From The Independent
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Friday, 23 February 2007
The decorative tilework that adorns some medieval Islamic buildings has been found to use basic geometric shapes that form a complex and highly intricate tiling pattern which does not repeat itself.
In modern mathematics the principle of non-repeating patterns on a flat surface is known as quasicrystal geometry, and the most famous example is known as Penrose tiling, after the Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose, who was thought to have discovered it 30 years ago.
However, two American mathematicians believe that near-perfect quasicrystal geometry was used by Islamic scholars earlier than the 15th century to decorate the walls of important buildings.
Peter Lu, of Harvard University, and Paul Steinhardt, of Princeton University, said advanced quasicrystal geometry based on 10-sided shapes is seen in the tiling patterns of mosques and madrasas of the Middle East and central Asia, predating its discovery by Western mathematicians by 500 years.
“It could be proof of a major role of mathematics in medieval Islamic art, or it could have been just a way for artisans to construct their art more easily,” said Mr Lu. “At the very least it shows us that a culture we often don’t credit enough was far more advanced than we thought before.”