The Colour Of Pi

November 03, 2014

Thanks to a professor from San Diego University, we now have the colour of pi and other mathematical constants.

There’s so much more to mathematics than those dusty old textbooks from school and the teachers who made lessons as painful as a live autopsies. But not all academics are like this, fortunately. One such professor – Vadim Ponomarenko – has taken the liberty of making colours out of mathematical constants such as π (pi), you know that symbol you learnt about when you had to work out the area and circumference of a circle. Anyone in the design industry will recognise the conversion part – changing the decimals into hex numbers and producing the colours – and through that, we now have “the colour of pi”. There are also colours for constants such as e (Euler’s number), c (speed of light from E=mc²), φ (phi, more commonly known as the Golden Ratio) and more.

But perhaps you could extend this idea a bit further. For those who studied maths past age 16, you may know about Euler’s identity, an equation using five of the most fundamental constants in mathematics and “cited as an example of deep mathematical beauty”. It’s as follows:

e - 1 = 0

Now, if we look at the result of this equation in hexadecimal, it stays the same and in colouring terms, 0 (or #000000) is black. Does that therefore make the colour of mathematical beauty black? I’d like to think so but maybe I’m clutching at straws and being crude in my summations. But for a colour that is often in a negative light (pardon the pun), both linguistically and socially, I think this would be remarkable. In fact, black isn’t even a colour – it’s an absence of colour. Mathematical beauty represented as a complete absence of colour and shared with something we often find beautiful when we look up at night – the cosmos. I better leave the hyperbole here.