Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

∏ Day for 2022

with 31 comments

Because the value of π when rounded to two decimal places is 3.14, mathematically minded folks have taken to calling March 14th π Day. Now, π happens to get pronounced in English the same as pie, and in Texas a favorite one of those is pecan pie. That happily provides a reason for this post—which went out at 3:14 in the morning—to show you two venerable pecan trees (Carya illinoinensis). The one above is from Richard Moya Park on February 11th. The one below is from the Copperfield Nature Trail along Walnut Creek on February 19th. In neither case would the gnarly, scaly bark that’s photographically delicious make for a good pie, though you could write a pie-in-the-sky story in which it did. You might even take your inspiration from a fantasy like “The Pied Piper.”

In closing, let me go off on a bit of a tangent by saying I can’t not point out how pi-ous math teachers are [and notice in good algebraic fashion how a double negative makes a positive out of can’t not].


❦          ❦          ❦


On March 2nd I linked to a 39-minute video interview with Garry Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player in our lifetime. Having grown up in the Soviet Union, he is also a staunch advocate for freedom and democracy, and currently chairman of the Human Rights Foundation. This time I want to tell you about another great Russian chess player and advocate for freedom, Natan Sharansky, who coincidentally was born in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine that Putin used as a pretext to invade the country. In the 1970s and ’80s Sharansky was among the best known of the so-called refuseniks who worked toward and eventually succeeded in getting many Jews out of the Soviet Union.

Now, in a March 7th Tablet article “Ten Questions for Natan Sharansky,” he offers many insights into the current crisis in Ukraine. For example:

So whether it is Poland, or whether it is Kamchatka, [Putin] sees these all like a czar—all Russian lands—and he sees bringing them back as his historical charge. For this he has worked already for many years. Belarus is practically part of Russia now. He tried Georgia in 2008, and he got Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are now in fact Russia. Chechnya too, of course, though with a lot of blood, but now it’s his. And he is active all the time in Kazakhstan and the other Stans.

But of course the key here was always Ukraine. Even in our dissidents’ prisons, when we all saw that the Soviet Union would be falling apart, because it was too weak from inside, the critical piece we saw then was Ukraine. In our dreams Ukraine was becoming an independent country, like France or something, not only because of the large population but because it had the wheat and coal and metallurgy and missiles and everything.

It didn’t happen exactly so. Because of corruption and other things, Ukraine went through a difficult period. But nevertheless, a democratic Ukraine was born. So that was a big shock to Putin, and that’s why he has to declare openly that Ukraine is not a state and Ukraine is not a nation, and calls them neo-Nazis, and talks about bringing back its “historical status.”

And consider this assessment:

Russia is not the strongest country and Putin is not the strongest leader in the world. In fact, Russia today is something like 3% of the world economy and NATO represents something closer to 50%. And here it is very important to understand Putin’s psychology. From my time among criminals in prison, I know very well that the one who’s the ringleader in the cell is not the one who is physically strongest, but the one who is ready to use his knife. Everybody has a knife, but not everybody is prepared to use it. Putin believes that he is willing to use his knife and the West isn’t, that the West can only talk, even if it is physically stronger.

You can read the Tablet article to learn much more.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2022 at 3:14 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

31 Responses

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  1. Of course Nato would get more involved militarily if it were not for Putin’s threat of using his nuclear arsenal. Whether true or not, a while back he said they had missiles that were now undetectable once launched. When he claimed to have put their nuclear capabilities on ready status two weeks ago that raised the stakes and spectre of an all out nuclear WWIII. That’s a knife fight no one wishes to escalate. There may come a time when it is inevitable should he move on Poland (a former USSR satellite) say or a Nato country but hopefully his only ambitions are for former Soviet lands…not that that is a good thing but at least might avoid all-out conflict. Meanwhile he is destroying that which he desires.

    Steve Gingold

    March 14, 2022 at 3:41 AM

    • Like all of us, I wish I knew the best thing to do. I also hope the American military hasn’t been asleep at the wheel and has been developing its own new defensive and offensive weapons. It would be reassuring if some of the UFOs that pilots have spotted really are secret new American technologies. Given our societal decay in so many other areas, I can’t say I’m optimistic about that. As you said, meanwhile Ukraine is getting destroyed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2022 at 5:43 AM

      • I am sure our military has been using some of its budget to improve the protections we need. Whether it would be sufficient who knows and of course we hope it never gets tested. I’d also like to think we know enough to keep our cards close to our vest. Bush offered to share a proposed missile shield and that didn’t go over so well.

        Steve Gingold

        March 14, 2022 at 4:24 PM

  2. Pi day only works in the American date form. But you knew that!

    I agree with Steve. It’s hard to stand back and seem to do nothing, but it’s also not wise to poke an angry bear. Let’s hope some good will come out of the peace talks.


    March 14, 2022 at 4:47 AM

    • Yes, I knew that about the order in which the parts of a date are given. If I were aware of a mathematical or physical constant whose value rounded to 14.3, I’d tell you so you could take advantage of it in your system. Tomorrow I’ll be playing up the Ides of March in a way where the order of the date’s month and day components doesn’t matter.

      As for the other matter, it’s hard to know the best thing to do. I wake up depressed every morning because I’ve been thinking about it even in my sleep.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2022 at 6:00 AM

  3. I hope these venerable trees are still producing fine pecans. On the Ides of March we will be remembering the mosque massacre in Christchurch in 2019. Looking back now it seems like that was an omen of the dark days to come. We were shocked and horrified but, even so, none of us could have imagined that less than 3 years later we would be watching, shocked and horrified, as Putin invaded Ukraine.


    March 14, 2022 at 7:29 AM

  4. The gnarliness of the pecan trees tells me that they are in about my age group. Haha!

    Peter Klopp

    March 14, 2022 at 9:09 AM

  5. Since I missed Pi Day, I thought I’d circle back and see how you related the math holiday to nature: nicely done! I’m not sure I would have recognized those trees as pecans. On the other hand, there’s not a sign of a leaf on any around here, either, and they all look pretty sad. You know the folk wisdom: spring isn’t really here until the pecans leaf out.

    I honestly believe I make the best pecan pie in the world — partly because my recipe doesn’t douse those lovely nuts in corn syrup and such. Just think how many pies I could make from this pecan.


    March 15, 2022 at 8:38 PM

    • We’ve been to that pecan monument in Seguin. Maybe someday we’ll get to sample your pecan pie, even if it’s made from smaller nuts. The pecan tree in the first picture appears to have been part of an old orchard. The tree in the second picture was on its own in the wild.

      Circling back is an appropriate thing to do with π. You may be surprised to hear that π also turns up in situations that don’t have have any obvious connections to circles. For example, suppose your floor is etched with a bunch of parallel lines 2 inches apart. Now imagine randomly tossing a 2-inch needle onto the floor. After the needle settles, it may end up touching one of the parallel lines or it may not. The probability that the randomly tossed needle will end up touching one of the lines is 2/π, which is a tad under 64%.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2022 at 9:54 PM

  6. π certainly inspired your mathematical mind to travel from an irrational number to baked goods to a sobering fable and even more sobering current events that are also completely irrational.


    March 16, 2022 at 7:59 PM

    • Irrational should be only for numbers, not people—but I’m probably irrational in thinking that that can ever come to pass.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2022 at 8:48 PM

      • I agree, Steve. But as we know, we have abandoned “ratio” on far too many occasions throughout our history and it’s doubtful we can/will change.


        March 16, 2022 at 11:07 PM

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