Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Science, Ancient Architecture and Quasicrystals !

Probably the very last place you would expect to come across a reference to the Medrassa al-'Attarine in Fez is the online specialist physics site Yet in late January this year the Medrassa got a mention in relation to quasicrystals.  The article, by James Dacey, Physics World's multimedia projects editor, is a fascinating look at how ancient Islamic architects created perfect quasi crystals.

Atomic model of an aluminium-palladium-manganese (Al-Pd-Mn) quasicrystal surface.

A quasiperiodic crystal, or, in short, quasicrystal, is a structure that is ordered but not periodic. A quasicrystalline pattern can continuously fill all available space, but it lacks translational symmetry.

Now, Rima Ajlouni, an architectural researcher at Texas Tech University, believes that she has identified three examples of quasiperiodic patterns, without any imperfections. in Islamic architecture.

The first pattern is a quasiperiodic cartwheel pattern that commonly used in the architecture of the Seljuk region, an empire that stretched from Turkey to Afghanistan. Ajlouni identifies specific cases in Iran at the Darb-i Imam shrine and the Friday Mosque in Isfahan.

Detail inside the Attarine in Fez

The second pattern is from the interior walls of the courtyard of the Medrassa al-'Attarine here in Fez. The Medrassa dates back to 1323. And the third case, dated to 1197, is seen on the external walls of the Gunbad-I Kabud tomb tower in Maragha, Iran.

In her paper, Ajlouni also shows that ancient Muslim designers were able to resolve the complicated long-range principles of quasicrystalline formations. In other words, these designers were fully aware of the extent of connectedness within their work. In all three examples, Ajlouni reconstructs the patterns and shows that the size of a central "seed" figure is proportional to the size of the overall framework of the pattern. She demonstrates that the three patterns could have been created using nothing more than a compass and a straightedge. This construction method that was widespread in Islamic societies to create a variety of media such as woodworks, ceramics and tapestries.

Rima Ajlouni's upcoming paper, which will be published in the March issue of Acta Crystallographica Secion A. also describes how the designers were creating these geometric patterns from as early as the 12th century CE using nothing but rudimentary tools. It was not until the 1970s that academics began to develop mathematics that could explain these striking patterns seen in nature.

Rónán McGrath, a quasicrystals researcher at the University of Liverpool in the UK, is fascinated by the strictly geometric approach developed by Ajlouni. "The suggestion that this method was used by the ancient Islamic architects is a fascinating conjecture, and the paper is an interesting contribution to the sometimes controversial debate on the degree of quasiperiodicity of these patterns," he says.

If quasicrystals are your things, then read the full article here; Physics World



Anonymous said...

This is not new.
There are quite a few books about the symmetries scientists have found in the patterns in Islamic art in Spain.
I can recommend a couple of extremely interesting books about the subject.

Anonymous said...

You miss the point! What is new is the work in research by Rima Ajlouni, on examples of quasiperiodic patterns, without any imperfections. in Islamic architecture.