back to article Yahoo! boffin scores pi's two quadrillionth bit

A Yahoo! engineer has calculated pi's two quadrillionth bit using Hadoop, the open source distributed number-crunching platform based on Google's proprietary MapReduce technology. When pi is in binary, the two quadrillionth bit is 0. Hadoop-happy Yahooligan Tsz Wo (Nicholas) Sze set this pi world record on a cluster spanning …


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  1. Anomalous Cowturd

    Too easy.

    I worked it out with a pencil, like all good mathematicians.

    It's 4.

    Prove me wrong!

    1. John Tserkezis

      Even easier!

      > I worked it out with a pencil, like all good mathematicians.

      > It's 4.

      > Prove me wrong!

      Sure, it's 3. The convention (unless otherwise specified) is to round down for decimals up to .4, and round up at .5 and higher.

      Since it's already been established that pi to one decimal place is 3.1 (look it up if you don't believe me), it rounds to 3.

      Do I get a prize for this?

      Bugger that, I'm getting a beer.

    2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      You're wrong

      Since the calculation is for Pi *in binary*, 4 can never be correct. What's my prize?


    3. Antony Riley


      There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those who don't.

      I hope that was an attempt at being witty, but I suspect you sir fit into the latter category :)

    4. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down

      O.K. Ill bite.

      Its not four. He's calculated a bit. So its either 0 or 1. Definitely not 4. Unless binary suddenly goes through a worm hole or something after a quadrillion bits and looks like 0111010101011001010101011004010100101.

      Then you may be right.

    5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      There seem to be a lot of people around today who understand binary, but not irony...

      ...On another note that reminded me of the episode of Futurama where Bender the robot is dreaming - a field of 1s and 0s rushes before him, then suddenly there is a 2 and he wakes up screaming...

  2. MacRat


    They use Google and Bing.

  3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


    I remain convinced that at some point along the way, pi actually starts repeating. Pi is a cosmic joke created by an unknown supreme force just to cause mathematicians to melt.

    "Yeah, so...Pi? Remember Pi? We thought it was mostly a bunch of random numbers? mathematicians tried for centuries to discern a pattern and failed? 4Quadrillion + 4 digits it loops. It's a 4 Quadrillion + 4 digit periodic number. We through some algorithmic fuzzing at it so see if we could figure out any patterns, now that we have the full pre-loop sequence, and we scored a hit! It's actually a wav file:

    <Nelson Muntz> HA HA! </Nelson Muntz>.

    The conclusion of all Pi research to date is thusly that god (or the gods) or whom/whatever created the laws of physics in such a way as to cause Pi to exist... a dick."

    1. Torben Mogensen

      repeating bits?

      "I remain convinced that at some point along the way, pi actually starts repeating."

      It is not hard to prove that the bits/digits/whatever of pi will never repeat. If they did, pi would be a rational number, and it was long ago proven that it is not. It is not even an algebraic number, so even the repeated fraction representation of pi is not periodic.

      But I agree with another poster that it is a rather pointless waste of computer time, even more so than finding large Mersenne primes, which has used even more computer time than this.

    2. markfiend

      I am not a mathematician but

      It can be proven that pi never repeats. Sorry to spoil your joke.

      Although it's probably that there's a string of digits in there somewhere that would encode to Nelson's "Ha ha!"

    3. sebacoustic

      fail to appreciaste it's funny..

      > I remain convinced that at some point along the way, pi actually starts repeating.

      well you're wrong:

      1. Pizza

        @ everyone who replied to Trevor_Pott

        Jeez, are you the kind of commentards who only laugh if the poster uses the "Joke Alert" icon?

        I actually normally skip those, they are the least funny.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


          I agree, maybe some of these people should spend less slightly time studying mathematics, and use that time instead to study anthropology?

      2. Tom Chiverton 1


        Well, that's the Plot to /Contact/ ruined then...

  4. Charles Manning


    Any value greater than 50 or so places is of no practical use.

    Surely with y! in the shitter the boffins could find something useful to do.

  5. brainwrong


    If you read the BBC article carefully, you will see that he has calculated the 2 quadrillionth *bit* of the binary representation of pi. Not the 2 quadrillionth decimal digit.

    They appear to have used a variation of the BPP formula:–Borwein–Plouffe_formula

    These newer formulas allow for calculation of any binary (or hex) digit by calculation of only a few terms with a few neighbouring bits. This cannot be used to efficiently calculate any decimal digit, base conversion requires a majority of the previous bits to be calculated too.

    See also

    The 1 quadrillionth bit is 0 too. 50/50 chance, so who's to say it wasn't a lucky guess?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Pi to 2 Quadrillion places


    That is all.

    1. Filippo Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      re: Pi to 2 Quadrillion places

      Why not?

