Come Celebrate Pi Day 3.14,1:59!


On March 14 at 1:59 pm we gather together to celebrate the most famous and mysterious of numbers.  That Pi is defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter seems simple enough but Pi turns out to be an “irrational number.”  Computer scientists have calculated billions of digits of pi, starting with 3.14159265358979323…, no recognizable pattern emerges in the digits.  Scientists could continue calculating the next digit all the way to infinity and still have no idea which digit might emerge next.  To these facts can be added that March 14 is also Einstein’s birthday.

Pi is a number that has fascinated scholars for 4,000 years.  The mathematical history of pi comes from around the world.  In 1900 B.C., the Babylonians calculated the area of the circle by taking 3 times the square of its radius.  One Babylonian tablet (ca 1900-1680 B.C.) indicates a value of 3.125 for pi, which is a close approximation. Around 1650 B.C., the Rhind Papyrus, a famous document of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, also calculated the area of a circle which gave the approximate value of 3.1605.



In 250 B.C., the Greek mathematician Archimedes calculated the circumference of a circle to its  diameter.  Archimedes  value , was not only more accurate; it was the first theoretical rather than measured calculations of pi.  Archimedes knew that he had not found the value of pi but only an approximation. He used a fairy simply geometrical approach for his calculations.  See how he did it by launching the interactive model on this site:



Zu Chongzhi (429-501 AD?) was a Chinese mathematician and astronomer, who was not familiar with Archimedes method. He calculated the value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Unfortunately, his book has been lost so very little is known of his work.

In 1761, a Swiss mathematician Johann Heinrich Lambert (1782-1777) proved the irrationality of pi.  An irrational number is a number that cannot be made into a fraction where the decimal never ends or repeat sequences.

By 1882, F. Lindeman proved that pi was transcendental, that is, that pi is not the root of any algebraic equation with rational coefficients.  This discovery proved that you can’t “square the circle” which was a problem that vexed many mathematicians up to that time.  Another fascination for mathematicians throughout history was to calculate the digits of pi, but until computers, less than 1,000 digits had been calculated.  With the calculations of the computer, millions of digits have been calculated.


Adiran, Y. E. O.  The Pleasures of Pi, e and Other Interesting Numbers.  Singapore: World Scientific Pub., c2006.  Engineering Library QA95 .A2 2006

Alsina, Claudi.  Icons of Mathematics:  An Exploration of Twenty Key Images. Washington, D.C.:  Mathematical Association of America c2011.

Beckman, Petr.  The History of Pi. Boulder: Colorado: The Golem Press, 1977.  Main Math Collection QA484 .B4 1977

Chongzhi, Zu.  Encyclopedia Britannica.  Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2014.  Web, 10 March 2014.    Http:// / EBchecked/topic/1073884/Zu-Chongzhi.   Main Reference Collection AE5 .E363 2010

Exploratorium. (2014). Pi Day. Retrieved from

Gillings, R. Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs. Boston, MA: MIT Press, 89-103, 1972.  Main Math Collection QA27.E3 G52 

Gardner, Milo. “Rhind Papyrus.” From MathWorld–A Wolfram Web Resource, created by Eric W. Weisstein.

A facsimile of this papyrus can also be found at the
Main Oversize FOLIO PJ1681 R5 1927
Main Math Collection FOLIO PJ1681 R5 1927

Hobson, Ernest William.  Squaring the Circle and Other Monographs. New York: Chelsea, 1953.  Main Math Collection QA467 .H62 1953 

KHANACADEMY. (2014). A Song About A Circle Constant. Retrieved from

Libeskind, Shlomo.  Euclidean and Transformational Geometry: A Deductive Inquiry. Sudbury, Mass.:  Jones and Bartlett Publishers, c 2008. Engineering Library QA453 .L53 2008 

Mackenzie, D. “Fractions to Make an Egyptian Scribe Blanch.” Science 278, 224, 1997.

McCall, Martin W.  Classical Mechanics:  From Newton to Einstein: A Modern Introduction.  Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010.  Engineering Library QC125.2 .M385 2011 

Robins, G. and Shute, C. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus: An Ancient Egyptian Text. New York: Dover, 1990. Main Math Collection QA30.3 .R63 1987 

Weingardt, Richard.  Circles in The Sky:  The Life and Times of George Ferris.  Reston, VA,: American Society of Civil Engineers, C.2009.  Engineering Library TA140.F455 W45 2009


The Winter Olympic comes to the Engineering Library

The Lichtenberger Engineering Library is now highlighting the Winter Olympics. This exhibit features information related to the Winter Olympics in general and showcases some of the engineering components for the fifteen sports participating through a plethora of library resources.

The 22nd Winter Olympics is scheduled to take place from February 6th to 23rd, 2014 in Russia, with events held in Sochi as well as in the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana.  The fifteen sports in these games include:  Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Bobsledding, Cross Country Skiing, Curling, Figure Skating, Freestyle Skiing, Ice Hockey, Luge, Nordic Combined, Short Track Speed Skating, Skeleton, Ski Jumping, and Snowboarding.   More information can be found at: Engineering can be seen throughout the sports participating.  Examples of topics covered in the exhibit includes how BMW is helping to building the ultimate bobsled[1], how body mechanics can influence speed skating[2], and the creation of tracks for bobsled, luge, and skeleton[3].

