Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Optical Illusions

Getting stuck back into writing now after quite a break. Off on something of a tangent this morning - I was reading up on medieval Islamic mathematicians, about a guy called Alhazen (well, he's actually called Abu 'Ali al-Hasan bin al-Hasan bin al-Haytham but that proved a smidge unwieldy for Westerners).

Anyhoo, he was born in the tenth century, and is thought of as the father of optics and a great mathematician, engineer and astronomer (the first mention of a camera obscura seems to come from him). My favourite part of his life was when Caliph al-Hakim hired him to figure out a method of regulating the waters of the Nile. Apparently Alhazen realised that:

a) it was impossible
b) if the Caliph was told, he might get angry. And you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

So instead he faked madness. For years. Until the Caliph was safely dead and buried. Then he resumed all his clever brainy work.

I think it would have made a good subplot to the original Star Trek. Instead of Scotty proclaiming 'Ye cannae change the laws of physics!', he'd just be found rocking in a corner of the engineering lab.

Indeed, it may be a useful approach for many a modern workplace...

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