Muslim contributions to modern engineering, the birth of automation

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Muslim Heritage: Professor Al-Hassani on the History Channel

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How Islamic inventors changed the world

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From coffee to cheques and the three-course meal, the Muslim world has given us many innovations that we take for granted in daily life. As a new exhibition opens, Paul Vallely nominates 20 of the most influential- and identifies the men of genius behind them

1 The story goes that an Arab named Khalid was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia, when he noticed his animals became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries to make the first coffee. Certainly the first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where Sufis drank it to stay awake all night to pray on special occasions. By the late 15th century it had arrived in Mecca and Turkey from where it made its way to Venice in 1645. It was brought to England in 1650 by a Turk named Pasqua Rosee who opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London. The Arabic qahwa became the Turkish kahve then the Italian caffé and then English coffee.

2 The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham. He invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters. The smaller the hole, the better the picture, he worked out, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room). He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one.

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.

4 A thousand years before the Wright brothers a Muslim poet, astronomer, musician and engineer named Abbas ibn Firnas made several attempts to construct a flying machine. In 852 he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. He hoped to glide like a bird. He didn’t. But the cloak slowed his fall, creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and leaving him with only minor injuries. In 875, aged 70, having perfected a machine of silk and eagles’ feathers he tried again, jumping from a mountain. He flew to a significant height and stayed aloft for ten minutes but crashed on landing – concluding, correctly, that it was because he had not given his device a tail so it would stall on landing. Baghdad international airport and a crater on the Moon are named after him.

5 Washing and bathing are religious requirements for Muslims, which is perhaps why they perfected the recipe for soap which we still use today. The ancient Egyptians had soap of a kind, as did the Romans who used it more as a pomade. But it was the Arabs who combined vegetable oils with sodium hydroxide and aromatics such as thyme oil. One of the Crusaders’ most striking characteristics, to Arab nostrils, was that they did not wash. Shampoo was introduced to England by a Muslim who opened Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths on Brighton seafront in 1759 and was appointed Shampooing Surgeon to Kings George IV and William IV.

6 Distillation, the means of separating liquids through differences in their boiling points, was invented around the year 800 by Islam’s foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into chemistry, inventing many of the basic processes and apparatus still in use today – liquefaction, crystallisation, distillation, purification, oxidisation, evaporation and filtration. As well as discovering sulphuric and nitric acid, he invented the alembic still, giving the world intense rosewater and other perfumes and alcoholic spirits (although drinking them is haram, or forbidden, in Islam). Ibn Hayyan emphasised systematic experimentation and was the founder of modern chemistry.

7 The crank-shaft is a device which translates rotary into linear motion and is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, not least the internal combustion engine. One of the most important mechanical inventions in the history of humankind, it was created by an ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari to raise water for irrigation. His 1206 Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices shows he also invented or refined the use of valves and pistons, devised some of the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and was the father of robotics. Among his 50 other inventions was the combination lock.

8 Quilting is a method of sewing or tying two layers of cloth with a layer of insulating material in between. It is not clear whether it was invented in the Muslim world or whether it was imported there from India or China. But it certainly came to the West via the Crusaders. They saw it used by Saracen warriors, who wore straw-filled quilted canvas shirts instead of armour. As well as a form of protection, it proved an effective guard against the chafing of the Crusaders’ metal armour and was an effective form of insulation – so much so that it became a cottage industry back home in colder climates such as Britain and Holland.

9 The pointed arch so characteristic of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals was an invention borrowed from Islamic architecture. It was much stronger than the rounded arch used by the Romans and Normans, thus allowing the building of bigger, higher, more complex and grander buildings. Other borrowings from Muslim genius included ribbed vaulting, rose windows and dome-building techniques. Europe’s castles were also adapted to copy the Islamic world’s – with arrow slits, battlements, a barbican and parapets. Square towers and keeps gave way to more easily defended round ones. Henry V’s castle architect was a Muslim.

