+
upworthy
Democracy

11th-century ancient ‘smartphone’ found to have been shared between Muslims and Jews

The Verona astrolabe calculated time, distance, star positions and even casted horoscopes.

verona astrolabe, muslim history, jewish history.

An Arabic astrolabe at the Pergamon Museum.

About a year ago, Dr. Federica Gigante, a research associate at Cambridge University, was preparing for a lecture and was looking for a photo of 17th-century Italian nobleman and collector Ludovico Moscardo when she happened upon an image of something exceedingly rare, an ancient Arab astrolabe.

The relic was kept in the same museum as Moscardo's photo.

According to the University of Cambridge, an astrolabe is an ancient instrument akin to the “world’s first smartphone" that has hundreds of uses, including calculating time and distances, plotting the position of the stars and even making predictions about the future by casting a horoscope.


Dr. Gigante, who is also a former curator of Islamic scientific instruments at Oxford University’s History of Science Museum, traveled to the Fondazione Museo Miniscalchi Erizzo in Verona, Italy three months later to examine the artifact. “I saw it was a lot more ancient than they’d realized,” she told The Guardian. When she began to inspect the astrolabe, she noticed scratches etched in its bronze face and they were no accident.

She soon realized that the etchings were in Hebrew, showing that over 900 years ago, Muslims and Jews worked together to exchange scientific ideas. Further examination showed that another Western language was also etched onto the astrolabe.

After comparing the astrolabe to similar instruments, she found that it was from Al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled area of Spain, in the 11th Century.

Gigante believes that the astrolabe eventually left Spain and circulated among the Jewish diaspora living in Italy.

“There’s an added dedication or signature to the object, that reads: ‘For Isaac, the work of Jonah,’” she said. “They’re both Jewish names so it’s very likely that by then, the astrolabe had got into Jewish ownership. But it’s interesting that it’s written in Arabic. Although it was probably in the hands of some Jews, Arabic was the lingua franca and was used by Jews as much as Muslims and Christians.”

Just as smartphones need updates over time, the astrolabe had corrections and updates etched on its surface throughout history. “The Verona astrolabe underwent many modifications, additions, and adaptations as it changed hands. At least three separate users felt the need to add translations and corrections to this object, two using Hebrew and one using a Western language,” Dr. Gigante said.

It is believed that the astrolabe entered the collection of Ludovico Moscardo (1611 to 1681), a nobleman from Verona, and later transitioned to the Miniscalchi family through marriage. In 1990, this family established the Fondazione Museo Miniscalchi-Erizzo to safeguard their collections.

At a time when tensions are high between Muslims and Jews, it’s touching to learn of an ancient artifact that circulated among both groups as a method of sharing knowledge. “We know that in 11th-century Spain, Jews and Muslims and Christians were working alongside each other, especially in the scientific media, and that many Jewish scientists were sponsored and patronized by Muslim rulers with no concern for their religion,” Dr. Gigante said. “This object is Islamic, Jewish and European, they can’t be separated.”


Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


Community

Inspiring update on man who was recognized by sentencing judge as a childhood friend


He broke down in tears when he recognized her and promised to not let her down.

Inspiring update on man who was recognized by judge in court


There isn't a single person past the age of infancy who has never made a mistake, and the majority of people do something that they're not proud of at least once in their lives. While some mistakes are bigger than others, they're all moments we'd rather keep to ourselves most of the time. For some people those mistakes are poor decisions or lapses in judgment that land them behind bars.

One man found himself facing a judge for sentencing after making poor choices. Arthur Booth had the entire internet weeping after a video of him went viral when the sentencing judge in court recognized him as one of her childhood friends. When Booth recognized the judge, he began to openly sob with embarrassment. He was ultimately sentenced to 10 months in prison and ordered to a drug rehabilitation center.

People wondered what happened after that fateful day in court, and a couple of years later a short update came, showing him reuniting with the judge after finishing his sentence and rehab. But that was years ago, where is he now?

Keep ReadingShow less
via Ted Eytan

In June 2015 The Supreme Court of the United States declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

The legalization of gay marriage granted over 1100 statutory provisions to same-sex couples, many of them granting rights and privileges previously only afforded to heterosexual couples.

After the decision, President Barack Obama said the ruling will "strengthen all of our communities" by offering dignity and equal status to all same-sex couples and their families.

He called it a "victory for America."

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

How Ryan Gosling won the Oscars without actually winning an Oscar

We've got answers to all of your questions about Gosling and his epic "I'm Just Ken" performance.

ABC/YouTube

From start to finish, Ryan Gosling's "I'm Just Ken" performance was one to remember.


At the 2024 Academy Awards show, Ryan Gosling managed a pretty incredible feat—winning the entire Oscars without taking home a single award with his performance of "I'm Just Ken."

Throughout the show, the songs that were nominated for Best Original Song were performed, with two songs from "Barbie" bookending the night. Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas performed first, making everyone cry with the hauntingly gorgeous "What Was I Made For." But it was Gosling's "I'm Just Ken" spectacle that had everyone laughing, singing along and wondering how on Earth we got to this iconic cultural moment.

Let's face it—the entire idea of Ryan Gosling playing a classic Ken doll in a movie about Barbie sounded pretty goofy from the start. And yet the combined genius of the movie's creators and Gosling's abject refusal to phone in anything not only made it work, but earned the actor widespread praise and a nomination from the Academy for Best Supporting Actor. Throw in some cheesy-on-purpose songwriting and an over-the-top embrace of its own absurdity, and we get one of the greatest Oscar moments ever.

Keep ReadingShow less

Our home, from space.

Sixty-one years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to make it into space and probably the first to experience what scientists now call the "overview effect." This change occurs when people see the world from far above and notice that it’s a place where “borders are invisible, where racial, religious and economic strife are nowhere to be seen.”

The overview effect makes man’s squabbles with one another seem incredibly petty and presents the planet as it truly is, one interconnected organism.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gen Zer asks what older generations did before Google

Google and smart phones have been around so long that Gen Z doesn't know a time before those things existed. They may have Googled what a card catalog was used for but plenty of them don't know the pressure we all felt having to learn the dewy decimal system while walking around the library with a card with numbers scribbled on it.

They've never experienced the frustration of having an out of date Encyclopedia collection from the thrift store that was missing books "D" and "X-Z" when you had a research assignment due. Oh, sweet tech savvy - we not me generation, doesn't understand that riding shot gun on a road trip meant you were suddenly a pirate with an Atlas map bigger than the dashboard.

Even as someone that was alive when having a rotary phone was the norm, I sometimes forget what life was like before all of the technological luxuries. It's not surprising that Gen Z is confused on how we survived back then without knowledge at our fingertips, so when one of them asked, Gen X, Xennials and elder Millennials entered the chat.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Gen X couple share a delightfully cheesy rap song welcoming millennials into their 40s

This club is a little different, there's Wordle, seltzers and lots of houseplants.

"Welcome to the club, Millenials."

It is pretty wild to consider that Millennials are now entering their 40s and no longer hold the mantle of the young and up-and-coming generation. According to Pew Research, Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, so these days they range between the ages of 29 and 42.

These are the years when people begin to settle down, start families and experience the first uncomfortable signs of aging.

The Holderness Family is headed by a Gen X couple, Kim and Penn Holderness, who are best known for their viral comedy songs. Their latest video is about welcoming Millennials to their next phase in life, one that’s less about spending all night in the club and more about embracing a quieter, more practical life.

In this case, “the club” isn’t a loud place to get a Long Island iced tea but a state of mind where you’re more likely to appreciate a good walk for your mental health.

Keep ReadingShow less