Mechanical Pi – In memory of William Shanks

Created by Florian Born and David Friedrich, Mechanical Pi - In memory of William Shanks is a computing machine that replaces the repetitive task of writing π by hand back into a physical, mechanical process.

The mathematician William Shanks sacrificed years of his spare time to the decimal expansion of the irrational number pi by hand. In 1873 he published his handwritten calculations to the 707th digit. Much to his regret, in 1945, D.F. Ferguson proved that only the first 527 decimal places have been calculated correctly. Nowadays Shanks tedious manual task is done with the help of computer algebra, performing millions of steps in fragments of a second, while calculating billions of decimal places.

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