February 26, 2012

A History of Science by George Sarton

A History of Science by George Sarton
Hellenistic science and culture in the last three centuries B.C

[A scholarly book from a well known scholar.
- I wish there is a book that covers 3000 years. Secondly I only am capturing few of them that I find it interesting. Book extensively covers each section of science and arts which include Euclid’s mathematics, Astronomy (Archimedes and Apollonios), Geography, Chronology, Physics & technology, Anatomy & Medicine, Philosophy & Religion, Language, arts & letter and orientalism)]

The Alexandrian Renaissance:

The decadence and fall of Greece was completed by the Macedonian conquest by Philip II in August 338 BC who died two years later. His son Alexander III conquered a great part of the world within 12 years. He died at the age of 33 and his conquests put an end to the old Hellenism but began a new period in history called Hellenistic age which lasted three centuries from 330 BC to the establishment of the Roman Empire by Augustus in 30 BC.

He was the first man to think of the brotherhood of man and for that reason he fully deserves to be immortalized under the name Alexander the Great. Alexander died so young that he left no heir and no arrangement had been made to carry on the government. When he was dying, he gave his signet ring to one of his generals, the Macedonian Prediccas but soon after his death the intense rivalries of other generals created a state of chaos. Leaving out the eastern satrapies, east of the Persian gulf and southwest of the Oxus, the empire was broken into three main parts: Macedonia and Greece ruled by Antigonids; Western Asia, by the Seleucids; and Egypt by the Ptolemies.

The Hellenistic era continued until the time of Christ; they were replaced gradually about the beginning of the time of Christian era by Romans and later Byzantine. The universality of Greek language (as the vehicle of higher culture) was the outstanding characteristic of the Alexandrian world not only in Hellenistic but also during Roman times, at least in the eastern region which were by far the most cultured ones.

Local influence in other two regions (Pharaonic in Egypt & Babylonian in Seleucid Kingdom) were still alive, conspicuous and impressive,. It was an essential policy of the Ptolemies to pay full attention to the ancient Egyptian religion and of the Seleucids to respect and even to revive Babylonian knowledge and rites. Babyloniania was a Persian satrapy from 523 and during two centuries many Persian institutions, usages, ideas and words had taken out.

Greco-Indian relations are even more complex than Greco-Iranian. Indian goods were brought by middlemen. Other Indians visited Greece for the sake of obtaining wisdom or illustrating their view. The delightful story of Socrates interview with Indian sage has already been told. The most famous of the Kings known in Greece was Menandros who was king of Kabul and north India. He is well known to Indian subjects as Milinda that he became the hero of a Buddhist.

Commercial and cultural relations between Egypt and India were subject to vicissitudes caused by the enmity of the Seleucid kingdom, but even when Syrians ways were closed, Egypt could reach India via Red Sea and Arabia. The knowledge of this route and the flow of the tide was not known to Greece until the time of Hippolos in BC 70. Cleopatra’s suggestion of abandoning the Mediterranean and ruling the Indian seas instead.

The Hellenistic nations were ready to welcome foreign sages such as Iranian magi, India gymnosophistai and many oth4rs because of their spiritual curiosity and even more because of a kind of religious starvation.

Under Greek rule, Egypt became the most important mixing place of East and West - Macedonia, Greeks. Jews, Orientals, Syrians, Arabs, Mesopotamians, Persians, Bactrians, Indians and Africans (Sudanese, Somalis & Ethiopians). A good many cities were said to have been founded by Alexander the great or in his memory and they all bore the name of Alexandra. Among them the most famous is Alexandria in Egypt which was the first not only a metropolis, but also cosmologies - the first of its kind. The two outstanding institutions of the Alexandrian Renaissance were the Museum and the Library.

The library of Alexandria was the most famous library of antiquity, but it was by no means the only one nor the earliest. We may be certain that there were collections of papyri in Egypt and of cuneiform tablets in Mesopotamia. The most ancient libraries are lost and disintegrated but archaeologists were lucky enough to discover in the ruins of Nineveh the royal library of Ashur-bani-pal. Aristotle had a large one, but the library of Alexandria was undoubtedly the largest and eclipsed them all. In spite of the fact that it is entirely lost, we know more about it than about any other.

