Weekly Meanderings, 2 November 2013

I found this story fascinating — people who lived for a long time in various forms of isolation.

When is the best time to drink coffee? Here’s the science:

If you’re anything like certain members of the Fast Company staff, then you feel more or less undead until you have your morning cup of brains coffee. However, insight into the way our attention rises and dips throughout the day suggests that we can get more precise about the way we caffeinate–and thus become more productive.

How so? Because, as Steven Miller, the man behind brain blog NeuroscienceDCsuggests, the way coffee affects your body is shaped by a few key factors. Those being:

  • Caffeine is a drug
  • Your body has rhythms, hormonal and otherwise
  • To use a drug wisely, you fit it to your rhythms

How do those points combine? To understand, Miller asks us to consider the insights of chronopharmacology, the study of the interaction between drugs and biological rhythms.

Your body has many rhythms: there’s the circadian one that drives your sleeping habits (and gets messed up by over-zealous snoozing), the ultradian one that tells us to unplug every 90 minutes, and most interestingly for our caffeinated purposes, the rhythm of the release of cortisol….

The savvy coffee drinker, then, will enjoy her brew when her natural alertness levels are low, like between 9:30 and 11:30 am–that way you can get the most bang for your cup.

Want to hear what the ancient Greeks were hearing with their music?

[Ancient Greek] instruments are known from descriptions, paintings and archaeological remains, which allow us to establish the timbres and range of pitches they produced.

And now, new revelations about ancient Greek music have emerged from a few dozen ancient documents inscribed with a vocal notation devised around 450 BC, consisting of alphabetic letters and signs placed above the vowels of the Greek words.

The Greeks had worked out the mathematical ratios of musical intervals – an octave is 2:1, a fifth 3:2, a fourth 4:3, and so on.

The notation gives an accurate indication of relative pitch.

Listen here.

Jon Merritt interviews Joel Baden on what David was “really” like:

JM: Enough beating around the theological bush. Let’s get to the $100,000 question: Who did you find David to be? Any surprises? 

JB: Depending on what perspective we start with, there will either be many surprises or relatively few. If we begin with the familiar cultural portrait of David, then there is plenty that will be new and perhaps even somewhat shocking. You described David quite correctly as an “ambitious power player.”  That’s quite right. For someone coming only from tradition, or even from the biblical text, this is a surprise indeed: the Bible goes to great lengths to show that David was anything but ambitious, that the kingship was given to him through no efforts of his own. For someone reading David in light of his ancient context, however, there’s no great shock here: no one in the ancient world simply fell into the monarchy, especially from outside any established royal descent.

There is no value judgment here, nor do I want to propose any. David did whatever was necessary to attain and retain the throne in Israel, to amass and wield the power that came with the crown. If he hadn’t, the world would be quite different today. But the biblical presentation of David as always in the right just doesn’t turn out to be quite right. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that the David I think walked the earth did a lot of things that we would find morally, well, difficult. There was adultery, to be sure, but also royal insubordination, murder, in various flavors, and even something that looks a lot like treason. Perhaps most surprising for me, and perhaps most problematic for many readers, was the realization that the entire notion of the “Davidic” dynasty– both as a royal line in Israel and as a family line leading to Jesus–is thrown strongly into question.

David, as I understand him, was an astonishingly successful man, just as the Bible suggests. But I think that he came to that success via means that would make most of us who claim David as our ancestor rather uncomfortable. Which is really only to say that David was a man of his times, not ours–and it is in his times that I am trying to understand him.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.