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 1×1 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.
“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.