At the time of Caesar’s siege of Alexandria in 48 BC, the Library was still exceedingly rich. The Library was still very important at the beginning of the Roman rule, when the Romans thought of themselves as liberators of Egypt. The main enemies of the Library however were not the Romans but the Christians. Its decline was accelerated in proportions as Alexandria was more effectively controlled by bishops whether Orthodox or Arian. By the end of the fourth century, paganism was ebbing out of Alexandria; the Museum and the Serapeum were its last refuges. The old Christians and the proselytes hated the Library, because it was in their eyes a citadel of disbelief and immorality; it was gradually undermined and brought into decay.

The library was now concentrated in the Serapeum and the latter was finally destroyed under Theodosios the Great (emperor, 379-395), by the order of Theophilos (bishop of Alexandria, 385-412) whose antipagan fanaticism was extreme. Many of the books may have been salvages but according to Orosius(V-1), the Library was virtually nonexistent in 416.

The story has often been told that when the Muslims took Alexandria in 640, then again in 645and sacked it, they destroyed the Library. The Khalifa Umar is supposed to have said: “The text of those books is contained in Quran or not: if it is, we do not need them; if it is not, they are pernicious:. That story is unproved. There was not much if anything left of the original library to be destroyed. The Christian fanatics had argues in the same vein as their Muslim emulators. Moreover the pagan books were far more dangerous to the Christians who could easily read them than to the Muslims who could not read them at all.


In the first place, scientific research was organized as it has never been before in the Museum of Alexandria while the accumulation and transmission of knowledge was given splendid instruments in the libraries of Alexandria of Pergamon and later of Rome.

The main philosophic school was the Stoic,illustrated by Cleanthes of Assos, Chrysippos of Soloi, Diogenes the Babylonian, Panaitios and Poseidonios of Rhodos. The last representatives of the New Academy were Carneades of Cyrene and Cicero. The leading defender of the Garden of Epicuros was another Roman, Lucretius. The tradition of the Lyceum was continued by Strabon of Lampsacos and Andronicos of Rhodos prepared the first scientific edition of Aristotle and Theophrastos.

This was a golden age of mathematics, the like of which did not occur again until the 17th century. Think of such a galaxy as Euclid of Alexandria, Archimedes of Syracuse, Eratostheenes of Cyrene, Apollonios of Perge, Conon of Samos, Hypsicles of Alexandraia, Hipparchos of Nicia, Theodosios of Bithynia, Geminos of rhodos.

Much astronomical work was done not only by Greeks but also by Challdeans, The outstanding men were Aristarchos of Samos,and Seleucos the Babylonian, Hipparchos, Cleomedes and Geminos. The greatest of all one of the greatest of all time, was Hipparchos.

Physical investigations were carried out by Straon, Euclid, Aristarchos of Samos, Archimedes, Ctesibios of Alexandria, Philon of Byantion, Sostratos of Cnidos built the Pharos, the lighthouse, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Greek and Roman engineers and architects built roads, aqueducts, harbors, and innumerable monuments. Vitruvius wrote the main architectural treatise of antiquity.

The method of agriculture were explained by Cato the Censor, Mago of Carthage, Varro of Reate, Vigil of Mantova,. Botonical studies were pursued by Cratevas and by Nicholas of Damascus.

Herophilos of Chalcedon and Erasistratos of Ceos were the creators of anatomy and physiology. The medical record is not so good yet there were a number of distinguished physicians - Archagathos of Rome, Serapion of Alexandria, Asclepiades of Bithynia,. Themison of Lacodiceia, Heracledes of Tarentum, Apollonios of Cition and Antonius Musa.

Geographic studies were cultivated by Eratothenes, Crates of Mallos, Hipparchos, Poseidonios, Isidoros of Charax. Strabon of Amaseia composed the most elaborate description of the world; Caesar and Agrippa ordered a survey of it which was completed in 12 BC.

