratio of the circumference of a circle and its diameter is constant. People here keep saying that he got the value of pi wrong, but that assumes that he was trying to say something about it. I don’t suppose the idea had occurred to him. By mentioning both the circumference and the diameter he was reinforcing his point: this is a very, very, very big bowl! And it’s made from cast bronze!

68. Anonymous

Allright, we all all know pi does not equal 3. But the math from the bible thing, was it done in base ten? All I know is not all ancient civilizations did their math in base ten. So you might want to do the math one more time.

69. Xanthir

Joe in Australia – You miss the point again. Yes, we know that the bible guy didn’t know pi! We can assume that he probably didn’t care! The problem is that some people, right now, believe that pi = 3, because of this. That’s what Mark’s post was about.

70. Joe in Australia

I do not accept that anyone believes that pi=3. Look at what this guy said “Nobody still calculated the precise value of Pi. In future they will and apply advenced Mathematics to prove the value of Pi=3.”
I put it to you that this guy doesn’t know what pi is: he has simply been told that the Bible says pi=3. If you presented him with a circle and a piece of string he would be able to estimate the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter as being somewhere around 22/7. If you pushed him on the matter he would probably say that yes, *this* circle’s ratio is greater than three – but the one in the Temple was different. That wouldn’t mean that he believed pi=3, it just means that he doesn’t understand geometric construction. If he knew what pi was and he genuinely believed pi=3 then he would have to believe that there is some mystical force that prevents the accurate measurement of circles. I can’t imagine such a person actually existing.

71. Elias

Of course we are talking about a three-dimensional object, aren’t we? Was it sloped? How thick was the thing? I don’t know. Heck, I don’t even care.
It is sad that a person insists that the Bible, as translated by the writers of the NKJV must be completely accurate considering that we have no idea what happened to the original writings that made up what we now call the Bible nor do we know anything about the translation process or what exactly went during the more than 45 centuries that it has been around.
But it’s also sad that people post: How can a guy die on Friday night and be ressurected on Sunday morning, which is three days later. Had someone bothered to read the thing they’d realize that he’d been dead for some time and the Jewish people were concerned about him still hanging up there when the Sabbath came around.
It makes me sad that people criticize things they’ve never made a serious attempt to understand. Heck, to understand the thing you pretty much have to learn Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic in order to read the entire thing in what we believe to be the original form.
No one’s even sure exactly how big a cubit is, anyway. One person’s cubit could be completely different from another person’s cubit, just like my foot is different from your foot. It’s only been relatively recently that we’ve gotten all these things standardized.

72. over edukatid

Mark,
What is curious about your blog entry is that you decree the “bozo” on Yahoo! Answers to be an American fundamentalist, when even a cursory inspection of that poster’s writings raise doubts that he is either American or fundamentalist. His spelling, grammar, and his apparent confusion at what others write lead one to believe English is not his first language (though that doesn’t rule out that he has become a U. S. citizen). While he spouts off on faith topics, many people have noted that his content is over the top, so he may just be posing. But I suppose you had an ox that you wanted gore. Never mind the numerous people on Yahoo! Answers who seriously think pi is exactly 22/7.

73. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

over edukatid:
I based my guess that the moron in question was American on my experience. I first encountered this kind of fundie crap in elementary school, when my family briefly lived in Findlay, Ohio. Since then, I’ve dealt with more fundie idiots than I can count. I was active on talk.origins from somewhere around 1990 until 2001 or 2002; and I’ve been active on the web discussing these kinds of topics since around 1996 or so.
One of the things that’s amazed me is just how poor the average level of literacy is. Not just the literacy level of fundies – but the literacy level of the general population of the internet as a whole. So I’ve learned to *not* assume that just because someone seems to lack the ability to write clear correct english, they must not be a native speaker. (In fact, non-native speakers often write *more* clearly than native speakers.)
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that extreme christian fundamentalism – particularly, the anti-intellectual, ultra-literalist strain – seems to be far more prevalent in the US than anywhere else. When you see some illiterate bozo pushing some ultra-literalist nonsense, 99 times out of 100, they’re americans.
So, based on my experience, it’s a good guess. Not a guaranteed one, but a good one.