10 Many modern surgical instruments are of exactly the same design as those devised in the 10th century by a Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi. His scalpels, bone saws, forceps, fine scissors for eye surgery and many of the 200 instruments he devised are recognisable to a modern surgeon. It was he who discovered that catgut used for internal stitches dissolves away naturally (a discovery he made when his monkey ate his lute strings) and that it can be also used to make medicine capsules. In the 13th century, another Muslim medic named Ibn Nafis described the circulation of the blood, 300 years before William Harvey discovered it. Muslims doctors also invented anaesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes and developed hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes in a technique still used today.
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Muslim demographic revolution & Western failure

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Dr Terry Lacey

In 1950 the population of the six BENPIT countries (Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey) was 242 millions, rising to 886 million by 2009 and an estimated 1,361 million by 2050.

These and associated demographic trends render current Western strategy towards the Muslim world obsolete. Between 2010 and 2050 the population growth of the six BENPIT countries will be 475 million, while the population growth of the six most populated developed countries together will total 44 million. Worldwide 28 out of the 48 fastest growing countries in terms of population are majority Muslim, or with Muslim minorities comprising more than 33 percent of the population. For example the population of Afghanistan is now 28 million, rising to 45 million by 2025 and 75 million by 2050. Professor Jack A Goldstone writing in the journal Foreign Affairs (February 2010) on “The New Population Bomb” concludes that the West has to improve its relations with the Muslim world, that Turkey with a population of 100 million by 2050 must join the EU, and that the Muslim population of major EU countries now varies from 3 to 10 percent, and will double by 2050. These figures have major implications for the foreign and military policies of the West and for immigration into Western countries, with younger migrants needed to help sustain economies and social provision for aging populations.

The populations of the EU, US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and China are aging at an unprecedented rate. By 2050, 30 percent of all Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Chinese will be over 60. For example in South Korea the workforce will be about the same size as the people over 60 by 2050, and one third of the population must support the other two thirds. By contrast populations of Muslim countries and Muslim populations within industrialized countries have a quite different age structure with many more younger people and higher population growth, whereas the total population of some Western countries will be in net decline without more immigration. Read more of this post

2010: U.S. To Wage War Throughout The World

by Rick Rozoff

January 1 will usher in the last year of the first decade of a new millennium and ten consecutive years of the United States conducting war in the Greater Middle East.

Beginning with the October 7, 2001 missile and bomb attacks on Afghanistan, American combat operations abroad have not ceased for a year, a month, a week or a day in the 21st century.

The Afghan war, the U.S.’s first air and ground conflict in Asia since the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and early 1970s and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s first land war and Asian campaign, began during the end of the 2001 war in Macedonia launched from NATO-occupied Kosovo, one in which the role of U.S. military personnel is still to be properly exposed [1] and addressed and which led to the displacement of almost 10 percent of the nation’s population.

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In the first case Washington invaded a nation in the name of combating terrorism; in the second it abetted cross-border terrorism. Similarly, in 1991 the U.S. and its Western allies attacked Iraqi forces in Kuwait and launched devastating and deadly cruise missile attacks and bombing sorties inside Iraq in the name of preserving the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait, and in 1999 waged a 78-day bombing assault against Yugoslavia to override and fatally undermine the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty in the name of the casus belli of the day, so-called humanitarian intervention.

Two years later humanitarian war, as abhorrent an oxymoron as the world has ever witnessed, gave way to the global war on terror(ism), with the U.S. and its NATO allies again reversing course but continuing to wage wars of aggression and “wars of opportunity” as they saw fit, contradictions and logic, precedents and international law notwithstanding.

Several never fully acknowledged counterinsurgency campaigns, some ongoing – Colombia – and some new – Yemen – later, the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of 2003 with a “coalition of the willing” comprised mainly of Eastern European NATO candidate nations (now almost all full members of the world’s only military bloc as a result of their service).

