My favourite tweeter is Clifford A. Pickover. His tweets are delightful nuggets of math, physics & more. I have a copy of his fascinating The Physics Book. However, in these tweets, he claims that the string **44899 first occurs in pi at position 44899**, counting from the first digit after the decimal point. I thought it might be interesting to check this, and to see if there are any more such ‘self-references’ in say, the first 100,000,000 digits of pi. There’s obviously 1 at position 1, which mathematicians would probably call ‘trivial’.

So my first task, is to find a way to compute pi to far more than the accuracy of math.pi in Python. A quick search of the web sent me to Nick Craig-Wood’s pages on computing pi in Python using the Chudnovsky algorithm. There I found pi_chudnovsky_bs_gmpy.py. It needs the gmpy2 library. I needed to change a line: *sqrtC = (10005*one_squared).sqrt()* (line 63) to *sqrtC = gmpy2.isqrt(10005*one_squared).*

I then wrote the following quick and dirty script, which probably isn’t as efficient or as beautiful as it could be – but it got the job done! The *len(str(digits))-1* bit adds a few digits to allow for the length of the string being searched for. In the first 100,000,000 digits of pi, the numbers **1, 16470, 44899, 79873884** are the only ones which occur at the positions they index. I didn’t do any timing, but it only took a few minutes! When I first wrote this, I overlooked the word *first* in the claim; so then I added *pistr.find(istr)* to check where the found number first occurred. Only **1** satisfies the requirements. The program’s output is:

Computing Pi Searching for Pickover numbers 1 first occurs at 1 16470 first occurs at 1602 44899 first occurs at 13714 79873884 first occurs at 46267046

As a ball-park check on this, go to 100,000 digits of Pi and use your browser’s find function to locate 44899. This number is slightly under one half of 100,000, but there’s a couple of occurrences of it well before halfway. Or better yet, go to The Pi-Search Page. I’ve replied to Pickover’s tweet and emailed him to let him know the claim isn’t correct. He is wrong on the Internet.

**UPDATE**: He kindly responded to my email, and agrees that the claim as worded is wrong.

# Pi_ckover.py # # http://www.craig-wood.com/nick/articles/pi-chudnovsky/ import pi_chudnovsky_bs as pi digits = 100000000 print("Computing Pi") pi = pi.pi_chudnovsky_bs(digits+len(str(digits))-1) # compute pi pistr = str(pi) # convert to string print("Searching for Pickover numbers") for i in range(1, digits+1): # search along from 1 to digits istr = str(i) # convert i to string l = len(istr) # get its length if istr == pistr[i:i+l]: print(istr," first occurs at ",pistr.find(istr))