Some people can't remember a nine-digit Social Security number without a prompt; Siva Natarajan can recite hundreds of consecutive digits for π, the irrational number that never ends and never repeats in any recognizable pattern.
And he can do it all from memory.
Natarajan will get the chance to show off his skills on Friday, 3/14, otherwise known as Pi Day. District of Pi, the small St. Louis-based pizza chain, will hold its annual pi memorization contest at 6 p.m. Friday at the D.C. location, 910 F St. NW. (The week-long promotion comes complete with π-themed specials. Of course.)
Natarajan will attempt to retain his title and earn another $100 gift certificate. Last year, he recited 1,010 digits without missing one. (The video above documents the achievement in 7 minutes and 50 seconds of sheer mnemonic genius.) The numbers savant surprised everyone with his skills, including management at the pizzeria, which had a π print-out that stopped at 1,000 digits.
"We had to trust him on the last 10," says Chris Sommers, co-founder of the chain.
According to an e-mail Natarajan sent to District of Pi's general manager in D.C., the walking calculator thinks he can quadruple his output this year. Impressive, yes, but 4,000 digits would still place Natarajan only 36th on the all-time list of π regurgitators. (No. 1 is a guy from China who spit out 67,890 digits in little more than 24 hours, a computer mind in painfully human form.)
"I am confident that I can now recite 4,000 digits from memory (it should take me about 35-40 minutes to do this)," Natarajan wrote.
Forty minutes of listening to a man recall numbers? It's not the sexiest promotion in the known universe. I mean, it's not like watching grown men in gold lame stretch pants play air guitar. Doesn't it get boring?
"Yeah," says Sommers, "but it starts to develop a crowd. It's so dumbfounding and so humbling, particularly to me and others. I'm willing to just watch it with my jaw on the floor because I can barely remember a phone number."
Think you can beat Natarajan at his numbers game? Show up at District of Pi and start counting. I'll even spot you the first three digits: 3.14.
District of Pi, 910 F St. NW. 202-393-5484.