In the "Notebook" section of the March 18, 1996, issue of The Scientist [page 30], there is a short piece about someone who has constructed a mnemonic device to remember 167 digits of the number p. The first sentence of the piece wrongly states that 22 over 7 "is represented by p." p is an irrational number, which means that it cannot be written as the ratio of two whole numbers. 22/7 is rational because it is the ratio of two whole numbers. Any rational number can be written either as a decimal number with finitely many digits (for example, 1/8 = .125), or as a decimal number made up of an infinite repetition of a finite string of digits (for example, 125/999 = .125125125...).

The decimal expansions of irrational numbers like p are infinitely long and nonrepeating. What all this means is that no matter how many digits...

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