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  • feedwordpress 08:01:20 on 2016/08/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Islam, , , Nobel Prize,   

    “The world encyclopedia, the universal library, exists, and it is the world itself”*… 


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    Inlaid metal basin depicting scenes from the Mamluk court, later known as the Baptismal Bowl of Saint Louis, by Muhammad Ibn al-Zayn, Egypt, circa 1320-1340

    Long-time readers will know that your correspondent has a fascination with the impulse to collect the world’s knowledge, from Diderot and his Encyclopédie to Wikipedia (c.f., “Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality” and “Rest in Pieces“).  But the encyclopedic impulse has much older roots…

    Sometime around the year 1314, a retired Egyptian bureaucrat named Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri began writing a compendium of all knowledge, under the appealingly reckless title The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition. It would eventually total more than 9,000 pages in thirty volumes, covering all of human history from Adam onward, all known plants and animals, geography, law, the arts of government and war, poetry, recipes, jokes, and of course, the revelations of Islam…

    Browse away at “In the Attic of Early Islam.”

    * Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

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    As we collect our thoughts, we might spare a thought for Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz; he died on this date in 2006.  A prolific creator– he published 34 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career– he was one of the first writers in Arabic to explore Existentialist themes (e.g., the Cairo Trilogy, Adrift on the Nile).  He was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:49 on 2014/07/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , Hegira, Hijra, Islam, materials science, Muhammad, nanotube, , ,   

    “Any color– so long as it is black”*… 


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    A British company has produced a “strange, alien” material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the “super black” coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss.

    If it was used to make one of Chanel’s little black dresses, the wearer’s head and limbs might appear to float incorporeally around a dress-shaped hole.

    Actual applications are more serious, enabling astronomical cameras, telescopes and infrared scanning systems to function more effectively. Then there are the military uses that the material’s maker, Surrey NanoSystems, is not allowed to discuss.

    The nanotube material, named Vantablack, has been grown on sheets of aluminum foil by the Newhaven-based company. While the sheets may be crumpled into miniature hills and valleys, this landscape disappears on areas covered by it [as seen in the photo above]…

    Read more about the new material– “pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine”– in “Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can’t see it.”

    * Henry Ford, describing the choices in purchasing a Model T

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    As we reach for our torches, we might recall that it was on this date in 622 that the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who’d been warned of a pending assassination attempt, and his followers began their migration from Mecca to Medina– an event known as “Hijra” (Arabic: هِجْرَة‎ hijrah, or Hijrat or Hegira).  The Hijra was later declared the beginning of the Muslim calendar, so that any subsequent date is known. a la “AD” or “CE,” as “AH” (Anno Hijra).

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