2023 Pi Day – Zu Chongzhi Center Distinguished Lecture

Date and Time (China standard time): Tuesday, March 14, 9:00-10:00 pm

Zoom ID: 931 5182 8402

Password: dkumath

Location: IB Lecture Hall

Title: π and the Measurement of Grains in Ancient China

Speaker: Karine Chemla 林力娜

Bio: Karine Chemla, researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), research group SPHERE, focuses, from a historical anthropology viewpoint, on the relationship between mathematics and the various cultures in the context of which it is practiced. Chemla co-edited, with E. Fox Keller, Cultures without culturalism: The making of scientific knowledge (Duke University Press, 2017); and, with A. Keller and C. Proust, Cultures of computation and quantification in the ancient world. Numbers, measurements, and operations in documents from Mesopotamia, China and South Asia (Springer, 2022).

Abstract: Grains were products that were essential to the economic management of the state in ancient China. The mathematical documents from early imperial China that were discovered recently have allowed us to understand better how officials managed various types of grain at the time. Thanks to these documents, we thus understand better the reason why the computation of numbers related to π was an important task in this context. From this perspective, we can shed light on Zu Chongzhi’s motivations in getting a greater accuracy in this field.