The Pentagon has also deployed special forces and other troops to the Philippines and launched naval, helicopter and missile attacks inside Somalia as well as assisting the Ethiopian invasion of that nation in 2006. Washington also arms, trains and supports the armed forces of Djibouti in their border war with Eritrea. In fact Djibouti hosts the U.S.’s only permanent military installation in Africa to date [2], Camp Lemonier, a United States Naval Expeditionary Base and home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), placed under the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) when it was launched on October 1, 2008. The area of responsibility of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa takes in the nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen and as “areas of interest” the Comoros, Mauritius and Madagascar.

That is, much of the western shores of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, among the most geostrategically important parts of the world. [3]

U.S. troops, aerial drones, warships, planes and helicopters are active throughout that vast tract of land and water.

With senator and once almost vice president Joseph Lieberman’s threat on December 27 that “Yemen will be tomorrow’s war” [4] and former Southern Command chief and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Wesley Clark’s two days later that “Maybe we need to put some boots on the ground there,” [5] it is evident that America’s new war for the new year has already been identified. In fact in mid-December U.S. warplanes participated in the bombing of a village in northern Yemen that cost the lives of 120 civilians as well as wounding 44 more [6] and a week later “A US fighter jet…carried out multiple airstrikes on the home of a senior official in Yemen’s northern rugged province of Sa’ada….” [7]

The pretext for undertaking a war in Yemen in earnest is currently the serio-comic “attempted terrorist attack” by a young Nigerian national on a passenger airliner outside of Detroit on Christmas Day. The deadly U.S. bombing of the Yemeni village mentioned above occurred ten days earlier and moreover was in the north of the nation, although Washington claims al-Qaeda cells are operating in the other end of the country. [8]

Asia, Africa and the Middle East are not the only battlegrounds where the Pentagon is active. On October 30 of 2009 the U.S. signed an agreement with the government of Colombia to acquire the essentially unlimited and unrestricted use of seven new military bases in the South American nation, including sites within immediate striking distance of both Venezuela and Ecuador. [9] American intelligence, special forces and other personnel will be complicit in ongoing counterinsurgency operations against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the nation’s south as well as in rendering assistance to Washington’s Colombian proxy for attacks inside Ecuador and Venezuela that will be portrayed as aimed at FARC forces in the two states.

Targeting two linchpins of and ultimately the entire Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), Washington is laying the groundwork for a potential military conflagration in South and Central America and the Caribbean. After the U.S.-supported coup in Honduras on June 28, that nation has announced it will be the first ALBA member state to ever withdraw from the Alliance and the Pentagon will retain, perhaps expand, its military presence at the Soto Cano Air Base there.

A few days ago “The Colombian government…announced it is building a new military base on its border with Venezuela and has activated six new airborne battalions” [10] and shortly afterward Dutch member of parliament Harry van Bommel “claimed that US spy planes are using an airbase on the Netherlands Antilles island of Curaçao” [11] off the Venezuelan coast.

In October a U.S. armed forces publication revealed that the Pentagon will spend $110 million to modernize and expand seven new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania, across the Black Sea from Russia, where it will station initial contingents of over 4,000 troops. [12]

In early December the U.S. signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Poland, which borders the Russian Kaliningrad territory, that “allows for the United States military to station American troops and military equipment on Polish territory.” [13] The U.S. military forces will operate Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) batteries as part of the Pentagon’s global interceptor missile system.

At approximately the same time President Obama pressured Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to base missile shield components in his country. “We discussed the continuing role that we can play as NATO allies in strengthening Turkey’s profile within NATO and coordinating more effectively on critical issues like missile defense,” [14] in the American leader’s words.

“Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has hinted his government does not view Tehran [Iran] as a potential missile threat for Turkey at this point. But analysts say if a joint NATO missile shield is developed, such a move could force Ankara to join the mechanism.” [15]

2010 will see the first foreign troops deployed to Poland since the breakup of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 and the installation of the U.S’s “stronger, swifter and smarter” (also Obama’s words) interceptor missiles and radar facilities in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the South Caucasus. [16]

U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, site of the longest and most wide-scale war in the world, will top 100,000 early in 2010 and with another 50,000 plus troops from other NATO nations and assorted “vassals and tributaries” (Zbigniew Brzezinski) will represent the largest military deployment in any war zone in the world.

