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1001 Islamic Inventions 1034

pev writes "There's a new traveling exhibition in the UK entitled 1001 inventions. It contains some of the most interesting inventions from the past few thousand years. The common theme, however, is that they all came from the Islamic world and not the west. In some cases [the list is] quite surprising. For the lazy, the Independent newspaper in the UK printed their top 20 from the exhibition."
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1001 Islamic Inventions

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  • Computer Science 101 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:25AM (#14907050)
    Remember we owe the "Algorithm" to a dude who was writing 'programs' 800 years before Ada Loveleace and Alan Turing were about.
  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:27AM (#14907073)
    This letter that was sent in response to HPs CEO in late September of 2001 would disagree with this, and it has a lot of sources to back it up. Check it out here []
  • Discrimination (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Kombat ( 93720 ) <> on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:32AM (#14907111) Homepage
    There's no way to say this without sounding racist/sexist/homophobic, but I wonder if I'll live to see the day when it's considered "acceptable" to be proud of straight, male, caucasian heritage. That's not to say I think there's anything to be proud of, but rather that it's interesting how we have all these parades, celebrations, "history" months, and special exhibits for the accomplishments of all the various configurations of gender, race, and religion, except straight, white, Christian male. The truth, of course, is that the vast majority of all historical accomplishments were achieved by straight, white, Christian males. However, it's considered inappropriate to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

    The irony is that while I find it both interesting and disappointing that society continues to congratulate everyone else for the advances and achievements of their respective genders and races, I find it simultaneously hollow and pointless. How can you be proud of something someone else did, when the only thing(s) you have in common with those people are physical/geographical attributes over which you had no control anyway? How can you be proud of something you had no control over? Am I proud to be "white?" Not at all. It required no effort on my part, thus it can hardly be considered an "accomplishment."

    Nevertheless, people will continue to congratulate each other over such arbitrary attributes, while straight white males stand at the sidelines with their mouths shut, lest they be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, or just generally discriminatory.
  • by syphax ( 189065 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:35AM (#14907140) Journal
    Arab/Muslim societies produced some fantastic engineering in their day, much of which is described in the dry but quite informative A History of Engineering in Classical and Medieval Times [].

    For reasons that I don't understand, the Christian and Muslim worlds seem to have flip-flopped regarding the dominance of religion vs. rational thought somewhere in the past 200-500 years. Of course this is a great over-simplification, but it's worth remembering that there was a time when the Arab world was the center of learning and enlightenment in the non-eastern-Asian world (I phrase it like that b/c I don't want to flamebait the Indians or Chinese).
  • by billbaggins ( 156118 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:39AM (#14907175)
    No, chess was developed by the Persians. Don't call Persians Arabs if you want to make any friends in Iran.
  • by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:42AM (#14907215)
    The crusades did nothing to the islamic civilization, it was minor compared to other things. The crusades are highly exaggerated nowadays in their impact, back then they were even considered

    so minor that a german/roman emperor could lease the holy land for a lifetime (and having a clash with the pope over this back then)

    The main problem for the downfall of the arabic civilization might be the in islamic wars, which mainly was triggered by the turkish people slowly but surely taking over the islamic empire and in islamic wars between various countries.

    The impact on the eastern roman empire was severe however, they sped up its downfall which was more or less unavoidable anyway.

    In the end the islamic civilisation basically was fruitful due to knowledge inheritance of the occupied eastern roman empire parts, and being hilghly tolerant to christians and jews in the occupied areas. Culture could only thrive in this tolerant area.
  • by stupidfoo ( 836212 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:44AM (#14907241)
    For 50 points, complete the following sentence: The crusades were a response to...
    (hint: starts with a J, ends with an "ihad")
  • Re:Discrimination (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:50AM (#14907296) Homepage Journal
    Whoops, I overstated this.

