I heard about this series on BBC 4 when listening to the Guardian Science Weekly podcast recently. They had the presenter and physicist, Jim Al-Khalili, on the show talking about some of the great discoveries and advances made in the Islamic world between the 8th and 14th Centuries.
Think about it this way – if it has an ‘al’ at the beginning, there’s a fair bet that it was discovered, invented or pushed forward in the Islamic world: algebra, algorithms, alkali, alcohol…
Alhazen (Ibn al-Haythem) is considered one of the founders of the scientific method which we still use today – a good scientist formulates a hypothesis and devises a method to prove it wrong. In this way, we know if a scientific idea stands up to testing. If not, we need to revise the hypothesis and test again.
You can see the official BBC page for the programme here, but the video may no longer be available to download. Alternatively, pick up the episodes (broken into parts), from YouTube:
1: The Language of Science
2: The Empire of Reason
3: The Power of Doubt
To find out more about Science and the Islamic world, try some of these resources:
As you can see in the NewScientist video, it was an example of a mechanical computer – designed to predict the relative positions of the planets, chart astrology and count down to the Olympics.It shows us just how advanced Greek science was, and makes us wonder – what would have happened if this technology had not been lost? Would the Greeks have been playing Spore in 200AD?
Some questions to think about:
– What makes this a computer?
– What sets it apart from an old alarm clock?
– Where do you think we would be now if this knowledge hadn’t been lost?