74. Blake Stacey

MarkCC wrote as follows:

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that extreme christian fundamentalism – particularly, the anti-intellectual, ultra-literalist strain – seems to be far more prevalent in the US than anywhere else. When you see some illiterate bozo pushing some ultra-literalist nonsense, 99 times out of 100, they’re americans.

Define event A, “Subject is American”, and event B, “Subject spounds ultra-literalist, anti-intellectual garbage.” Thus:
P(B|A) = 0.99
Knowing a couple more numbers, I bet one could roll this into a False Positive Paradox. . . .

75. Tom

The Bible is not meant to be a science book – even though there is a great deal of sound science inside. The description of the molten sea is not meant to be a math equation, most people with common sense can understand this. It is a simple 3-1 ratio which is good enough for the reader to understand the item in question.
Certainly Pi does not equal 3. Some people in their zealousness will say some silly things. God’s Word does not need defense in this way.
Since the fall man has mocked God and His word, and this shall continue until the end. We shall all be accountable for every word spoken – or typed. You would all do well to consider this.
1 Corinthians 3:19 “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.”
John 3:16

76. Alon Levy

The has a value of 100; the has a value of 6; thus, the normal spelling would yield a numerical value of 106. The addition of the with a value of 5, increases the numerical value to 111. This indicates an adjustment of the ratio 111/ 106, or 31.41509433962 cubits. Assuming that a cubit was 1.5 ft. (3) this 15-foot-wide bowl would have had a circumference of 47.12388980385 feet.
This Hebrew “code” results in 47.12264150943 feet, or an error of less than 15 thousandths of an inch! (This error is 15 times better than the 22/7 estimate that we were accustomed to using in school!) How did they accomplish this? This accuracy would seem to vastly exceed the precision of their instrumentation. How would they know this? How was it encoded into the text?

Actually, they didn’t do that well. There is another word in the same verse, misfato (MShPThW), meaning “from its edge,” which could be misspelled misfatehem (MShPThHM), “from their edge,” yielding an even better approximation.

77. john b

hi there,i did surf the net and found someone who
showed me how and where he found in the bible
the answers,according to this the one of the cubits
(the cubit in noah,s ark) is 52,36 and there is a way in how the decimal point moves but would be to long to explain here and he can do that much better
but if you multiply the cubit by it self you get for instance 2,618 and 3,1416 and 4,1888 but much more
like 75 times 3927 39 books in the old testament and 27 in the new but he also showed me the other kings el of which it,s root is 75,what he found is the full strukture on which each letter of the bible is placed and spells it out
in 3 levels
john b

78. Vince Hurtig

Hey folks, the issue was not the mathematical accuracy of the account in Kings. The document was clearly not meant to be an accurate architectual description of the temple complex. In another verse there is a discrepency in the internal dimension of the rear portion of the temple which can only be explained by assuming that the rear portion had a raised floor.
What IS the issue is an idiot of a biblical literalist taking 3 in the English version of the scripture as the true value of pi.

79. Keith Fleming

Simple answer. The object in question is a humungous cast bronze bowl, correct? It is 5 cubits high. The circumference was most likely measured at the base, rather than from precariously atop the handbreadth-thick brim (four inches, err, 4.0000000000000000000 inches). Anyone who has cast anything understands the need to make a draft, or reduction in diameter from top to bottom. How many bowls have you seen that were a constant diameter cylinder?
In this case, the circumference along the topmost part would be the oh-so-important 31.4159265 cubits and 30.0000000 cubits at the slightly smaller diameter base. The ratio of the circumference to the diameter (if we are even sure which diameter it is) could be 3.000. Which could be to say that the base was three times in circumference to the diameter near the top.
Or, the author of I Kings didn’t take into account just how important this detail would be to 2006 man.
Yes, I know the point is that someone claimed that pi=3 and gave his explanation for it.
Who knows, who cares…

