Math Digest

Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"A Sine on the Road to Mecca," by Dana Mackenzie. American Scientist,May-June, 2001, pages 217-218.

This article describes two recently discovered maps that show that Muslimscientists solved the problem of finding the direction to Mecca---the qibla---muchearlier than anyone knew. The Mecca-centered brass maps indicate the directionand distance to Mecca from any point in the medieval Muslim world, usinga projection that was unknown in the West until the 1900s. The articledescribes the maps and the speculation as to their origin.

--- Mike Breen