The main Greek historians were the Arcadian Polybios and Poseidonios the main Latin ones, Caesar, Sallust and Livy. The legendary background of Roman history was recreated in Virgil’s Aeneid.

Greek grammar was invented and the foundations of Greek philology were laid by Zenodotos of Ephesos, Aristophanes of Byzantion, Aristarchos of Samothrace, Crates of Mallos, Dionysios Thrax, Dionysios of Halicarnassos. Latin philology was developed by Varro and Verrius Flaccus.

The main achievement in the field of international literature and religion was the Septuaginta, the translation of the Old Treatment from Hebrew into Greek.

Surely this is an astonishing record, equally astonishing in its wealth and in its scope. Would that we had as well in the three centuries from the ‘Mayflower’ until now. The record is even more remarkable than it seems to be, if we remember the catastrophes’, wars, revolutions that jeopardized it almost without interruption.

The political conflicts and wars remained essentially the same during this period and later, but the religions conflict was deeply modified.
During the whole Hellenistic age there flourished in close rivalry three kinds of popular religion - first the old Greek paganism, second, Judaism and the third, various oriental mystery cults, such as cults of Mithras, Cybele and Attis, Isis and Osiris. The appearance of a new incomprehensible mystery that of Jesus Christ and its gradual triumph characterized an entirely new period.

February 24, 2012

Be Honest - Edited by Ninive Calegari.

[Notes from students who wrote about their past school life; there are many letters and I am writing down what I find it touching].

Julia Peck’s notes: she remembers her English tutor who enlightened her and her class on literature. Some of the books she referred are
The three little pigs
The Glory field
The Devil’s arithmetic
Treasure Island
Invictus (she was so impressed with this book that she memorized the following lines

- I am the master of my fate

- I am the captain of my soul

Jasmine Franco’s notes: she remembers who taught chemistry without knowing the importance of chemistry with students. Her tutor was so demanding, without trying to learn student’s context. Jasmine during her school life, faced toughness of life where her parents got deported to Columbia and she needed to survive all alone. She needed to work after school to survive and her tutor never willing to listen to her stories. A sad note though.

The most touching one was from Sherman Alexie whose school diary is a very famous one which got published in many outlets - http://comosr.spps.org/Alexie.html

February 11, 2012

Incognito by David Eagleman

Incognito by David Eagleman
The secret lives of the brain.

In 1949, Arthur Alberts travelled to villages in West Africa and he recorded some of the most important music ever to come out of Africa. But Alberts ran into social troubles while using the tape recorder. One West African native heard his voice played back and accused Alberts of ‘stealing his tongue’. Albert only narrowly averted being pummeled by taking out a mirror and convincing the man that his tongue was still intact. It’s not difficult to see why the natives found the tape recorder so counterintuitive. A vocalization seems ephemeral and ineffable.

In a recent experiment, men were asked to rank how attractive they found photographs of different women’s faces. Unbeknownst to the men, in half the photos the eyes of those women were dilated and in the other half they were not. The men were consistently more attracted to the women with dilated eyes. Women’s dilated eyes correlates with sexual excitement and readiness. Men’s brain knew this without learning it explicitly. Brains are in the business of gathering information and steering behavior appropriately. [The pupils of our eyes dilate and grow by almost 3 times when we see someone we are attracted to, or something we are interested in. No wonder candlelight dinners and wine are such a popular choice for a romantic rendezvous. Apart from hiding minor physical flaws and adding a warm glow to your face, the low light setting of candlelight influences our pupil size. The pupils dilate to let in more light into the eye. At the same time, we unconsciously give out the signal that we are interested and attracted to the person across the table. It is the perfect set up to get your point across without saying anything at all. Add wine to the list and it emphasizes your interest. Alcohol not only acts as a social lubricant, but also accentuates pupil dilation.]

you see evidence of this when your foot gets halfway to the brake before you consciously realize a red Toyota is backing out of a driveway on the road ahead of you. You see it when you notice your name spoken in a conversation across the room that you thought you weren’t listening to, when you find someone attractive without knowing why, or when you’re nervous system gives you a ‘hunch’ about which choice you should make. You can notice this when you begin to duck from a snapping tree branch before you are aware that it’s coming toward you or when you are already jumping up when you first become aware of the phone’s ring. The conscious mind is not at the center of the action in the brain; instead, it is far out on a distant edge, hearing but whispers of the activity.

In the traditionally taught view of perception, data from the sensorium pours into the brain, works its way up the sensory hierarchy and makes itself seen, heard, smelled, tasted, felt - “perceived’. But a closer examination of the data suggests this is incorrect. Internal data is not generated by external sensory data but merely ’modulated by it. The deep secret of the brain is that not only the spinal cord but the entire central nervous system works this way. In this view, the difference between being awake and being asleep is merely that the data coming in from the eyes ‘anchors’ the perception. Asleep vision (dreaming) is perception that is not tied down to anything in the real world.

Vision usually dominates over hearing, but a counter example is the illusory flash effect: when a flash effect: when a flashed spot is accompanied by two beeps, it appears to flash twice. This is related to another phenomenon called ‘ auditory driving’ in which the apparent rate of a flickering light is driven faster or slower by an accompanying beeping sound presented at a different rate.

What people select as beautiful qualities primarily reflect signs of fertility brought on by hormonal changes. Until puberty the faces and body shapes of boys and girls are similar. The rise in estrogen in pubescent girls gives them fuller lips, while testosterone in boys produces a more prominent chin, a larger nose and a fuller jaw. For female, full lips, full buttocks, and a narrow waist broadcast a clear message and for a male, it is the full jaw, stubble and broad chest. This is what we are programmed to find beautiful. Form reflects function.

As women become older, their functions change in ways that depart from these proportions. Middles thicken, lips thin, breasts sag, and so on. All of which broadcast the signal that they are past peak fertility. Even a male teenager with no biology education will be less attracted to an elderly woman than to a young woman. His circuits have a clear mission (reproduction)l his conscious mind receives only the nee-to-know headline (she is attractive, pursue her!) and nothing more.

American neuroscientist Paul MacLean (1950s) suggested that the brain is made of three layers representing successive stages of evolutionary development: the reptilian brain (involved in survival behaviors), the limbic system (involved in emotions) and the newocortex (used in high -order thinking).

Arthur C Clarke was fond of pointing out that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The complexity of the system we are is so vast as to be indistinguishable from Clark’s magical technology. In this same way that the cosmos is larger than we ever imagined, we ourselves are something greater than we had intuited by introspection. The brain is an organ that feels alient and outlandish to us, and yet its detailed wiring patterns sculpt the landscape of our inner lives

February 10, 2012

Extra virginity - by Tom Mueller

Extra virginity - by Tom Mueller
The sublime and scandalous world of olive oil

Olive oil is the only commercially significant vegetable oil to be extracted from a fruit rather than seeds, like sunflower, canola, and soy oil. Since the fruit contains considerable water, extraction can be done by mechanical method alone, with a centrifuge or press, whereas extracting seed oils generally requires the use of industrial solvents, typically hexane. To remove this solvent from seed oils, as well as to eliminate the unpleasant tastes and odors they normally have, they must be processed in a refinery, where they undergo high temperature desolventization, neutralization, deodorization, bleaching, and degumming. The end result is a tasteless, odorless, colorless liquid fat. Olive Oil instead can simply be pressed or spun out of the olive pulp, yielding a fresh squeezed fruit juice with all of its natural tastes, aromas, and health-enhancing ingredients intact.

The DeCarlos were pioneers in what has become an authentic renaissance in extra virgin oil in Italy.

The olive tree, Olea Europea L.sativa is hte domesticated cousin of the wild oleaster and the Oleaceae family contains some nine hundred species of trees, shrubs, and woody climbers distributed throughout the world, primarily in forested regions. Some members of the family such as jasmines and lilacs are famous for their flowers while others such as the ashes are known for their fine-grained hardwood.

