Saturday, April 11, 2009

El Naschie didn't credit Stillwell

A reader points out the similarity between El Naschie's and Stillwell's illustrations of higher-dimensional polytopes. My illustration here compares them together at the same scale. He's right! I had the wrong conclusion before, confused by by own incorrect labels on the filenames. Duh!

As the commenter says, it may not be plagiarism if these are old enough to be public domain, but it's not ethical.
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  1. Seriously? They are practically identical! I see only two differences: the figures on top are rotated by 6 degrees relative to each other, and the line thicknesses differ slightly.

    I have no reason to think El Naschie copied the figures directly from Stillwell (so I agree with you there). Instead, these same figures appear in tons of places, like Coxeter's book on regular polytopes. They are famous hand drawings by Chilton and van Oss from long ago. Ethical authors identify them as such.

    This would explain the differing line thicknesses (either two different scans of the original drawings, or slightly different image processing on the same scan). The rotation is of course meaningless.

    I'm not saying El Naschie copied them from Stillwell, but it's perfectly clear that he copied them from somewhere. It doesn't seem plausible that he just happened to choose exactly the same projections. The best case scenario is that he saw the figures somewhere, recomputed the projections, and redrew the figures. Even if he did, he ought to have pointed out that he was redrawing famous figures due to Chilton and van Oss.

    However, judging by the mediocre image quality, I'm sure El Naschie copied the figures from somewhere else. A computer-drawn figure ought to look much better than an n-th generation copy of a hand-drawn figure.

    In any case, if we found absolutely identical image files, we would know where El Naschie got the figures. However, even without that, I don't think there's much doubt that he copied them from somewhere. There's probably no legal issue, since the originals are old enough that I bet they are out of copyright. However, the ethical issue is independent of copyright: you can't just copy other people's figures and present them as if you came up with them entirely on your own.

    P.S. The red image labels above don't seem to agree with the images.

  2. Oops! You are absolutely correct. I am changing my conclusion, LOL. And fixing the labels.