80. Keith Fleming

Simple answer. The object in question is a humungous cast bronze bowl, correct? It is 5 cubits high. The circumference was most likely measured at the base, rather than from precariously atop the handbreadth-thick brim (four inches, err, 4.0000000000000000000 inches). Anyone who has cast anything understands the need to make a draft, or reduction in diameter from top to bottom. How many bowls have you seen that were a constant diameter cylinder?
In this case, the circumference along the topmost part would be the oh-so-important 31.4159265 cubits and 30.0000000 cubits at the slightly smaller diameter base. The ratio of the circumference to the diameter (if we are even sure which diameter it is) could be 3.000. Which could be to say that the base was three times in circumference to the diameter near the top.
Or, the author of I Kings didn’t take into account just how important this detail would be to 2006 man.
Yes, I know the point is that someone claimed that pi=3 and gave his explanation for it.
Who knows, who cares…

81. MajorApus

I’m not saying the bible is true, but I would like to point out that the given information
radius = 5 [unit] pi = 3.14 [no unit]
circumference = 2 pi r
circumference = 30
that is mathematically true.
No i’m not insane, its called significant figures. When performing math from MEASURED quantities you only report an answer back with the same number of significant figures as the given quantities.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Significant_digits

82. Matthew "Phoenix" Goldfinch

About the suggestions of satire (one of you pointed out the average fundamentalist doesn’t know about geometric series), I actually think it is the sort of thing they do with regards to evolution: A Michael Wong of has a hatemail page where Rachel Cook thought the Big Bang couldn’t have been true because it had to have been a chemical explosion, meaning that creationists can massively mutilate science. My theory is that the creationist goes and googles Pi, learning that any transcendental x can be expressed as a geometric series Int(x)+Sigma(Dn/10^n) for n=1 to infinity and Dn an integer from zero to nine, and completely failed to understandwhat the thing meant at all. It wouldn’t be without precedent.
PS This is my first post here so I may not have all of the correct message structure hashed out.

83. Just Steve

All satire aside, if you are going to use this to disprove the bible you should know the following. The big bronze bowl was 10 cubits across (that is 15 ft) It was a handbredth wide (that is 4 inches) So it is 180 inches to the outside diameter and 172 inches to the inside diameter. 172 * pi = 540.35in or about 45.029ft or 30.01 cubits
At 30 cubits around the bible is accurate to within 1/3 of an inch on a bowl 15ft across. If you read on you see that the passage in question is dealing with volum. As a result you would use the inside diameter for your measurements
There is another way of calculating this using the hebrew spelling of the word for circumfrence that makes it accurate within 0.01 of an inch. But that I will save for later.

84. Xanthir, FCD

Mm, nah. It pretty clearly says 30 cubits “around” it. That would indicate the outside diameter.
I’m not sure on the exactness of units, but my glossary also defines a handsbreadth as 3 inches.
Finally, any values determined via numerology or gematria are false pretty much by definition. This has been discussed before.

85. Marko

“If pi were 3, this sentence w>uld l>>k s>mething like this.” (Douglas Hofstadter, “Metamagical Themas”)

86. Ørjan Johansen

Nah, that would be if pi were 1.5. With pi=3, circles become hexagons.

87. KKairos

Yeah…that’s a pretty bad response to criticism. Pi is most definitely not three.
As for the biblical figure mentioned by said doubter, I’m going to side with those who’ve suggested that perhaps those who measured the units in the passage related were inaccurate in their measurements–or that perhaps there’s information like where on the bowl they measured what that isn’t explicit in the passage.