Still, the olive’s bounty remains something of a puzzle. An Oil’s content of oleic acid, its primary fatty acid can carry from 55 to 85%. Oleic acid and other fatty acids with one double bond are called monounsaturated while those with two or more double bonds are polyunsaturated. The more double bonds a fatty acid contains, the more easily it oxidizes, keeps fresh far longer than other vegetable oils which are polyunsaturated.

February 5, 2012

The house of wisdom by Jim Al-Khalili

The house of wisdom by Jim Al-Khalili
How Arabic science saved ancient knowledge and gave us the renaissance.

Progress, through reason and rationality, is by definition a good thing; knowledge and enlightenment are always better than ignorance. Throughout this book, I use term ‘Arabic science is that carried out by those who were politically under the rule of the Abbasids whose official languages was Arabic or who felt obliged to write their scientific texts in Arabic, the lingua franca of science in the medieval world. This include the great Persian scientists as part of the broad definition (same like Almagest written by Ptolemy as part of Greek science, even though he is an Egyptian)

Abu Ja far Abdulla Al-Mamun - half Arab and half Persian is the central to the book, for he was destined to become the greatest patron of science in the cavalcade of Islamic rulers, and the person responsible for initiating the world’s most impressive period of scholarship and learning since ancient Greece. He was in fact son of an even more famous caliph - called Al-Rashid (763-809) who pops up frequently as a character in the tales of ‘The thousand and one nights’. He is said to have bought a famous pearl called ‘ Al-Yatima (The Orphan Pearl) for 70,0000 gold dinars. Charlemagne is also believed to have given him what is thought to have been world’s largest emerald.

Al-Ma’mun (768-833) was born the same year that his father became caliph. His mother was a Persian slave who arrived in Bagdad as a prisoner of war. As a forfeit of beating him in the game of chess, Al-Rashid’s Arab wife Zubayda insisted that he slept with the ugliest and dirtiest slave in the kitchen and that bore him his first son, Abdulla whom he gave the title of Al-Mamun(The trustworthy)

Under Al-Mamun’s patronage and the spirit of openness and inclusiveness towards other religion and culture that he fostered, many scholars from all over the empire gravitated towards Bagdad drawn by a vibrant sense of optimism and freedom of expression that epitomized the model of this golden age. This is written in the ‘Book of Animals’ by Al-Jahith.

“Our share of wisdom would have been much reduced and our means of acquiring knowledge weakened, had the ancients (the Greeks) not preserved for us their wonderful wisdom, and their various ways of life, in writing which have revealed what was hidden from us and opened what was closed to us, thereby allowing us to add their plenty to the little we have, and to attain what we could not reach without them”

Al-Ma’mun dreamed that he saw a man and he asked him, “ who are you?’ and he replied, “I am Aristotle’. I was delighted to be with him and asked, “O Philosopher, may I ask you a question,”...”What is good?’. Aristotle replied, “Whatever is good according to intellect”. I asked: “Then what?” He replied, “Whatever is good in the opinion of the masses”.

Al-Ma’mun devoted his rest of his life to following the advice granted him by this vision, and sought everywhere to satisfy his craving for knowledge - whatever he deemed ‘good according to intellect’. Although we shall see that the Abbasid’s thirst for ancient texts from Greece, Persia and India and having them translated to Arabic began before al_Ma’mun, it was he who turned into a personal obsession. And it was during his reign that we see the first true geniuses of Arabic science. There was nothing of any real intellectual consequence had taken place in that part of the world since the decline of the Library of Alexandria hundreds of years before the arrival of Islam.

“The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr” - The prophet Muhammad.

