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Magnetic Mecca is coming to London

Magnetism 1
Magnetism 1 by Ahmed Mater al Ziad. (Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum)

By Hamish Johnston

One of the world’s most famous scenes is of hundreds of thousands of hajj pilgrims circling the Ka’bah – the giant granite cube draped in black silk that is the most sacred site in Islam.

The photograph above is not of that swirling scene in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, but of a bar magnet surrounded by iron filings. While familiar to anyone who has studied magnetism at school, the picture also does a remarkable job of capturing the essence of the Ka’bah circumambulatory.

The image is called Magnetism 1 and is by the Saudi artist Ahmed Mater. You can see the photograph and other historical and modern objects associated with the pilgrimage to Mecca in an upcoming exhibition at the British Museum in London. The exhibition is called “Hajj journey to the heart of Islam” and runs from 26 January to 15 April 2012.

While Mater is not a physicist, he does have a strong connection to the sciences because he is a medical doctor. Indeed, some of his other works have a distinctly medical theme – including works based on medical X-rays.

You can see Mater working on his magnetic creations here.

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