    Yes, you did, and even in your latest post, you're still overstating it -- and providing the answer to the question in your original post. The reason that people who aren't straight, white, Christian males feel the need to celebrate the accomplishements of $DEMOGRAPHIC_GROUP is because although straight, white, Christian males have accomplished a hell of a lot, they haven't accomplished as large a proportion of everything as a lot of people (like you) seem to think they have; and those who are not swCm's feel justifiably aggrieved at having their accomplishments downplayed (or, in many cases, having the credit stolen outright.) Really, it's a matter of a pendulum swing; give it some time, and things will settle down. In a perfect world, we'd give everyone credit for their accomplishments without even noting their sexual preference, race, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, age, veteran status, height, weight, hair color, absence or presence of hair, musical tastes, et bloody cetera ... but we're a long way from that right now.
  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:51AM (#14907306) Journal
    And, while we're bursting politically correct bubbles -- there's no evidence that Ada Lovelace "wrote programs" either. She contributed a bit to Charles Babbage's work, but the idea that she was the coder behind his enterprise is pure myth.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:57AM (#14907361)
    were actually dhimmis or slaves....

  • by Surazal ( 729 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:02AM (#14907408) Homepage Journal
    Not only is it possible that those statements you made are true, we have direct evidence, through DNA testing (voluntary of course) that showed common ancestery across vast swaths of populations. It does teeter on the edge of "dangerous" discussion, but it's true that if you go far back enough we're all related to each other somehow. Isaac and the rest of the people you mentioned have lived long enough ago for them to be true ancestors, so to speak.

    What does it mean in the long run? In my opinion, not a whole lot. Other people's opinions may differ from mine.

    Here's an example for the curious. []
  • Re:Discrimination (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ExE122 ( 954104 ) * on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:04AM (#14907427) Homepage Journal

    The truth, of course, is that the vast majority of all historical accomplishments were achieved by straight, white, Christian males.

    You can't overlook the reasons behind this. Being straight, white, Christian, and male has nothing to do with inventions. The reason for this is that "straight" (I'd question the validity of this), white, Christians were the financial/military leaders over the past 200 years. Do you expect a black man to have been able to invent the ligthbulb from his slave quarters? Do you think a Pagan could have gotten funding from a catholic society to do medical research without being burned at stake? Do you think women had the educational opportunities to go forth in a male dominated society and been accepted as credible scientists? Do you think Leonardo DaVinci could have really come out of the closet?

    The truth is that African-Americans were enslaved and oppressed, Africans themselves were plagued with civil wars and apartheid, the jews were being eradicated in a hollocaust, the Japanese were getting a-bombed, the middle-east was still being bombarded with countless "cruisaides", women were raped, beaten and sent to the kitchen, and the straight, white, aryan, Christian males were sitting on top of their pile of money with guns drawn reaping all the benefits of being the "master race".

    Now I know you're not a bigot, I just think you're disreguarding the fact that you are indeed a majority in every way. You might ask why there's black history classes, but no white history classes... because the "history" that you had in school is white history.

    If you wanna be proud of anything, be proud of the fact that you are part of a race, sexuality, gender, and religion that has not been publicly ridiculed, tortured, eradicated, and had their ass kicked six ways from sunday for the past x-hundred years.

    And not that I think its relevant, but I'm also a straight, white, Christian male.
  • by kh+ln ( 947238 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:05AM (#14907435)
    I read the "Top 20" article and found the following inaccuracies that warrant clarification:
    3 A form of chess was played in ancient India but the game was developed into the form we know it today in Persia. From there it spread westward to Europe - where it was introduced by the Moors in Spain in the 10th century - and eastward as far as Japan. The word rook comes from the Persian rukh, which means chariot.
    The Indian game mentioned is Pachisi [], precursor to the Americanized Parcheesi [] "Royal Game of India"
    14 The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi around 825...Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim world.
    The system of numbering commonly called "Arabic Numerals" is now deprecated, and in fact, reads Hindu Arabic Numerals [] as the article alludes to. Trigonometry was first discovered much earlier (by nearly 1000 years) by the Indians [],Egyptians, & Greeks. Arab scholars recognized it as a distinct branch 2000 years later.

    I note a trend: the Arabs, perhaps because of their geographic location at the crossroads of the East and West, are bound to discover many new and exciting ideas and teaching from their neighbors. They were in pretty good company (Greco-Roman thoughts to the West, Indian thoughts to the East) so they are bound to pick up something.