  1. Paur, Jason.  U.S. Bobsled Team Picks Up a Wild BMW-Designed Ride. Wired: Playbook. Feb 12, 2013.
  2. Houdijk, H, JJ de Koning, G de Groot, MF Bobbert, and GJ van Ingen Schenau. Push-off mechanics in speed skating with conventional skates and klapskates. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. March 2000. 32(3): 635-641
  3. Mossner, M., M. Hasler, K Schindelwig, P Kaps, and W Nachbauer. An approximate simulation model for initial luge track design. Journal of Biomechanics. March 15, 2011. 44(5): 892-896. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2010.12.001.






Well Finals Are Almost Over And The Holidays Are About To Begin!

I hope you did and are doing well with finals and enjoyed the hot coffee, cocoa and cider served at the Engineering Library to help you keep awake during these grueling sessions.  In between exams I saw some of you putting together the LEGO blocks and it looked like you were having fun!  The LEGO blocks were for you from Kari Kozak head of the Library, Lego image from engineering 1 lego picture from engin 3 Lego picture from engin.2

here are some of your LEGO creations.

Did you enjoy the LEGO exhibit in our exhibit case while taking a break from exams?

Now for some facts about holidays which I took from Wikipedia;

For constitutional reasons, the United States does not have national holidays in the sense that most other nations do, i.e. days on which all businesses are closed by law and employees have a day off.[1] Pursuant to the Tenth Amendment, theU.S. federal government only has constitutional jurisdiction to establish holidays for itself, for certain federally chartered and regulated businesses (such as federal banks), and for the District of Columbia; and pursuant to the First Amendment, neither federal, state nor local government can require any business (other than those mentioned) or individual to observe any holiday. Otherwise, constitutional authority to create public holidays is a power reserved to the states. Most states also allow local jurisdictions (cities, villages, etc.) to establish their own local holidays.

As of 2012, there are eleven federal holidays in the United States, ten annual holidays and one quadrennial holiday (Inauguration Day).[2] Pursuant to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 (effective 1971), official holidays are observed on a Monday, except for New Year’s DayIndependence DayVeterans DayThanksgiving, and Christmas.[ 

If you’re interested in more information about holidays? you will find it at this site  But if you’d rather not be too serious about anything being on the verge of finishing exams here something more fun to read:,0,5910159.triviaquiz#ixzz2nw86F4Nh


The Cult of LEGO Exhibit

Right now showing at the engineering library is an exhibit called The Cult of LEGO.  It shows what can be created with Lego and touches on the many books we have on LEGO at the library.

Lego is a popular line of construction toys manufactured by The Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. The company’s flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects.

Lego began manufacturing interlocking toy bricks in 1949. Since then a global Lego subculture has developed, supporting movies, games, competitions, and six themed amusement parks. As of 2013, around 560 billion Lego parts had been produced.

There is a lot about the history of Lego on Wikipedia but suffice it to say that we show what can be built with LEGO by using sets designed by Dan Daly retired llHR Hydroscience and Engineering Librarian and Kari Kozak head of the Lichtenberger Engineering Library.  You will find Minifigs, creepy looking lairs, books with Angels, towers and Castles, battle ships, Star Wars, Reiman Gardens in Ames, The Hobbit, and what has become to be known as The Lego Universe.

For some books on LEGO creation check these out:; and

New at the Engineering Library a book about Steel Bridges

Steel bridges : conceptual and structural design of steel and steel-concrete composite bridges / Jean-Paul Lebet, Manfred A. Hirt ; translated from the French by Graham Couchman.

Jean-Paul Lebet

Available at Engineering  Library (TG380 .L43 2013 )

The book is divided in 5 parts.

  • The first part is the a general introduction to bridges and terminology and giving a historic background to steel bridges.
  • The second part considers conceptual design.
  • The third part is dedicated to analysis and design of the structural member of steel and composite bridges.
  • The fourth deals with the peculiarities of other bridges such as railway bridges, bridges for pedestrians and cyclists and arch bridges.
  • The final part contains a numerical example for a composite bridge.
  • The guidance can be extended and applied to other types of structures.  The content of this book deals first of all, and in detail, with road bridges, followed by chapters with specifics of railway and bridges for pedestrian and cyclists.

Available at Engineering Library

Earlier this year we brought you a blog about a team of Dutch students, here it is again and with it a book that you will find at the Engineering Library on the systematic development of  highly efficient and clean vehicles look it up the call number is at the bottom of the page.

you might be interested a team of Dutch students designed a family car that produces more solar energy than it uses. It feeds the rest back into the grid!

SHARE this image if you want to see young engineers build cars that don’t need Arctic oil.

Researchers Give Pilot Sight in Storms!

Last January, a medical helicopter flying from Mason City to Emmettsburg crashed in a field, killing all three of the people on board; the pilot reported encountering ice and snow just before that crash.

Now, researchers at the University of Iowa and engineers at Rockwell Collins are working on new technology to keep pilots and crew safe in those kinds of low visibility situations.

There are many books on Aerodynamics at the Engineering Library that you might find of interest here are a list of a few: 


Let’s celebrate Mole Day!

images4 images1 imgres2 images3From Wikipedia: Mole Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated among chemists and chemistry students on October 23, between 6:02 AM and 6:02 PM,[1][2][3] making the date 6:02 10/23 in the American style of writing dates. The time and date are derived from Avogadro’s number, which is approximately 6.02×1023, defining the number of particles (atoms or molecules) in onemole of substance, one of the seven base SI units. Mole Day originated in an article in The Science Teacher in the early 1980s.[4] Inspired by this article, Maurice Oehler, now a retired high school chemistry teacher from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, founded the National Mole Day Foundation (NMDF) on May 15, 1991.[4] Many high schools around the United StatesSouth AfricaAustralia and in Canada celebrate Mole Day as a way to get their students interested in chemistry, with various activities often related to chemistry or moles.