Those numbers flying high over Berkeley? Pi in the sky

The numbers written by a sky-writing plane over Berkeley today were part of an art installation called Pi in the Sky. Photo: Carly

If you happened to look up at around 12:40 pm today and see lots of numbers being drawn in the sky  above Berkeley by a plane, you were witnessing what its creator describes as “the largest ephemeral installation ever created.”

“Pi in the Sky,” a Bay Area spectacle being put on by a team of synchronized skywriters, is part of the Zero1 Biennal, a Silicon Valley-based art gathering, and shows pi, 3.14159 and so forth a thousand places being painstakingly depicted in the sky.

The man behind the display is UC Berkeley science graduate ISHKY, a California-born artist whose goal, he says, is to is “to flirt with provocation and inspire spontaneous awe.”

The line of quickly dissipating numbers certainly confounded some of the people on the ground who saw them. Berkeleysider Carly spotted them while walking her dog at Ohlone Dog Park. She sent us the photo above with a question: just what was the plane’s writing trying to say?

“It didn’t seem like a phone number because the numbers just kept going and going, seemingly without repeating, but then again, by the time the planes wrote the fourth number, the first number was faded,” she wrote.

According to the Pi In The Sky Facebook page, the project aims to explore the boundaries of scale, public space, permanence, and the relationship between Earth and the physical universe. The project uses dot-matrix skywriting technology to print quarter-mile tall numbers at 10,000 feet altitude.

“The fleeting and perpetually incomplete vision of Pi’s never-ending random string unwinding in the sky will create a gentle provocation to the Bay Area’s 7 million inhabitants,” the statement reads. “Pi In the Sky will also be the largest physical expression of Pi ever created.”

The letters were scheduled to appear over 12 Bay Area cities, starting in San Jose at 1:45 am and taking in Fremont, Oakland, and Mountain View, as well as Berkeley and others. The project was running a little late, however, and Berkeleyside was given barely any notice — just a tweet at 12:40pm saying: “Pi-Some! @IshkyStudios tweeted that his #piinthesky is flying now! Go outside and LOOK UP!”.

The second part of Pi in the Sky involves launching a satellite into space to orbit the earth, transmitting a constant stream of Pi back down to us. For more information on ISHKY, who has been working on projects of similar scale for more than 25 years, visit his website.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

Print Friendly
Tagged , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • Charles_Siegel

    My idea for an art project is a computer program that generates art-babble.  The program would generates statements that are so vague and meaningless that they could apply to any modern art project, no matter what it is – statements like:

    “to flirt with provocation and inspire spontaneous awe.”
    “to explore the boundaries of scale, public space….”
    “create a gentle provocation”

    Maybe this program already exists, since there is no scarcity of bull-you-know-what in the art world.

  • serkes

    “seemingly without repeating”

    for sure!

  • The Sharkey

    Ask, and ye shall receive.

  • Lhasa7

    Nothing like a “largest physical expression” of a universal abstract concept to further the Neo-Colonialist agenda of the Trustfundiariate.

  • Hayley

    Many students at my high school, Gunn High School in Palo Alto, saw these numbers. At first we all thought it was someone asking someone else to homecoming by writing in the sky and including their phone number!

  • Guest

     That’s intense, man!

  • freeakydeeakylemonsqueaky60

    Yeah this creeped me out because I was the only one staring straight up with my mouth open muttering double-yew-tee-eff. Thank goodness I had the gas station attendant to talk to. I called my buddy near-by and he thought they were bomber coordinates for some kind of population control. WHACK

  • Mamafurr

    those numbers are not in the right order of pi….what is that about???

  • EBGuy

    The numbers 709384 occur at position 120 counting from the first digit after the decimal point in pi.

  • Anonymous

    This is nothing short of transcendental.

  • Tyler b

    Ther was no plane it was unexplained I seen it happen

  • Tyler b

    They just formed in the sky unexplained

  • Tyler b

    The government tried to do this to me before wen I had a picture of an unexplained flying object, they tried to say it was smoke bt i know what I took a picture of. This is no different they are trying to cover it up once again

  • Tyler b

    If it was a Plane ther where is the plane. I wana see how it does it. What it looks like now haha Thers no way a plane did that

  • jeremy

    i know you just trollin. but there were actually 5 planes doing it.

  • daz

    A true homage to the number pi would celebrate its geometrical meaning — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (and not necessarily its decimal expansion). 

  • serkes

    The plane intersected the sphere, though not tangentially

  • serkes

    Another transcendental experience was learning the e^^(i x pi) + 1 = 0


  • serkes

    And a true fromage to pie would be at Gioia .. or Ameila’s … or Cheese Board.

  • Anonymous

    That’s enough with your hyperbola Ira!

  • serkes
  • Tim

    when Surrender Dorothy appears..then I’ll know we’re in trouble…’til then…

  • sonny morales

    Pi-In the Sky was kick ass, though someone was giving out my cc #

  • Tojohnshue

    Plane my ass

  • Anonymous

    Not only does your cc # number appear in the expansion of pi, it appears an infinite number of times.

  • guest

    thank you, Sharkey.  I wasn’t sure how I’d get through a master’s in environmental design at Cal.  Now I know.  

  • Carolina

    So the planes are invisible…….. Planes didn’t do this.