# The Beauty of Pi

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that my work is often inspired
by someone else’s work. This post is no different. In September, Jacob Olsufka posted an incredible
animation of the digits of Pi.

This was based on a Tableau visualization he created, which you can find here.
Alas, since pages do not work when Tableau visualizations are published, it
doesn’t animate, but it’s still very cool and worth checking out.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I happened to notice the following background
image on Nai Louza's twitter
profile.

After some discussion about the image with Nai, she referred me to a Washington Post article which detailed some amazing Pi artwork by Martin Krzywinski
and Cristian Ilies Vasile, including this image. Each number 0-9 are grouped in
their own sections around the circle. The chords (more specifically, Bezier curves)
connect each digit to the next. So the first line connects 3 to 1 then 1 to 4,
etc. (Pi is 3.14…). They even created a video animating the drawing of the
lines over time.

Who knew that a number could be so beautiful!

**Creating My Own Pi Art**

Having seen this, I was inspired to create some of my own Pi artwork based
on the work of Krzywinski and Vasile. Starting off, my goal was to see if I
could create something close to this in Tableau. I wasn’t entirely sure how
their visualization worked and I wasn’t overly concerned about making it exact,
but it seemed like a good opportunity to push my skills in Tableau while
creating something beautiful along the way.

For my first attempt, I decided to forego the complexity of the curves and
just try to build a similar visual using straight lines and it turned out quite
nicely.

After creating this, I had a flood of new ideas on how to visualize the digits
of Pi. For instance, my next visual created one row of numbers, 0-9, across the
top and one row across the bottom, then connected digits in the same way as the
circular visual.

And I kept going, in the end creating a total of eight different pieces of
Pi art (pun intended!). Chris Love
even pitched in, adding a slight variation to my original circular visual. So,
now I had a total of nine different visuals, but I still hadn’t attempted to
create the one which so inspired me in the first place. In all honesty, I was
having so much fun creating these that I think I just wanted to let the
creative juices keep flowing, knowing that the curves were going to be much
more complex than the straight lines. But, now I was out of ideas, so I figured
I’d better get to work on those curves.

Ultimately, this visual would be pretty much the same as my first circular
visual, with two exceptions. First, I needed to create a little space between
each grouping of numbers. And, second, I needed to connect each digit using a Bezier
curve. At that time, I had never used
Bezier curve, but I’d done plenty of sigmoids and figured it would be
the same basic concept. Not knowing where to start, I dug up some of the work
of the king of Bezier curves in Tableau, Chris DeMartini. I dug into his blog
posts and samples on Tableau Public and, after a push in the right from Chris,
was finally happy with the result. Click on the image to explore all ten visuals yourself. But please be patient—some of these are quite
complex and take some to load.

**Update 10/29/2017**: I couldn't help myself and added one more piece of Pi art, bringing the total number of visuals up to 11.

Ken Flerlage, October 27, 2017

Nice!

ReplyDeleteAny chance of a comparison between pi and Euler's number?

Well, probably not. But my guess is that Euler's would look pretty similar.

DeleteBeautiful!. Here is something along the same lines, but in my case I went for the 3d Mesh look and feel - https://public.tableau.com/profile/alexandru.singeorsanu#!/vizhome/BeautifulParametricMeshes/Dashboard?publish=yes

ReplyDeleteI took the liberty of mentioning you in my viz, since I felt inspired by your work.

I actually just saw that in my Tableau Public feed. Very nice!! Are you on Twitter? You should definitely share it there.

Deletehttps://twitter.com/Krakonian/status/973985837749809157

ReplyDeleteWhat about doing the circular thing in some base other than decimal?

ReplyDeleteWell, this isn't circular, but Jacob Olsufka recently did an exploration of Pi in different bases: https://public.tableau.com/profile/datavizard#!/vizhome/VisualizingPi-indifferentbases/Pi

Delete