Primitive means of calculating pi, WAS: PI In the Bible

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Fri Oct 20 2000 - 10:32:06 MDT

The method used at the time the Bible was written to calculate pi was to divide
a circle up into little pie slices, then calculate the area of each as if they
were triangles, instead of as a pie slice with an arc on one leg. This method
was used for thousands of years until the 19th or 20th century to reach ever
more accurate estimations of pi, and coming up with a true means of calculating
pi was the goal of many a true mathematician (as well as many dilletante quacks)
until it was proven that pi was a transcendental number in the late 19th
century. At the time of Pythagoras, pi had been calculated to a fraction equal
to four to six decimal places. The Great Pyramid of Cheops (or Khufu, as the
case may be) has demonstrated that at the time of its construction, the
egyptians had calculated pi accurately to 5 decimal places at a minimum, though
they could have been even more accurate, depending on what the exact dimensions
of its marble facing stones were (and the original dimensions of its interior).
If one buys the theory (that seems rather hard to dispute given the hard
evidence) that the three great pyramids, and other buildings around egypt were
built to form a huge simulation of the constellation Orion (who was their god
Osiris in their astronomy/astrology), then they likely would have needed to have
calculated pi to an accuracy of possibly as much as ten decimal places (in
fraction form, of course) in order to place these buildings as accurately as
they did.

Given this, it seems rather obvious that anyone writing at the time about pi
equalling 3 must have been a rather illiterate primitive, writing on his own
recognizance, and NOT inspired or directed either by any deity or priesthood
(who were typically the most literate people in any society at the time).

Now, given how scientists of the time were aware of the use of volume, I'm
wondering if a bored circular tube might have been used to calculate pi more
accurately then than by the pie slice method. Take a chunk of metal, and bore a
hole in it of a fixed radius. Then build a square tank with graduated rules on
the side to measure volume of the tank. Fill the bored cylindrical hole with
water, then pour that water into the square tank, and measure the result. Given
this volume, the known radius of the bored hole, and the known depth of the
bored hole, a generally accurate calculation of pi would result, only varying by
the distortion of the meniscus of the fluid. Since pythagoras had only
calculated pi out by a few hundred pie slices, it seems to me the fluid method
should have been more accurate at the time.

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