    2. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Pi to 2 Quadrillion places

      Well, the fact that it's the 2 quadrillion place rather than "Pi to 2 Quadrillion places" probably makes you consider it even more pointless, but let me make two observations;

      1. It's a mathematical challenge, perhaps there is no point to this challenge other than "because it's there", however analysis like this does set the scene for, applicable mathmatics (folding@home, SETI etc.) some of which may be useful.

      2. You have gone out of your way to comment, seeming not to try and understand, the "That is all" makes it a retorical question, I wonder which is more pointless?

  7. Poor Coco

    Pi? Feh.

    Any fule kno thet pi is silly.

    Use tau = 2*pi, and suddenly polar coordinates look just like Cartesian ones.

  8. Rumcajz

    Beautiful and useless

    Hmmm... 1000 nodes, 23 days, final (useless) answer is 0.

    Shades of the classic Deep Thought supercomputer, 7,500,000 years, final (useless) answer is 42.

    And the answers ARE useless.. I mean, how does one now go about specifying pi? After the first 2.7 trillion digits, does one write 1.9973 quadrillion 'x's and then a (binary) 0? Or what??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      what do you get when you multiply six by nine

      "42" is not meaningless, the question as asked was meaningless.

      So, the answer 'the N millionth bit is 0' is not meaningless, the question 'what is the N millionth bit' is meaningless.

      1. Scu

        Err, or six times seven?

        Or did you really mean 54?

  9. Chris Miller

    Am (P)I normal?

    It's been known since as long as we've had decimal notation that pi is an irrational number (one that can't be represented exactly as a fraction) and that therefore it's decimal representation can contain no infinitely repeating strings (sorry Trevor!).

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the concept of 'normal' numbers was invented. In the decimal expansion of a 'normal' number, the digits 0-9 occur with the same frequency* - so will any random string of digits - so 123456 will occur one in a million times. The same is true whatever base (binary, octal, hex, ...) is used.

    Now, it's known that almost all irrational numbers are normal, but very few individual numbers are known to be normal. In particular, it's not known if any random square root or pi or e is normal. If pi was proven to be normal (and all the evidence - such as this test - shows and most mathematicians believe it is), it might be useful in cryptography - but that isn't why number theorists investigate these problems!

    More here:

    * the number 0 does not occur in the first 31 decimal places of pi, which is significant at the 95% level, but this fluke evens out when more decimal places are calculated.

    1. D@v3

      ill put on my dunces cap before i ask this.....

      how can you have a 0 as a decimal place?

      1. Charles 9


        As long as a nonzero exists in a further decimal place, a zero can exist as a decimal digit.

        Fine example: 1/1000 in decimal is 0.001. Note the two zero decimals, which are both valid and necessary.

        1. D@v3

          given. but....

          i accept that you can have 0.000000000000000000000000001

          but not that you could have 3.141592654 0 92334

          which is what the previous poster was describing.

          1. John H Woods Silver badge

            Why not

            What's wrong with the number 3.101? or


  10. Bleepme
    Thumb Down

    what the f*** is a quadrillion?

    That is a complete bullshit word. IF you need to tell us this, use Standard Scientific notation, representing it as a power of 10.


    1. Charles 9

      It's 1,000 times a trillion.

      Brits used to have a different standard in which the common trillion was actually their billion, but since it didn't fit well with scientific units (especially when you get to giga- and tera- and so on), most of the UK has since adopted the more common standard.

      The initial progression, each 1,000 times greater than the previous, is:

      - thousand (10^3)

      - million (10^6)

      - billion (bi, 10^9)

      - trillion (tri, 10^12)

      - quadrillion (quadra, 10^15)

      - quintillion (quinta, 10^18)

      - sextillion (sexta, 10^21)

      - septillion (septa, 10^24)

      - octillion (octa, 10^27)

      - nonillion (nona, 10^30)

      - decillion (deca, 10^33)


      And of course, you have the googol (10^100) and the googolplex (10^(10^100)).

    2. Anonymous Coward

      here you go:

      you might also wish to read this:


  11. Allan George Dyer

    Damn, I predicted the digit was 1

    but my SECOND guess was 0.

    OK, OK, I'm going.

  12. JDX Gold badge

    Have they found the circle yet?

    Think that's in base 11 though.

  13. William Towle

    I know the Beeb wrote this too, but...

    Bellard is interesting because his calculation was done with an efficient method on a sub-$3000 PC, not because it is [still] a record to know that many consecutive digits. This, from August, details computation to 5 trillion digits: (and additional detail at:

    ...thinking the research might just be a little confused and "double the record" applies to Yee/Kondo vs Ballard, rather than Sze?

    1. William Towle

      Re: Yee/Kondo vs Ballard

      Both calculations were doubled compared to the previous ones, it transpires.

      Sze's own announcement is at (which looks transient; is also at but they've not preserved the link to

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