February 2012

Al-Khwarizmi Does the Math

February 29, 2012

Quick:  multiply DVII by XVIII.  Before you could work the problem you translated it into Arabic numbers didn’t you? The person you can thank, or blame, for your ability to multiply and divide is the mathematician and astronomer Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (ca. 783-847), whose name lives on in a mangled form as “algorithm.  (Honest.  […]

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Building Baghdad

February 22, 2012

Today we think of Baghdad in terms of tyranny, terrorism and mistakes. A sinkhole for American troops.  A sandbox for suicide bombers. In the eighth century, Baghdad was the largest city in the world–and the most exciting.  Like Paris in the 1890s, Baghdad was a cultural magnet that drew scientists, poets, scholars and artists from […]

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