O'Reilly logo

Impossible? by Julian Havil

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter 13

image

THE SPIN OF A NEEDLE

Geometry is the science of correct reasoning on incorrect figures.

George Pólya

In Nonplussed! we considered some consequences of tossing a needle, in particular, onto a set of equally spaced parallel lines. The fact, surprising and historically significant, that the probability of the needle landing across a line involved π was first investigated by the eighteenth-century French scientist Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon: hence the name Buffon’s Needle. Here we move to the twentieth century to consider a simple question about spinning the needle, which has its own intriguing and important answer.

A Japanese ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required