Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: Responding to pressure from religious groups, Alabama's state legislature redefined the value of pi from
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1998]
Origins: This wonderful bit of creative writing began circulating on the Internet in April 1998. Written by Mark Boslough as an April Fool's parody on legislative and school board
This brilliant piece of humor was originally posted to the newsgroup talk.origins on
Ah but the Internet works in mysterious ways. Several readers forwarded the piece to friends and posted it to other newsgroups. As the story moved along, what would have easily identified it as a parody and not a news item was stripped out: the attribution to "April Holiday" of the "Associmated Press." Now it looked like a real news piece. Which is how it was received by many.
There is not now and never has been a bill in front of the Alabama state legislature to redefine the value of pi. With one exception, none of the names given in this fanciful account stand up to scrutiny.
The one exception is Guy Hunt. He is a former governor of Alabama, convicted in 1993 for diverting $200,000 from his inaugural fund to his personal use.
Though the claim about the Alabama state legislature is pure nonsense, it is similar to an event that happened more than a century ago. In 1897 the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a measure redefining the area of a circle and the value of pi. (House Bill
Barbara "cornbread are square; pi are round" Mikkelson
Sightings: In his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein makes passing mention of Tennessee's enacting a law making pi equal 3.0
Last updated: 16 July 2007
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