A researcher in the US reports to have found the first examples of perfect quasicrystal patterns in Islamic architecture. Her upcoming paper also describes how the designers were creating these geometric patterns from as early as the 12th century CE using nothing but rudimentary tools. It was not until the 1970s that academics began to develop mathematics that could explain these striking patterns seen in nature.
Quasicrystals are patterns that fill all of a space but do not have the translational symmetry that is characteristic of true crystals. In two dimensions this means that sliding an exact copy of the pattern over itself will never produce an exact match, though rotating the copy will often produce a match. They were first described mathematically by the British academic Roger Penrose in the guise of the famous Penrose tiles. About 10 years later Danny Schechtman of Israel’s Technion University showed that the positions of atoms in a metallic alloy had a quasicrystalline structure. Since then, hundreds of different quasicrystals have been discovered in nature.