Princeton’s Pi Day Celebrations Feature Fun and Learning for All
By Wendy Greenberg
Any way you slice it, what could be as fulfilling as Pi Day in Princeton, where scientist Albert Einstein lived and worked while on the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study?
Since Einstein was born on March 14, the numeric equivalent of the first three digits of Pi (3.14), Princeton offers a full menu of events beginning on Saturday, March 11 at 8 a.m. at LiLLiPiES in the Princeton Shopping Center with a “Pie Flight” experience. Festivities on Saturday and on actual Pi Day, Tuesday, March 14, include tours, Einstein Look-Alike Contests, presentations, Dinky rides with professional Einstein reenactor Bill Agress, an event at the Princeton Public Library with children’s book author Dan Gutman, and more. This year Pi Day falls on Einstein’s 144th birthday.
“Only in Einstein’s hometown, where there is one of the top math departments in the world, are there an ‘irrational’ number of events,” said Mimi Omiecinski, founder and coordinator of Princeton’s Pi Day. “It’s geared to everyone. If you want serious, there is a lecture by a Nobel winner or an exhibit at the historical society. If you want to feel like a kid again, go to the look-alike contests. And there are two adult pub crawls.”
The first Pi Day in Princeton in 2009 attracted nearly 4,000 visitors and crowds grew through the years, she said. This year, events are being held in downtown areas and at the Princeton Shopping Center. Omiecinski, owner of Princeton Tour Company, credits collaboration between Princeton businesses, nonprofits, academic institutions, and residents.
“Pi Day Princeton was virtual for three years due to COVID,” she said. “While it was disappointing not to celebrate in person for that long, the 2023 partners are delivering events with so much creativity and planning you can really feel that their heart and soul are into each event. If an experience seems interesting, you can bet it will exceed your expectations.”
Pi, an irrational number that begins at 3.14 and continues indefinitely, is the ratio of the circumference of any circle to the diameter of that circle, regardless of the circle’s size. The calculation predates Einstein, but he is connected with Pi Day because of his mathematical abilities and his birthday.
Saturday’s events begin at LiLLiPiES at the Princeton Shopping Center at 8 a.m. through 2 p.m. — “a completely retooled event,” noted Omiecinski, and continue with the Arts Council of Princeton hosting a Pre-Teen Einstein Look-Alike Contest at 10:30 a.m. and Pre-Teen Pi Recitation Contest at noon where winners take home $314.15.
Dave Fiore of Chicago, the first person to recite 10,000 digits of Pi, is expected to visit, said Omiecinski, perhaps offering his secrets to memorization. This is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Arts Council of Princeton, followed by a “Pi-Rade.”
Dan Gutman, author of Einstein was a Dope! Wait! What? will appear on Zoom or on a big screen in the Princeton Public Library Community Room at 1:30 p.m., and the library hosts the Einstein Open Archive Event for families, with crafts, STEM activities, and interactive projects on the third floor from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., co-sponsored with the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP).
The Princeton Einstein Museum, projected to open in 2025 in downtown Princeton, will be part of the Princeton Public Library event on Saturday, March 11 from 3 to 5 p.m., offering fun family activities such as learning about the speed of light, making a beaded bracelet or necklace that represents the first six digits of Pi (3.14159), getting a free space tattoo, and testing a prototype exhibit about black holes.
The “Ask a Physicist” table will have Frances Kraus, staff research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, supplying the answers.
Saturday’s events also include a Princeton School Gardens Cooperative (PSGC) Fundraiser with the bent spoon and LiLLiPiES beginning at 1 p.m.; Dinky train rides with Einstein reenactor Bill Agress, who hasn’t missed a Pi Day celebration in 15 years; an Adult Look-Alike contest; and an adults-only Pi Day Pub Crawl beginning at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room at 5 p.m.
The festivities continue Tuesday with the PSGC fundraiser from 1-5 p.m. at the bent spoon and LiLLiPiES.
An associated event, the Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture Series, sponsored by the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, will be held on Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Robertson Hall at Princeton University. Robert W. Wilson of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics, will speak on “The Discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation and its Role in Cosmology.”
The annual event is the only Nobel laureate speaker series of its kind presented by a Chamber of Commerce. The lecture is free and open to the public but pre-registration is required at princetonmercerchamber.org.
At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, an Adult Look-Alike Contest and Pub Crawl begin at Winberie’s on Palmer Square, and the Einstein Open Archive is at the Princeton Public Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Throughout the festivities, the HSP offers an in-gallery interactive experience where visitors to the Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road, can listen to stories about Einstein directly from his friends and colleagues. Expanding on its “Einstein Salon” exhibition featuring some of his personal items, the interactive experience has curated audio clips drawing upon oral history interviews conducted by author Jamie Sayen for his book, Einstein in America, which were donated to HSP.
The celebration, said Omiecinski “is meant to honor Pi, mathematics, science, famous Princeton geniuses, local merchants and of course, Einstein’s big day.”
For a full schedule of events, or to register for contests, visit princetontourcompany.com and check Facebook and Twitter.