Skip to comments.Mediaeval Muslims made stunning math breakthrough
Posted on 02/22/2007 6:15:51 PM PST by xcamel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Magnificently sophisticated geometric patterns in mediaeval Islamic architecture indicate their designers achieved a mathematical breakthrough 500 years earlier than Western scholars, scientists said on Thursday.
By the 15th century, decorative tile patterns on these masterpieces of Islamic architecture reached such complexity that a small number boasted what seem to be "quasicrystalline" designs, Harvard University's Peter Lu and Princeton University's Paul Steinhardt wrote in the journal Science.
Only in the 1970s did British mathematician and cosmologist Roger Penrose become the first to describe these geometric designs in the West. Quasicrystalline patterns comprise a set of interlocking units whose pattern never repeats, even when extended infinitely in all directions, and possess a special form of symmetry.
"Oh, it's absolutely stunning," Lu said in an interview. "They made tilings that reflect mathematics that were so sophisticated that we didn't figure it out until the last 20 or 30 years."
Lu and Steinhardt in particular cite designs on the Darb-i Imam shrine in Isfahan, Iran, built in 1453.
Islamic tradition has frowned upon pictorial representations in artwork. Mosques and other grand buildings erected by Islamic architects throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere often are wrapped in rich, intricate tile designs setting out elaborate geometric patterns.
The walls of many mediaeval Islamic structures display sumptuous geometric star-and-polygon patterns. The research indicated that by 1200 an important breakthrough had occurred in Islamic mathematics and design, as illustrated by these geometric designs.
"You can go through and see the evolution of increasing geometric sophistication. So they start out with simple patterns, and they get more complex" over time, Lu added.
While Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, Islamic culture flourished beginning in the 7th century, with achievements over numerous centuries in mathematics, medicine, engineering, ceramics, art, textiles, architecture and other areas.
Lu said the new revelations suggest Islamic culture was even more advanced than previously thought.
While travelling in Uzbekistan, Lu said, he noticed a 16th century Islamic building with decagonal motif tiling, arousing his curiosity as to the existence of quasicrystalline Islamic tilings.
The sophistication of the patterns used in Islamic architecture has intrigued scholars worldwide.
Emil Makovicky of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark in the 1990s noticed the relationship between these designs and a form of quasicrystalline designs. Makovicky was interested in particular in an 1197 tomb in Maragha, Iran.
Joshua Socolar, a Duke university physicist, said it is unclear whether the mediaeval Islamic artisans fully understood the mathematical properties of the patterns they were making.
"It leads you to wonder whether they kind of got lucky," Socolar said in an interview. "But the fact remains that the patterns are tantalizingly close to having the structure that Penrose discovered in the mid-70s."
"And it will be a lot of fun if somebody turns up bigger tilings that sort of make a more convincing case that they understood even more of the geometry than the present examples show," Socolar said.
What they failed to say was their societal development and progress stopped right there.....
Yep. The birth of Mohamhead signaled the long slow death of arab civilization.
The southwestern Asian (Middle Eastern) part of the world did contribute a lot to global society. Just because some people can do bad things (be they Muslims, Nazis, Communists, etc.), they still can make contributions to science and society.
OK class if you have 10 infidels and you behead 8 how many infidels are left?
Sadly, modern Muslims would blow up these buildings and behead the artists and architects who created them.
Oh, it's true. Islamic culture was the pinnacle of advancement circa 1400s. The problem is that it remained mired in the 15th century due to it's 7th century outlook on the world. And it is what grinds them so much now as they see how far they've fallen behind the infidels. The fundamentalists belive that is Allah's punishment for them straying away from the 'true' faith, hence their ebrace of radical theology. Our prosperity, culture and civilization is an affront to their view of themselves.
I remember Crazy Crystals from the nineteen thirties and forties. I thought they were just another scam.
Once they started focusing on converting the world to Islam, at pain of death, they began their own destruction. If it wasn't for the infidel they wouldn't have the technology and knowledge to drill for oil.
So, civilization took their Numeric system and math, and left the rest. I am sure there were a few other things that we adopted but math seems to be their biggest contribution to civilization.
Taliban math would suggest that there are two infidels left and they would be forced to behead each other.
ping. Another freeper already put ggg in the keyword place, so if you already saw this article.....sorry.
It's known that Islamic society did have an enlightened period many centuries ago. Based on what we see now, it's unlikely that they ever will have one again.
Well, it's clear they didn't. Anyone who says differently better be able to come up with the arabic manuscripts that show otherwise. They got lucky. They had craftsmen and tradesmen doing tilings for centuries. They were interested in it -- as a trade. Not as mathematics. Most likely they copied something they saw in nature, or something they saw in nature gave them the idea. They might have even stolen it from India, as they did many other things. Islamo-arabic culture invents nothing, contributes nothing, discovers nothing. It's a primitive, backward, stagnant, as dead culture.
And yet having a great civilization in the past can help give incentive to strive for a great civilization in the future. China (chiefly the PRC) and India look at their powerful pasts, and then--somewhat smugly--toward the future.
"Magnificently sophisticated geometric patterns in mediaeval Islamic architecture indicate their designers achieved a mathematical breakthrough 500 years earlier than Western scholars, scientists said on Thursday."
By hiring and working alongside Byzanitine designers and craftsmen.
They had zero inventions.
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