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You can read the first 15% of this story for free; if you like it, you can read the rest for $3.99 (payable by paypal or credit card.)

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A Hard SF story about Math. Whoever says Pi is a constant simply hasn't checked it precisely enough — which may be a good thing!

Delta Pi

by Andrew Burt

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A Note From The Author

Hello! This ebook represents an experiment in bittorrent distribution. I did a survey asking if torrent downloaders would pay a fair price for an ebook if they could, and the response was 100% "Yes." So this is an experiment to allow people to follow through on that enthusiasm. I've priced this (no DRM!) ebook at the low end of what the survey takers said was a fair price that they would pay. If you're unable to pay via PayPal (which handles all major credit cards without you needing to have a PayPal account), let me know and we can work something else out. I'll even throw in a money back guarantee, that if you're not satisfied with the piece I'll refund your money. So — enjoy!

[ Alternative formats:
Epub, Mobi. Click to pay to download epub/mobi formats
Kindle Store | Smashwords ]

Δ π
(Delta Pi)

by Andrew Burt

Monday, 06/08/2037

(being the date,

and the first occurrence

of the digits 06082037 in Pi,

starting at the 38,117,837th decimal.)

Kinsey Stafford noticed it--or, rather, the effect of it--in his office at the Center for Mathematical Studies, Cambridge, England. His chest tightened and he hung his head in grief: His program to calculate the deep digits of pi had suddenly crashed. In a race against time to save his career, he'd just lost precious months' work.

Monica Ozawa, at the other end of the video link in Kuala Lumpur, noticed it too. "What in hell was that?" Her program crashed likewise.

The staff at the Rio superconducting supercollider noticed it, thousands of miles away from either.

Two small children playing in Mexico City really noticed it as their cinderblock walls crashed down on them from the resulting earthquake, an intensity XII on the twelve degree Mercalli damage index. The media, still in love with the useless Richter scale, called it as an 8.7. At least two hundred thousand dead, they reported without emotion.

And a junior high school student noticed it in Fertile, Minnesota, doing her Intro to Trig homework. Not that she knew or cared how similar the cosine algorithm in her calculator was to Kinsey's or Monica's pi routines. She knitted her brows: cos(0.5) should not equal 1.000000000 as displayed on the screen. She cleared the entry and retyped, carefully, point, five, cosine. 0.877582562; that looked better. She resumed her calculations, as oblivious as all the others to the monumental discovery mankind had just made.

Saturday, 06/27/2037

(Pi, 93,997,063rd decimal)

Almost a month later, Kinsey was still blissfully unaware of the role he'd played in the Mexico City carnage. He wasn't cruel or psychotic; had he known, he certainly wouldn't be running the program again. He was, however, narrowing his eyes in disbelief as before.

"Ozawa," he commanded the screen. Oh, damn, the eight hour time difference--she was going to be pissed off.

"Kinsey?" She craned her neck to check the time. "You forgot again, didn't you." She yawned. "It's three A.M. This is Earth-shatteringly important, right?"

His sheepish grin quickly gave way to his natural excitement. "Sorry, I, uh... Yes. Yes, it is! It's the first time in three weeks that I've had time to get on T. Rex to check the Gauss-Legendre-Stafford convergence, and, uh... Earth-shattering, yes!--sorry, I'm rambling--been up two days--paper deadline--tenure thing--look, have you compared your recent results from your hacked Borwein with your old ones?"

Her eyes were closed as she talked, indicating the depth to which she didn't care. Summing up enormous quantities of ever shrinking fractions as the total homed in on some value, like pi, wasn't the most glamorous work, but she took her shared research into rapid convergence algorithms as seriously as Kinsey. Though, having no career-ending tenure decision riding on it, she didn't feel compelled to work twenty hours a day on it. "No, sorry, we don't have the luxury of a dinosaur system like you society boys."

She smiled at his grimace. She enjoyed poking fun at his swellheaded employers--having chosen not to accept their offer four years earlier, instead opting for the slightly less impressive, but much less stressful, world of Bell-Matsushita Lab's Southeast Asian site. He might have access to T. Rex, a "DiNosAur" DNA-based supercomputer to play with, but she hadn't taken to the high intensity life that the Kinsey Staffords of the world thrived on. With only an old Hyper-Cray, she'd still published twice as many papers as Kinsey since she'd left CMS, a sore point she impishly played on.

He was far too serious lately, with only six months until the curmudgeonly faculty decided his tenure, and it was not looking good. He was brilliant, but never satisfied enough to commit to publication. His algorithmic work was make or break--and 'break' from the CMS meant he might as well look for a job as a dishwasher: CMS only took people they knew they would keep, but not being kept was a scarlet letter. She didn't have that same pressure, which made collaboration with him difficult at times. Like now. "Besides, I didn't restart it until last week; it hasn't reached where it was when it bombed. It's only at a couple trillion digits or so."

"Go check it!" His head bounced energetically, eyes wide.

She looked at him sourly; he was far too awake for her tastes. "Can't this wait until our usual link time, tomorrow?"

"No! Right now! Listen, my GLS is at about twenty trillion--and--and--it's changed! Can you say 'Nobel Prize'? My birthday, the digits used to be around fifty million, now they're at two hundred million! And the earthquakes, this must be what's causing them!"

Talking through another yawn, she managed, "Yu-ih nah may-ing en-ih sense."

"Pi, damnit! Pi! It's changed!"

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Copyright © by Andrew Burt . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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