The Irrationality of Pi and Quantum Computers

Ever since the significance of the number pi (“π” as mathematicians write it) was discovered more than three thousand years ago to be the ratio between circumference and diameter of a circle, men have been fascinated by the elusiveness of this seemingly simple definition. It turned out to be principally impossible to calculate it with absolute precision. Cunning schemes of approximations with ever increasing accuracy quickly became en vogue among mathematicians of the 18th and 19th century. By 2011 the record lay at 2 trillion digits that had been nailed down. But what are a mere two trillion out of infinity?

From the 1950 onward, silicon chips were the heart and brain of computers. They became ever small and ever faster until at about 2020 they began to hit a brick wall. The limits of miniaturization had been reached, too much heat was generated in an effort to make them go faster and so it became clear that the silicon age in computing had come to an end. Milking the trusted old silicon technology over 50 years had gained an increase in raw computing speed of over one million. Now something radically different was needed to sustain ever faster computers. Enter quantum computing.

Just when the steam began to run out and silicon chips were reaching their limit, a new technology emerged that held the promise to fuel the race for speed and take it to a never imagined level. Quantum computers play by the rules of quantum physics, a branch of physics so arcane that very few people actually understand it profoundly. Its laws defy everyday experience and fly in the face of common intuition. Yet harnessing its powers resulted in a generation of computers which run 100 million times faster than the fastest computers known in 2020. The quest for pi has shifted up a gear. It took ordinary computers 100 days to compute the first 2 trillion digits of pi. A feat which would occupy a quantum computer just under a tenth of a second, give or take.

These facts about the irrational number pi and quantum computers are important to the story. There is another, equally important, ingredient which will become apparent as the plot unfolds…