One pi that Soupy Sales couldn't take in the face

A new record for the number of digits of the mathematical constant pi has been computed, according to an online BBC News report.  The new record, almost 2.7 trillion digits, is about 123 billion more than the previous record.  More details are here at Fabrice Bellard's website.

An Intel Core i7 processor in a desktop system was used; took 131 days for generation, conversion and verification; and required over 1TB of storage to hold the base 10 version.  Parts of the code were multithreaded, which makes sense since previous record holders had used supercomputers for their computations.

What good is knowing 2.7 trillion versus 2.6 trillion digits for pi?  Nothing practical, certainly.  However, like other world records, such computations and searches for more digits or bigger primes are testaments to the ingenuity and fortitude of Man.  Also, sustained computations like this one can be used to stress test computers and check for arithmetical faults.  Tracking down the '8' that should be a '3' in the 1,543,897,234,623rd place might prove to be a Herculean effort in itself.
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Clay Breshears (Intel)'s picture

When I told my wife about this, she wondered what else the researcher did on that computer. I explained that he probably set up the application and left it in the corner to churn away on this single problem for 4 months. I doubt that his everyday system used for email, Google searches, home finances, and video viewing was also running the pi cacluations in the background.

I have to wonder if there was any checkpointing done in case of a power failure during the processing time. Also, was there any indication of progress on the screen? To me, a blinking cursor just doesn't give me confidence that the computations are proceeding and the program isn't stuck in an infinite loop.

Clay Breshears (Intel)'s picture

Finally got the chance to read the detailed report. While the mathematics was a bit too dense to penetrate on a first reading, I did find that there was a checkpointing system in place to be able to restart computations after a power failure or other catastrophe.