Friday, February 23, 2007
The ceiling of the mosque in the Amiriya Madrassah, Rada, Yemen
Abstract Islamic decoration produces some fantastic patterns. I took the photograph above of the painted ceiling of a mosque in Yemen last year. But the very finest examples are found in Central Asia, using glazed ceramic tiles coloured with lapis lazuli. An article in Science now shows that some of these patterns could not have been created with a ruler and compass, as previously thought. They use what are known as quasicrystalline designs instead. As the co-author of the article, Peter Lu, observes, from the thirteenth century onwards the artisans responsible "made tilings that reflect mathematics that were so sophisticated that we didn't figure it out until the last 20 or 30 years."