Moor Than Meets The Eye

While Islamic culture isn’t exactly on the cutting edge of intellectual progress these days, it once was, as anyone with a rudimentary familiarity with history will know. In Islam’s heyday, the caliphate was a beacon of enlightenment, in fields as diverse as mathematics, medicine, and astronomy. I have often marveled at Islamic decorative art, in particular the intricate tesselations, with their complex fivefold symmetries, that grace Muslim architecture from those times, and have noted their similarity to what are known as Penrose tilings, named for the great mathematician and cosmologist who first subjected them to a rigorous examination.

Today’s New York Times carried an article about these remarkable mosaics, and suggested that the high Muslim culture that created them may even have glimpsed the idea of quasicrystals, aperiodic crystals that are built on the same odd, pentagonal geometry.

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