American and NATO drone missile and helicopter gunship attacks in Pakistan will also increase, as will U.S. counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines and Somalia along with those in Yemen where CIA and Army special forces are already involved.

U.S. military websites recently announced that there have been 3.3 million deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 with 2 million U.S. service members sent to the two war zones. [17]

In this still young millennium American soldiers have also deployed in the hundreds of thousands to new bases and conflict and post-conflict zones in Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Colombia, Djibouti, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Mali, the Philippines, Romania, Uganda and Uzbekistan.

In 2010 they will be sent abroad in even larger numbers to man airbases and missile sites, supervise and participate in counterinsurgency operations throughout the world against disparate rebel groups, many of them secular, and wage combat operations in South Asia and elsewhere. They will be stationed on warships and submarines equipped with cruise and long-range nuclear missiles and with aircraft carrier strike groups prowling the world’s seas and oceans.

They will construct and expand bases from Europe to Central and South Asia, Africa to South America, the Middle East to Oceania. With the exception of Guam and Vicenza in Italy, where the Pentagon is massively expanding existing installations, all the facilities in question are in nations and even regions of the world where the U.S. military has never before ensconced itself. Practically all the new encampments will be forward bases used for operations “down range,” generally to the east and south of NATO-dominated Europe.

U.S. military personnel will be assigned to the new Global Strike Command and for expanded patrols and war games in the Arctic Circle. They will serve under the Missile Defense Agency to consolidate a worldwide interceptor missile network that will facilitate a nuclear first strike capability and will extend that system into space, the final frontier in the drive to achieve military full spectrum dominance.

American troops will continue to fan out to most all parts of the world. Everywhere, that is, except to their own nation’s borders.

Notes

1) Scott Taylor, Macedonia’s Civil War: ‘Made in the USA’
Antiwar.com, August 20, 2001
http://www.antiwar.com/orig/taylor1.html
2) AFRICOM Year Two: Seizing The Helm Of The Entire World
Stop NATO, October 22, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/africom-year-two-taking-the-helm-of-the-entire-world
3) Cold War Origins Of The Somalia Crisis And Control Of The Indian Ocean
Stop NATO, May 3, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/cold-war-origins-of-the-somalia-crisis-and-control-of-the-indian-ocean
4) Fox News, December 27, 2009
5) Fox News, December 29, 2009
6) Press TV, December 16, 2009
7) Press TV, December 27, 2009
8) Yemen: Pentagon’s War On The Arabian Peninsula
Stop NATO, December 15, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/yemen-pentagons-war-on-the-arabian-peninsula
9) Rumors Of Coups And War: U.S., NATO Target Latin America
Stop NATO, November 18, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/rumors-of-coups-and-war-u-s-nato-target-latin-america
10) BBC News, December 20, 2009
11) Radio Netherlands, December 22, 2009
12) Bulgaria, Romania: U.S., NATO Bases For War In The East
Stop NATO, October 24, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/bulgaria-romania-u-s-nato-bases-for-war-in-the-east
13) Polish Radio, December 11, 2009
14) Hurriyet Daily News, December 30, 2009
15) Ibid
16) Black Sea, Caucasus: U.S. Moves Missile Shield South And East
Stop NATO, September 19, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/283
U.S. Expands Global Missile Shield Into Middle East, Balkans
Stop NATO, September 11, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/u-s-expands-global-missile-shield-into-middle-east-balkans
17) World’s Sole Military Superpower’s 2 Million-Troop, $1 Trillion Wars
Stop NATO, December 21, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/worlds-sole-military-superpowers-2-million-troop-1-trillion-wa

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