Pi dream: Googler sets record for most digits calculated

Lamar Ellis
March 16, 2019

Google LLC said Thursday that a team led by engineer Emma Haruka Iwao from Japan has broken a Guinness World Record by calculating pi to the 31.4 trillionth digit, around 9 trillion more than the previous record set in 2016. Using the program y-cruncher on a Google Compute Engine cluster, she ate through 170 terabytes of data over about four months. Google announced the news in a blog on Pi Day (14 March - "3.14" in American date notation).

This is nearly nine trillion digits more than the previous world record that was set by Peter Trueb in November 2016.

The BBC report says that in 2010 Yahoo's cloud computing system was used to calculate the two quadrillionth digit of Pi (which is a zero), although the digits in between were not calculated. "I was very fortunate that there were Japanese world record holders that I could relate to", Iwao said in the blog post. And this is the first time that the Pi record was set using a commercial cloud service and the first time it was achieved using solid state drives (SSDs).

The calculation took 25 Google Cloud "virtual machines" more than 111 days.

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As for how Iwao can celebrate her big moment, let's hope that she does what the rest of the world should be doing to celebrate the glorious holiday: eat some actual pie. "But even if you don't work for Google, you can apply for various scholarships and programs to access computing resources", she says.

March 14 is celebrated as Pi Day because it is represented by 3.14 - the first three digits of a fundamental mathematical constant that has the mystery characteristics of being transcendental and irrational.

The contstant is used in engineering, physics, supercomputing and space exploration - because its value can be used in calculations for waves and circles. For normal calculations, only a few digits are used. Earlier, Pi was calculated to 22 trillion points.

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