  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:07AM (#14907460) Journal
    You've allowed the scientific achievements to be overshadowed by religious fundamentalism. The average person is neither a fundamentalist nor a scientist, both in the "western" and Islamic worlds (Islam comes from the same part of the world as Christianity and Judiasm, so calling them western as opposed to whatever Islam presumably is seems silly and/or historically illiterate).

    Yes, the "muslim world" (again, a useless term in this regard, since it's large and heterogenous; take it to mean the "Arab world", which is still too vague) has fallen from where it once was in terms of intellectual prominence. That's unrelated to either the naure of Islam per-se or to the presence of religious fundamentalists.

    Also, nobody's gonna attack you or your family because you post on slashdot. You stupid little bedwetting jackass.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:44AM (#14907789)
    Well, simple arithmetic computations contain all you have in modern algorithms. That is, variables, tests, sequence, jumps.
  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:57AM (#14907927) Homepage
    Actually, Indians invented chess, then called Chaturanga, in what is now the Pakistani province of Sindh. The Persians made a more modern revision, called Shatranj.

    Do moderators just click at anything that sounds historical?

  • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:01PM (#14907965) Journal
    Jesus's teachings went beyond the messiah prophesied by Isiah, and he did start a new religion

    I find it just as likely that Christianity as we know it was created by Saul of Tarsus, who morphed Jesus's teachings into something useful to the Romans.

  • Re:It's sad . . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:11PM (#14908058) Homepage
    "Yes, but in the United States we can vote him out"

    That's what you all said two years ago.

    "At least with G.W. Bush you know he'll be gone after 2008."

    And then it will be eight years of President Cheney. I feel so much better now.

  • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:12PM (#14908066) Homepage
    No, exactly not like that.

    Islam, as its holy tracts, includes (some subset of*) the Hebrew and the Christian testaments. Mohammed added very little, volume-wise, to the corpus. Bugger all, in reality, as it was people 100-200 years after Mohammed who were the creative ones** in their compilation of FoaF-attested Suras.

    [* Likewise, Judaism only accepts a subset of the books into its current version of the official list; and Christianity only accepts a _tiny_ subset - there are several dozen Gospels that have bubbled into and out of popularity over the last 2 millennia, not just 4, for example.]
    [** Just like Christianity.]
  • Re:But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tenchiken ( 22661 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:22PM (#14908161)
    As a slightly tangential point (but one that I think is interesting). Christians claim that Jesus was the Messiah. Many Jews rejected this claim because a) He also claimed that he was the Son of God and b) He wasn't a political or religous leader.

    I think that if Jesus had bit a bit more like Muhammad (ie, a millitary and political leader) he might have gotten a better reception when he claimed to be the Messiah.
  • Re:It's sad . . . (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:54PM (#14908475)
    There is an old joke about a jewish person that visits Belfast. He meets with an Irish person who strikes up a conversation. The conversation come around to religion. The Beflast man asks the visitor "So are you Catholic or Protestant?" The man replies "Neither, I am jewish." Too which the Belfaster replied, "But are you a Catholic jew or a Protestant jew?"

    Point of the joke is supposed to emphasis the fact that the troubles of NI have *very* little to the tenants of religious faith. They are and pretty much always have been a conflist(espically in the North) between the recent arrival Ulsters and the so called "real" Irish. Its a political and land based dispute that has been going on for approx 400 years(in some ways longer) and has long bitter incidents on both sides that have tradionally fueled the fires... bloody sundy, the easter uprising the omagh bombing etc etc etc etc,
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:17PM (#14908713) Homepage Journal
    Islam only refined them, popularized them, and maintained the knowledge.

    Or let's look at the invention of the Zero, which is actually an Indian invention (as in India), and is documented in their ancient texts.

    We in the West pay more attention to where we got it from, not from where it originated. Possibly because we are too lazy to actually do the research required.
  • Re:It's sad . . . (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jaoswald ( 63789 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:50PM (#14908995) Homepage
    So the Koran that Saddam had written in his own blood was a secular Koran? If Iraq was such a secular state, then why did the minority Sunnis have all the poltical power? Coincidence?

