Buffon's Needle

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Let a horizontal plane be divided into strips by a series of parallel lines a fixed distance apart, like floorboards.

Let a needle whose length equals the distance between the parallel lines be dropped onto the plane randomly from a random height.

Then the probability that the needle falls across one of the parallel lines is $\dfrac 2 \pi$.


Source of Name

This entry was named for Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon.

Historical Note

Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon published this problem in his Histoire Naturelle in $1777$.

Pierre-Simon de Laplace extended the problem to a general rectangular grid, thus creating what is now sometimes referred to as the Buffon-Laplace Problem.

Augustus De Morgan reports that a pupil of his once performed a practical experiment using Buffon's Needle to calculate a value for $\pi$.

After $600$ trials, a value of $3.137$ was obtained.