That's Numberwang! Google Cloud staffer breaks record for most accurate Pi calculation

Four months to arrive at 31,415,926,535,897 digits

Emma Haruka Iwao, a developer advocate at Google Cloud, has celebrated Pi Day (3/14) by setting a new Guinness World Record for calculations of the beautiful mathematical constant, reaching a number with more than 31.4 trillion (ha!) digits.

Researchers have been competing to calculate the most digits of Pi for years – often with the help of supercomputers – but this announcement marks the first time the record has been broken using a commercial cloud service, exceeding the previous best by about nine trillion digits.

For her experiment, Iwao relied on y-cruncher, a free app originally developed by Alexander Yee to turn Pi calculations into a benchmarking and stress-test tool for overclocking enthusiasts – which has been used in previous world records.

"This method of computation and verification has remained the same for the previous six times the Pi record has been broken. All advances have been entirely in software and hardware," Yee explained.

The latest attempt employed 25 Intel-powered Google Compute Engine virtual machines, running for 121 days straight – which would be cheap for Google, or about $170,000 for you and I.

The task required 1.4TB of memory and 240TB of SSD-based storage (it is the first Pi record to use SSDs). It is also the first record to use Intel's AVX-512 instruction set, introduced with Chipzilla's Knight's Landing and Skylake CPUs.

Iwao has been interested in the famous irrational number from an early age. She said she was just 12 when she used a computer to calculate Pi for the very first time. Later, when she was at university, she was fortunate enough to study under Dr Daisuke Takanashi, who held the record for most accurate Pi calculation at the time.

"When I told him I was going to start this project, he shared his advice and some technical strategies with me," she told the company blog. "When I was a kid, I didn't have access to supercomputers. But even if you don't work for Google, you can apply for various scholarships and programs to access computing resources.

"I'm really happy to be one of the few women in computer science holding the record, and I hope I can show more people who want to work in the industry what's possible."

Google Cloud has published the computed digits entirely as disk snapshots, available to download if you're into that sort of thing. The company notes that keeping your own copy in the cloud would cost around $40 per day.

Today, Google's marketing materials are peppered with puns and subtle references to Archimedes' Constant – even the video made for the occasion is precisely three minutes and 14 seconds long. ®

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