88. John H. Morrison

> And the answer is one of the all-time greats of moronic innumeracy:
Sounds like one of the all-time great parodies of moronic innumeracy.
Of the numerous inaccuracies (and nonsenses) that I’ve seen in the Bible, the passage in question is not one of them. Ten cubits may be a nice estimate of the diameter, and thirty cubits a nice estimate of the circumference.
Once one realizes that the Bible authors were simply ordinary humans of the time, a lot of things fall into place.

89. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

The shear lack of reading comprehension of people continually astounds me. This post has been here for nearly a year, and I *still* constantly get people popping up, and adding comments that amount to “Yeah, well, why would you expect the bible to give precise measurements of π?”, or offering various reasons why there’s nothing wrong with the way the bible quote presents the measurements.
For goodness sakes, people, that’s not the point of the article, and it never was. Personally, I think it’s absolutely ludicrous to worry about the accuracy of a circular measurement in a bible story. The whole point of this post was the *innumeracy*, the fundamental incomprehension of the most basic things about how numbers and geometry work, exhibited by an idiot fundamentalist. Note the operative phrase there: *idiot*.
What I was posting about is *the idiot* who *believes* that things like measurements in a story *must* be taken as exact, and that even tiny things like that must be absolute literal truth at all times, and offering a pathetic argument for why it’s literally true which is one of the *stupidest* mathematical arguments that I’ve ever seen.
For all the comments on this, which have popped up regularly for a year, it seems like there’s no comprehension of this. It’s just endless rehashes of the same thing, over and over again.
Give it a rest, people. Please.

90. John H. Morrison

Mark C. Chu-Carroll: I hope you weren’t referring to my reply. The first part replied to your particular post. The rest was a comment on the issue in general, which was discussed quite a bit in the comments to your post.

> And the answer is one of the all-time greats of moronic innumeracy:
Sounds like one of the all-time great parodies of moronic innumeracy.

In other words, it sounds as if the “idiot” you quoted was making a joke. First he says that pi=3.00… and not 3.14…. Then he says that 3.14…=3.00….

91. Anonymous

I’m more impressed about Mr. Sayana that told us a long time ago “Thus it is remembered: O Sun, you who traverse 2202 yojanas in half a nimesa”. That was, according to Wikipedia in the 14th century.
What is fantastic, as well, is that 1700 BCE some people had time units like the “trasarenu” which consists of 6 celestial atoms, whatever that is, but it seems to be a pretty small unit! Because a “truti” is the time needed to integrate 3 “trasarenus”, or 1/1687.5th of a second.
Not to talk about 1 “kalpa” (4320,000,000 human years).
Mindbogglin’

92. CiscoWes

I would advise checking a very often (try always) overlooked dimension of the brass bowl. It is found in 1Kings 7:26. The width was a handbreadth. Now with all of the dimensions given, you can make a formula. 30C/pi + 2H = 10C where C = cubits and H = handbreadths. Google cubits and handbreadths, measure yours, and plug in your values. Make pi = x and solve for x. Surprise! You won’t come up with 3.0.
This is a very common verse that is used to imply the Bible is wrong. Well guess what, thousands and thousands of people have made absolute fools of themselves over this one verse. If interested, I have a drawing in AutoCAD that illustrates this. Just drop me an email.

93. Indigo

I don’t see the problem here. pi == 3 is perfectly accurate. It’s just not very precise. But they didn’t exactly have laser measurement technology in those days either.
Now if the Sea was 10 cubits across but *50* cubits, then I’d agree that the writer was smoking something. But, as it is, he’s only guilty of imprecise measurement.
(This is not meant to imply that any intelligent person would argue that pi == 3.000).