With the weakening of the Roman empire at the beginning of the 5th century, Western Europe slipped rapidly into what is now known as the Dark ages, from which it would not emerge for a 1000 years. By the time of the fall of Rome itself, the center of imperial power in Europe had long since moved eastwards to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Its rule covered Anatolia, Greece, Southern Italy, Syria, Egypt, and North African coast with eastern boarder of Iraq & Syria. The official language of the Byzantines was Greek, and official & dominant religion of the Byzantines was Christianity.

To its east, 4 centuries of Persian Sassanid rule produced an empire stretching from Iraq, & Iran through to central Asia. The middle of the 6th century marked the start of nearly 100 years of long and costly wars between the Sassanians and Byzantines over the lands of Iraq & Syria. By the 7th century, highly organized Muslim armies pushed the Byzantines out of Syria & Asia Minor then the Sasanians were defeated and crushed.

Before the arrival of Islam, the only other sovereign power in the region in Yemen and the rest of Arabia was inhabited mostly by nomadic Arab tribes. Two great cities in western Arabia had been trading centers for 100s of years before the arrival of Islam and their names were Macoraba & Yathrib and they were destined to become the two holiest cities in Islam: Mecca & Madina. Mecca housed many shrines and sanctuaries for the worship of several hundred different gods. All these gods had sanctuaries in or near Mecca, including within the Ka’ba itself. Pre-Islamic pagans would make pious visits to Mecca from all over Arabia and even walk around the Ka’ba, giving offerings to their gods.

A century before the birth of Islam one of the most powerful tribes in Arabia, the Quraysh, began to spread its influence in Mecca and it was from one of the less influential clans within this tribe that a 40-year old illiterate merchant named Muhammad announced in the year 610 that the angel Gabriel had appeared before him to reveal the word of God while he was meditating alone in a cave in Mount Hira overlooking the city. According to Islamic history, Muhammad was initially distressed at seeing the vision of angel. When he came down from the mountain he was consoled by his wife Khadija who immediately informed her Christian cousin, Waraqh ibn Nawfal, who immediately informed Muhammad that he had been chose as a new prophet, for God had also sent the angel Gabriel down to Moses two thousand years earlier and it was Gabriel who had told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Muhammad declared his mission and his first convert was his wife Khalija herself, followed by members of his family and close companions.

The Arabic word for God, Allah comes from a construction of two words Al-Illah , meaning The God. Arabic speaking Christians and Jews also use the same word Allah to mean God in their religions. Once his mission became clear, Muhammad would order all shrines in Mecca destroyed, but the Ka’ba itself remains to this day, situated within the largest mosque in the world, Al-Mashid al-Haram.


“The significance of the Greco-Arabic translation movement lies in that it demonstrated for the first time in history that scientific and philosophical thought are international, not bound to a specific language or culture” - Dimitiri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arab Culture.

Why did the golden age of Arabic science that blossomed so suddenly during the reign of the early Abbasid caliphs begin? The common view is that the exciting advances made in mathematics, astronomy, physics and engineering, the industrialization of chemistry, the great progress in medicine and the flourishing of philosophy that took place, first in Bagdad and then elsewhere in Islamic empire, all began thanks to the success of a spectacularly massive movement -a process that lasted 200 years - during which much of the wisdom of the earlier civilization of the Greeks, Persians and Indians was translated into Arabic. Then, once a culture of scholarship had taken hold within the Islamic Empire, it quickly became self-sustaining, leading to grand synthesis of scientific knowledge that grew to far outstrip the sum of what had come before.

Al-Fazari, one of the astrologers who advised al-Mansur and the man credited with building the first astrolabe in the Muslim world is also associated with translating several astronomical texts from Sanskrit to Arabic. It has even been claimed that he was the first to translate the Siddhanta, written by the greatest Indian mathematician and astronomer, Brahmangupta (568-668) into Arabic. The Arabic translation of this text is known as Sindhind and along with Ptolemy’s Almagest and Euclid’s Elements,, it was destined to have huge influence on the scholars of Bagdad.

