Open Source Irrational Constant

Fake News written by James Baughn on Monday, March 8, 1999

from the insert-lame-pun-about-pi-here dept.

BREEZEWOOD, PA -- In a revelation that could rock the foundations of science, a researcher in Pennsylvania has discovered that the digits of the irrational constant PI encode a version of the Linux kernel. "I can't believe it," the researcher, Neil Hoffman, exclaimed. "And yet, here I am staring at what appears to be the source code for Linux kernel 5.0.0. Needless to say, my whole world-view has changed..."

Hoffman made the discovery accidentally. "I was trying to write a more efficient algorithm in C to calculate individual digits of PI. However, my relative lack of programming experience, combined with C's highly obfuscated syntax, led me to the discovery. Instead of calculating each digit and returning it as an int, my program was (for some reason I still haven't been able to figure out) converting it to its ASCII equivalent and returning it as a char."

"Then it hit me. What if some kind of secret messages, encoded in ASCII, was stored in the digits of PI? I set to work on the problem, and after several months of toil, have discovered the awesome truth. My algorithm, which applies several dozen conversions and manipulations of each digit of PI, spits out plain vanilla ASCII characters that happen to form the source code for the Linux kernel."

"I tried to compile the source code, but gcc choked on it. Apparently a later version of gcc is needed to compile the Linux 5.0.0 source code. It's too bad the code for gcc isn't encoded in another irrational constant. Or is it? I wonder what would happen if I fed e through my algorithm..."

Many scientists are skeptical about Hoffman's discovery. One mathematician who has memorized the digits of PI to 10,000 places said, "This is the kind of nonsense one would expect to find in a tabloid such as the National Mathematics Enquirer. Or a Linux humor site. Hoffman's 'discovery' is obviously a hoax designed to secure government research grants."

Another scientist Humorix contacted said, "Hoffman's claim is filled with holes large enough to push Windows 95 through. Apply a little critical thinking and look at all the inconsistencies and problems with Hoffman's 'discovery'. ASCII is an arbitrary code. Why not EBCDIC? Also, the base 10 number system, which his PI-to-ASCII scheme is based on, is arbitrary. Why not binary numbers? Oh, and then there's the biggie: PI is infinitely long. The Linux source code is not (Windows NT, on the other hand...). Explain that, PI Boy!"

Hoffman will formally present his findings to the scientific community on March 14th at the Annual PI Day Conference and Exposition in Chicago. One conference attendee said, "Usually the PI Day expo is pretty boring, with some asinine workshops about 'The History of PI' and 'Teaching Techniques to Make Learning About PI More Fun for Remedial High School Students'. However, with the unfolding brouhaha surrounding the Linux-PI connection, this could be a very interesting convention. Then again, there's going to be several hundred mathematicians from around the world in attendance. It might not be that exciting after all."

In a related matter, Humorix has received an unconfirmed report that a region of the standard Mandelbrot fractal contains what appear to be the words "LINUS TORVALDS WAS HERE". In addition, the words "TRANSMETA: THIS SECRET MESSAGE IS NOT HERE YET" supposedly appear within the depths of the Julia Set.

Linus Torvalds and Benoit Mandelbrot were unavailable for comment at press time.

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