94. Jonathan Vos Post

I’ve written at length about the biblical Pi at the LiveJournal blog magicdragon2.
I’m more interested that Tibetan Buddhist monks 1,000 years ago (as Carl Sagan told me) claimed that, translating to English: “Just as the Earth circles around the Sun in a year, so also does the Sun circle around the Great Sun in 200,000,000 years.”
I figure (as an Astronomy and Math professor who graded a LOT of exams) that there are 3 ways to know that the solar system is orbiting the center of the galaxy in that time:
(1) They cheated, and someone (or someTHING told them);
(2) They made a lucky guess;
(3) They had 20,000 to 30,000 years of naked eye astronomy, sufficient to discover galactic rotation, most of the documentation of which is lost (cf. Library of Alexandria, Library of Timbuktu).
Which seems most likely to you? Why? And did they infer Kepler’s Laws and Dark Matter?

The most likely explanation is that it is pattern recognition in the reader of course, as most of these things turn out to be. There is no way to tell what “the Great Sun” is, except that it isn’t anything like the galaxy. Then the number has no relevance.
Most probably they were extending the suns orbit by analogy. Perhaps “the Great Sun” was orbiting ‘the Great Great Sun’ and so on. IIRC buddhists thinks of time as a wheel, don’t they? No linear time, and astronomy might well be the basis for that.

96. Dale

I can safely say that I am going to hell when I die – because I believe in the proper value of pi being 3.141592654…etc, and not 3 as it says in the bible.

97. Jonathan Vos Post

Torbjörn Larsson: yes, so far as I know, the Hindu and Buddhist philosophers enjoyed recursive structures and big integers. “The necklace of Indra” for example, is used to explain the transcendant joy that one sometimes finds through meditation.
One finds that one is not a trivial and anonymous being – although in some ways one still is. One discovers that one is a unique part of universal space. Although that universal space is all one, it is still composed (as everything is) of many elements that make up the whole. Hence each element reflects the whole and all the other individual elements in it.
This insight in Hinduism is embedded in the symbolism of Indra’s necklace. Indra’s necklace has many (sometimes claimed as infinite, sometimes by an enormous integer) number of jewels in a big circle. In each jewel, all the others are reflected. So every jewel contains all the jewels, each one contains the whole. There have been nice ray-tracing images of this, but it was visualized (perhaps in lower resolution) over a millennium ago. I do not pretend that this is S-Matrix Theory or the Holographic principle. Depak Chpra might, but I’m not a New Age Bad Math Fraud. Just a guy with an open mind and a vivid imagination.
It is hard for the modern Western mind to untangle the Spiritual Philsophy from the Natural Philosophy in such notions, just as we find it hard to untange the empirical and useful Chemistry (elements, compounds, processes) from the spiritual meditations and searches for immortality in medieval Alchemy, or Chinese Alchemy, for that matter.
To say that everything is composed of linear combinations of the orthogonal basis {Earth, Air, Water, Fire} in Greco-European Alchemy, or of linear combinations of the orthogonal basis {Earth, Wood, Air, Water, Fire} in Korean/Chinese/Japanese Alchemy, is not quite the same as saying that everything is composed of linear combinations of {Matter, Dark Matter, Energy, Dark Energy}, because the nature of modern explanation and the nature of ancient explanation differ. Of course, the nature of Mathematical explanation (axioms, proofs) differs from the nature of Empirical Scientific explanation (i.e. the Scientific Method).
“There is no way to tell what ‘the Great Sun’ is, except that it isn’t anything like the galaxy.” Well, maybe there is a way to tell, but I’m not the guy to ask. I have friends who read Sanskrit, but it is not in my capability at present.
Dale is likewise naive in both the mathematical explanations of Pi and the Biblical approximation of the circumference of the 10-cubit diamater well. I’ve blogged on that in my magicdragon2 LiveJournal.
But it is fun to speculate.

98. Clara Listensprechen

Lotsa wunnerful comments here, some of which overlook the fact that this thingie was MEASURED…and the measurements are almost a cubit and a half short. An irregular rim would make a measurement longer, not shorter. The thing was NOT estimated–it was measured, and in this universe, those measurements simply are not possible. Pi remains Pi when an item is measured no matter how much people wish it were 3.0.
Somebody’s either pulling a fast one or lying.