Elephant Clock – an engineering marvel:
When it comes to feats of engineering in the Islamic Empire, I can do no better than to mention its most famous engineer, Ibn Ismail Al-Jazari (1136-1206) and describe his best known invention, Elephant Clock. His six foot high water powered ‘Elephant Clock is on the engineering wonders of the mediaeval world; an object of artistic beauty as well as engineering brilliance. It used Archimedes water principles combined with Indian water-timing devices and was made up of a hollow model of an Indian elephant ridden by two Arabian figures, on a Persian carpet, with Chinese dragons and Egyptian phoenix.

The clock is based on what is called a perforated float, which acts as the actuator and timekeeper for all parts of the clock. Inside the belly of the hollow elephant is a tank of water in which is floating a bowl with a tiny hole in its bottom. The hole has been carefully drilled to allow in water at a precise rate, such that the bowl completely drilled to allow in exactly half an hour. A small chain that can only flex up and down keeps the bowl close to the side do the tank thus allowing it to only move vertically. As the bowl fills, it gradually submerges into the tank and pulls on a string attached to a pulley above the elephant that cause the scribe to slowly rotate, marking out minutes. Once full, the bowl sinks more rapidly, triggering several mechanisms: a separate compartment within the float forces air through a flute, which gives off a sound suggesting the phoenix at the top of the clock that contains a number of metal balls. This channel tilts and releases a ball that rolls down, first onto fan blades that forces the phoenix to rotate, then into the mouth of on the dragons, causing to tip forward. As it does so, its tail rises and pulls on the float in the belly of the elephant. This action raises the float to the surface while tipping and emptying it to allow the whole half-hour process to be repeated. Meanwhile, the ball falls out of the dragon’s mouth onto a plate that moves the elephant driver’s arms as well as striking a cymbal hidden inside the elephant. Once the ball is released from the dragon it pivots back up again ready to receive another ball one hour later (since the two dragons alternate their actions with each ball). Of course, the ball channel would have to be constantly replenished with balls for the clock to continue working.

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind” - Khalil Gibran.

“We ought not to be embraced about appreciating the truth and obtaining it wherever it comes from, even if it comes from races distant and nation’s different from us. Nothing should be dearer to the seeker of truth than the truth itself, and there is no deterioration of the truth, nor belittling either of one who speaks it or conveys it” - Yaqub ibn Ishaq al-Kinid

“During the most splendid period of Islamic Spain, ignorance was regarded as so disgraceful that those without education concealed the fact as far as possible, just as they would have hidden the commission of a crime” - S.P.Scott. History of the Moorish’s Empire in Europe.

Another gift from the Arabs is coffee - esp. as it was originally banned in Europe as a ‘Muslim drink’. Its use can be tracked down to 9th century Ethiopia where according to legend, an Arab named Khalid observed that his goats became livelier after eating the berries of the coffee plant,
Intrigued, he boiled the berries in water to produce the first cup of coffee. From Ethiopia, the drink spread to Egypt and Yemen, but it was in Arabia that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed as is done today. The story of coffee finally comes in full-circle when in 2007; an agreement was reached after a high profile court battle between the Gov. of Ethiopia, the home of coffee and the coffee giants Starbuck over copyright of trademark names of certain Ethiopian coffee beans.

It is that the golden age came suddenly crashing to an end in 1258 with the Mongols’ destruction of Bagdad during which most of the books in the House of Wisdom were destroyed by Mongolian army of Hulahu. Although accounts differ, many historians estimate that a large fraction of the city’s population, which by then could have numbered close to a million, were massacred by the Mongols within the space of a single week in Feb. of that year. So fierce was the assault that Bagdad never recovered and after five hundred years, Abbasid rule was suddenly over.

One significant factor that played a role was the reluctance of the Muslim world and the Ottoman Empire in particular, to embrace the printing press quickly enough. This is particularly poignant when one considers that the first ever book to be printed in England was the ‘Dictes and Saying of the Philosophers’ in 1477 which was the English translation of an Arabic text. Printing in Arabic type represented the early typesetters with far greater problems than Latin because of the cursive nature of Arabic script and added complication when joining up letters due to different shapes they take according onto their position in a word.