Thursday, February 22, 2007
Medieval Mosaics, Modern Math
Okay, there are loads of story possibilities in this:
The swirling Arabesque ceramic tiles used in medieval Islamic mosaics and architecture were produced using geometry not understood in the West until the 1970s, a new study suggests.[snip]
The inlaid patterned tiles grace the walls of many structures worldwide, in patterns of mind-boggling intricacy called "girih." Historians have always assumed that medieval architects meticulously developed the patterns with basic tools.
But manuals written by the architects to share tricks of the trade actually include model tiles—like geometrical tracings—that helped lay out the complex "girih" designs on a large scale, researchers discovered recently. The efficient system eventually allowed artisans to produce "quasicrystalline" wall patterns—a concept that was discovered by Western mathematicians just three decades ago.
Western science couldn't describe the same pattern until the early 1970s, when English mathematician Roger Penrose introduced his famous "Penrose" tiling system.