    The secular nature of the regime was much stronger before the first Gulf war and the sanctions and bad governance that screwed up the Iraqi economy. The education of women and their participation in political and economic life, the prevalance of a largely secular middle class, and the fact that Christians (like Tariq Aziz) could hold political power are evidence of secular nature of the regime.

    The fact that Saddam felt he had to polish his Islamist credentials to bolster his power does not change the basic secular orientation of his Baathist regime. Baathism was/is a pan-Arab socialist ideology, pretty much devoid of Islamic pretensions. Compare to Egypt and Syria, which are relativly secular regimes.

    The concentration of power among Sunnis is primarily due to the tribal nature of Saddam's power (he was Sunni, his clan was Sunni, his region was Sunni), and also because Shiites were poorer, felt to be less loyal to his regime, and more likely to fall under Iranian influence.

    Also, if Shiite's were allowed to hold power, the presence of the Shiite holy sites in Iraq would given Shiite imams an independent source of legitimacy, which the Sunni's could not match (because their holy sites are in Saudia Arabia and Israel.)
  • by watermodem ( 714738 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:19PM (#14909257)
    Time for a little honesty! An Atheist's Guide to Mohammedanism []
  • Re:Uh, no... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by duffahtolla ( 535056 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:58PM (#14909646)
    -- Jews did not and do not believe a "son of God" is coming back. Some do believe in a messiah, but that's completely different.

    No, it's not. It's a belief.

    Are you Jewish?

    I ask because I've asked one of my 'Jewish' friend about this and he says he agrees with the first quote. You seem to think differently, but is this as a Jew or as a Christian?

    My friends take on this is that the Romans were persecuting the Jews so they were looking for a Messiah/Saviour to lead them out from under the Romans, much like Moses did with the Egyptians.

    To me, this makes sense. If the jews were expecting Jesus to lead them away, I bet they were severly dissapointed if not downright pissed off with the whole 'turn the other cheek' thing. Enough for Judas to turn him over to the Romans to make way for a real leader and enough for the Jews to pick a criminal to release rather than Jesus as some serious payback for false hopes.

  • Re:Discrimination (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cleetus Freem ( 633000 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:27PM (#14909926)
    "...the Japanese were getting A-bombed..."? Huh? What? The Japanese were engaging in a rascist orgy of murder, destruction and enslavement throughout the far east and south pacific. The white guys (whom the Japanese had attacked) simply stopped them (and then propped up the government, funded the regrowth of their industry, secured their borders and basically gave them the tools necessary to become the economic power that Japan is today)... and the a-bomb, which saved the lives of a lot of those savior white guys, was instrumental in that. Don't ignore all the bad things that the white guys have done but don't apply your B.S. filter to the good things either. The a-bomb was a bullet to the head of a racist international, rapist-murderer.
    Oh, and if you still think the a-bomb was a bad thing, ask some elderly Chinese or Koreans (i.e. people who actually lived through what the Japanese did) what they think about it. Might find they wish the white guys had had a few dozen more a-bombs to drop.
  • by KDingo ( 944605 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:28PM (#14909931)
    Islam merely haven't had their Martin Luther (yet).
    That very much may well be Wafa Sultan []. She has appeared on Al-Jazzeera debating with an imam and siding with the Jewish people.

    She has wikipedia article [], and has since appeared on Israeli public radio [].
  • by Impotent_Emperor ( 681409 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:30PM (#14909953)
    I noticed that the article indicated that some surgical tools (notably for eye surgery) were invented in the time of Islam. But this probably isn't true because Galen, a doctor in the Roman Empire had created such a tool and used it in eye surgery.

