May 24, 2012
Five Centuries Ahead of the West
In Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Dr. Peter Lu was astonished by the beauty and complex geometry in the tiling of Abdullah Khan Madrasa, and decided to further investigate.
Dr. Lu (Harvard) and Dr. Steinhardt (Princeton) state that Islamic designers had mastered techniques ‘to construct nearly perfect quasicrystalline Penrose patterns, five centuries before their discovery in the West.’
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) may have been the earliest European who explored non-repeating symmetries. But it was not until the 1970’s that Roger Penrose described the mathematics of interlocking polygons whose pattern never repeats: quasicrystal geometry. “It shows us a culture that we often don’t credit enough and was far more advanced than we ever thought,” said Dr. Peter Lu. “They made tilings that reflect mathematics that were so sophisticated that we didn’t figure out until the last 20 or 30 years.”