Art historians get fooled again
MARCH 2, 2007
Anyway, I digress. Getting back to the article, a PhD candidate in Harvard’s Physics Department, Peter Lu, was struck by the beauty of the decorations on an ancient building in Bukhara, Uzbekistan in 2005. He thought the geometric patterns might be related to ones he had written about in his undergraduate thesis at Princeton – that he thought hadn’t been discovered until the 1970s when British physicist Roger Penrose studied them! After poring over pictures of Islamic art and architecture he concluded: “The art, in countries from Iran to Turkey to Uzbekistan, ‘reveals a much greater degree of mathematical sophistication than we had thought.”
There are five essential polygons in the mosaic patterns: The pentagon (1), rhombus (2), hexagon (3), bowtie (4), and decagon (5). Historians believed that the intricate patterns were painstakingly drafted using a compass and straight edge. But it was discovered that by arranging a combination of the five polygons, the same pattern could be easily replicated by keeping only the decorative lines on the tiles.
Given all the suspicions, misunderstandings and mistrust of that region of the world and conjecture about whether or not Iran wants to build nuclear warheads, it’s soothing for the soul to read something positive about their contributions to art and culture. So that’s my art, civics, science and mathematics lesson for this week.
Topical: Academic stuff