    There's going to be a ton of errors with this exhibit because it neglects to remember that there were strong, prosperous, and clever civilizations of the Middle East before Arab domination. Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Persian Empire all laid the groundwork for learning and inventing. Additionally, the whole Middle East was a crossroads for that allowed knowledge, technology, and goods to flow to it.
  • Re:Noticed also. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NeoOokami ( 528323 ) <> on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:31PM (#14909964) Homepage
    It's fairly note worthy historically to remind us that while the West was in it's period lovingly referred to as the dark ages, where where we'd lost most of our Greek heritage (such as the works of Aristotle) and religion was maintaining a stranglehold on free thought; Islam was fostering a period of intellectual thinking, and scientific progress. Of course it's also worth mentioning that as the dark ages broke into the Renaissance, Islam entered a sort of decline leading to their own dark ages with the exact same problem of religion dominating free thought.
  • by burndive ( 855848 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @04:25PM (#14910395) Homepage
    "By Christians' definitions, Jesus _cannot_ be the Jewish messiah."

    That's a pretty controversial statement to make without support. Perhaps I just don't follow your logic, since the previous sentence seems to mistakenly use "Christian" twice in stead of "Jewish" (in one of those places, though I'm not sure which one).

    I would appreciate it if you would clarify this.

    Also (and please forgive me for any misconception, as I have already stated that I don't understand what you were trying to say), what is your operating Christian definition that excludes Jesus from being the Jewish Messiah?

    I say this because I am a Christian, and I believe that Jesus was, is, and will be the Jewish Messiah. It's just that he was rejected by his brothers the first time around (much like Joseph, Moses, and David), and so he was sent to the gentiles (much like Joseph, Moses, and David) for a time, but (much like Joseph, Moses, and David) will return to his people Israel and be their deliverer. The fact that this has not yet happened does not (especially in the eyes of Christians) make him any less the Jewish Messiah.

    So, if you would, please clarify your statements in the light of this.
  • Re:But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frodo420024 ( 557006 ) <henrik&fangorn,dk> on Monday March 13, 2006 @04:57PM (#14910652) Homepage Journal
    I think that if Jesus had bit a bit more like Muhammad (ie, a millitary and political leader) he might have gotten a better reception when he claimed to be the Messiah.

    That's interesting. The Jews expected that, and Satan (or was that really Judas?) tempted Jesus to do just that. My brother quoted an esoteric scripture stating that if Jesus rejected being a political leader, people would turn against him. Which is sortof what happened.

    All speculation of course, but just wonder if he had accepted that challenge...? Would have been an extremely interesting twist of history. Jesus (IMO) had the compassion to become a great leader, had he bothered to get his hands dirty. Then perhaps there'd be no opening for Mohammad to set his bloody precedents [], either.

    OK, that was pretty hypothetical :)

  • Re:But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Petrushka ( 815171 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @05:35PM (#14910975)
    because they are historically inaccurate and contradictory

    ... just like the canonical ones, then.

  • by pnewhook ( 788591 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @07:23PM (#14911844)
    The Christian Christ is the son of God and divine.
    The Jewish Messiah is just a mortal man and not divine
    But Christ died and was therefore mortal. And the Romans labeled him "King of the Jews" which implies may Jews believed him to be the messiah.
  • Soviet physics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tetromino ( 807969 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:25AM (#14913616)
    it was a lot harder to get into trouble with Communist Party doctrine as a pure mathematician than as a physicist (who might wind up using "Jewish physics" like relativity or quantum mechanics)

    You are mixing up Communists and Nazis. Nazis banned relativity and quantum mechanics as "Jewish physics". By contrast, Soviet leaders (despite being antisemitic) recognized that Jewish physicists and physics were absolutely vital for building nukes and missiles.

    The real reason Soviet physics started to fall behind the West was that
    a. an enormous number of talented European Jewish physicists had fled to America in the 1930's, while nobody wanted to flee to Stalin's welcoming arms;
    b. for some time in the 1940s-1950s, computer science was considered to be anti-Soviet, which meant that Soviet computer technology (vital for physics!) remained a decade or so behind the West all the way to the end of the Cold War;
    c. too large a percentage of Soviet physicists were put to work in the military industrial complex, and many of their discoveries were classified. By contrast, in the post-WW2 West, most physicists tended to do unclassified work in the universities.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers