Maths lecturer has the write stuff when it comes to Pi
A maths whiz reached a new personal best and climbed global records after memorising 20,000 digits of Pi.
Troy Ashby, a maths lecturer at Bermuda College, memorised and wrote the digits non-stop for 24 hours, breaking his previous record of 12,000 digits.
The feat also placed Mr Ashby 15th in the world for memorising the highest number of digits of the infinite number’s decimal order and placed Bermuda eighth highest in the world.
Pi is defined as the the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Its decimal representation never settles into a permanently repeating pattern.
Mr Ashby said: “Those 20,000 digits are in my mind, but I don’t feel any different.
“To me it’s the same as having all the words that you know from the English language within your mind – you learn them throughout your life and they’re still there.
“I just made the effort to get those digits stored and saved in my head.”
He added: “To me it’s easy – it feels like there’s nothing to it.”
Mr Ashby started his challenge around 6.30am on Tuesday in North Hall at Bermuda College’s Paget campus and completed it on Wednesday morning.
His work, which was written on sheets of plastic wrap, stretched around the entirety of the 40ft-by-15ft basement room.
Mr Ashby was invigilated by about 14 volunteers who were on two-hour rotations, all of whom followed and verified Mr Ashby’s digits.
He said that he did not sleep during the process and only took breaks to have a snack or some water.
Mr Ashby is tied for 15th in the world with Manuel Vergara Vial, a Chilean man who also counted 20,000 on March 19.
Mr Ashby’s feat also tied Bermuda with Chile for eighth country in the world to have memorised the most digits of pi.
The current world record holder is Suresh Kumar Sharma, an Indian man who memorised 70,030 digits of Pi in 2015.
Mr Ashby said that he was inspired to take on the challenge after his colleague, Frances Furbert, who showed him a video in 2014 of a man reciting the digits of pi.
He said that he set out to memorise as many digits as he could, breaking each section down until he was memorising about 200 digits a week.
Mr Ashby added: “In the learning process you’re actually teaching yourself what you need to do to retain those numbers.
“You start off small and something inside of you tells you that you’ve got it, then you move on to learn some more and you get to the point that you can go back and learn it all from the start.
“You have to learn them until your mind’s familiar with them, but then you have to reinforce it to the point where something inside you tells you ‘you know’, almost like you’ve clicked ‘save’ on a computer.”
Mr Ashby eventually memorised and listed 1,000 digits in 2014 and kept challenging himself until he memorised and listed 12,000 digits in celebration of World Pi Day on March 14, 2019.
He said that, although he was proud, “on the international stage, 12,000 is not much”.
Mr Ashby added that, although he studied alongside his responsibilities as a lecturer, he kept going because he believed he could extend himself further.
He said that he hoped his work could be an inspiration for others to attempt the challenge themselves.
Mr Ashby said: “Within you lies the potential to do great things and do something significant.
“I started this because I was exposed to it, but had I not had that exposure I could have gone through my whole life without knowing I could have done this.”
1. Suresh Kumar Sharma (India) – 70,030 digits on October 21, 2015
2. Rajveer Meena (India) – 70,000 digits on March 21, 2015
3. Chao Lu (China) – 67,890 digits on November 20, 2005
4. Suhdir Dwivedi (India) – 45,000 digits on March 25, 2013
5. Krishan Chahal (India) – 43,000 digit on June 19, 2006
6. Hiroyuki Goto (Japan) – 42,195 digits on February 18, 1995
7. Hideaki Tomoyori (Japan) – 40,000 digits on March 10, 1987
8. Rajan Mahadevan (India) – 31,811 digits on July 5, 1981
9. Jonas von Essen (Sweden) – 24,063 digits on March 7, 2020
10. Luca Vadacca (Italy) – 22,801 digits on May 28, 2020
11. Rick de Jong (Netherlands) – 22,612 digits on March 23, 2015
12. David Thomas (Britain) – 22,500 digits on May 1, 1998
13. William Robinson (Britain) – 20220 digits on May 5, 1991
14. Creighton Carvello (Britain) – 20,013 digits on June 27, 1980
15. Manuel Vergara Vial (Chile) – 20,000 digits on March 19, 2021
15. Troy Ashby (Bermuda) – 20,000 digits on July 20, 2021