What Pi Looks Like To 4 Million Decimal Places, As Pixel Art

New York designers TWO-N honor record-breaking calculations of Pi by representing a small subset of the number’s decimal digits as pixels. (Yes, 4 million is a small subset.)

Last year, a Japanese mathematician and a U.S. grad student smashed the world record for calculating the value of Pi. After a manic 371 days of computing, Shigeru Kondo and Alexander Yee reached 10 trillion decimal places, doubling the previous record (which Kondo set the year before). To give you a sense of how big that is: It would take an average person 158,000 years to recite every last digit.

New York-based interdisciplinary designers TWO-N, Inc. wanted to pay homage to the mathematicians’ remarkable discovery, so they decided to visualize a subset of Pi as pixel art. They took Pi’s first 4 million decimals and assigned each digit a different color. Then they rendered the digits as 1x1 pixel dots and threw them together into a massive abstract image that calls to mind William Gibson’s haunting description of the Chiba City sky.

10 Thousand - Click to zoom
1 Million - Click to zoom
4 Million - Click to zoom

4 Million Digits of π is a tongue-in-cheek take on the more serious work we are doing at TWO-N,” TWO-N’s Hermann Zschiegner says. “We are engaged in visualizing vast amounts of data every day and developing graphic means to quickly gasp big data sets. Being math geeks, we felt it was important to honor Shigeru Kondo’s work somehow, and visualizing at least a subset of the 10 trillion decimals he computed seemed like a fun thing to do.”

Fun, yes, but also useful. If you wanted to wrap your brainpan around 4 million decimal places of Pi, you’d spend three weeks reading out digits. Better to just look at the pretty pictures.

[Images courtesy of TWO-N; h/t Infosthetics]

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8 Comments

  • Andreas

    What a great idea! I would really be interested how they did it. I think it would be nice to write an entire store with pixels. 

  • ambiguish

    Okay, I've stared at that cross-eyed for 30+ minutes and I still don't see anything in 3d, what's the deal?

  • John

    Take the 10,000 picture,  duplicate it and put the copy directly alongside and to the right of the original.
    Then take and area (say a square) in the RH copy. Cut it out and move it a little to the left or right.Cut out the bit that is now overlapped and use it to fill in the gap left by moving your square. Now you have a stereo pair. Cross your eyes and you will see your square jump out at you (or go behind the rest, depending on which way you moved your square. All this is easy to do with Photoshop if you are familiar with it.
    John B

  • Whea7

    I swear that if you stare at the render of 4 million decimal places, it starts to move and shift and mess with your vision.  Maybe its just because I haven't had coffee yet...

  • Stu

    Looks quite similar to my bathroom countertop laminate! Would be very, very cool (nerdy, but cool) to see this pattern implemented on a functional surface!