March 11, 2020

Pi Day Princeton 2020 Events Move Online to Avert Coronavirus Threat

By Donald Gilpin

The eleventh annual Princeton Pi Day, celebrating Einstein’s birthday on March 14 (3.14, which is also the first three digits of the mathematical constant known as pi), will be taking place mainly in a virtual setting online this year in response to COVID-19 concerns.

“This is the perfect opportunity to invite the world in a digital context to experience how much of Einstein is in our everyday lives in Princeton,” said Pi Day Founder and Chief Organizer Mimi Omiecinski.

Urging fans to join Princeton Pi Day on Facebook, Omiecinski promised, “You will become an expert on Albert Einstein throughout the day.” She promised multiple videos about Einstein, with opportunities to see little known places on campus and in town and Einstein memorabilia unknown to the general public.

For the popular Einstein Look-Alike Contest, each contestant, age 12 and younger, will send in a photo and a video. The winner will be announced on Pi Day, with a first-place prize of $314.15.

“Every child on the planet should consider participating,” Omiecinski said, adding that many kids had competed for multiple years and that “canceling the event would have been inconceivable.”

Another Pi Day highlight, the Pi Recitation Contest with a cash prize for pre-teens, also $314.15, will take place online. After registering online, contestants will be assigned a secure location where they will recite pi with the two judges, Dave Fiore and Marc Umile. The event will be live streamed on Facebook starting at 1 p.m. on March 14. Fiore was the first person to recite pi to 10,000 digits, and Umile was the 2007 Pi Recitation North American Champion with more than 15,000 digits of pi.

Other highlights of Princeton’s virtual Pi Day will include, according to Omiecinski, a video of the smartest person in Princeton explaining the theory of relativity in 3.14 minutes, disclosure of the secret to creating a perfect pie crust, instructions on how to have pie-eating and pie-throwing contests at home, how to create your own Pi-rade, “and just like pi, the list goes on and on,” Omiecinski added. “We want to make this something the world takes notice of.”

The Einstein-related events will begin Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. with a presentation online, originally scheduled for the Princeton Public Library, by Michael Gordon of his book Einstein in Bohemia.

At 11 a.m. on March 14, Martin Mandelberg will discuss online his recently published biography of the computer scientist and educator Richard W. Hamming. Also available on video online will be a presentation by Institute for Advanced Studies Member Susan Clark on “Our Magnetic Universe.”

Born in Germany, Einstein emigrated to the United States in 1933. He settled in Princeton, lived at 112 Mercer Street, and was an integral part of the IAS until his death in 1955.

In a special birthday surprise, the J. Seward Johnson Jr. Foundation was scheduled to deliver a bronze sculpture of Einstein created by J. Seward Johnson Jr. to Palmer Square on Wednesday afternoon, March 11. It will stay in Palmer Square for an extended period of time, Omiecinski said.

For further information, visit Princeton Pi Day on Facebook or go to