Wow Moments – Winston Churchill’s Afternoon Nap

I just finished a book called Winston Churchill’s Afternoon Nap by Jeremy Campbell. This book provides an overview of the scientific field of chronobiology, which is “a field of biology that examines periodic (cyclic) phenomena in living organisms and their adaptation to solar- and lunar-related rhythms.” In layman’s terms, chronobiology studies how and why our bodies move through various cycles in a given time period. For example: the human pulse does not remain the same at 70 beats a minute throughout a 24-hour span, but slows down at night and speeds up during the day. Practically everything in the body works on rhythmic cycles like this.

For me, the first wow moment in this dense book was when I discovered that one reason why  we have a 7 day week is because our body’s naturally run on a 7-day cycle. The clearest example of this shows up in our immune systems, which run on a weekly cycle. This is why when you have a kidney transplant that your body may reject it at the 1 week marker, and every week thereafter until 4 weeks have passed. Since doctors know this is going to happen in advance, they counteract it by administrating immune system suppressors at the end of each week.

This becomes even more interesting when we recognize that the modern calendar week does not stem from any logical cosmological cycle. In other words, we don’t get our 7-day week from the way the earth revolves around the sun or something like that. In light of this, its fascinating to find out that “In all the ancient world … there was no seven-day calendar cycle except for the Jewish week.” The Greeks didn’t know a seven-day week until about the third century A.D., when the planetary week was adapted.

“The planetary week, however was a relative newcomer compared with the Jewish week. Its origins appear to be Egyptian, but … presumably the seven-day structure of the Jewish week came first, and later people began to call the names of the week after the names of the planets. Our modern week is a blend of both traditions.”

It really is quite incredible that the Jews new this long before chrono and biology were ever combined. Campbell cites Willy Rordorf’s book Sunday, which says the same thing more clearly: “the fact that the Israelites in the early monarchical period already knew this seven-day week is all the more astonishing, as this institution runs contrary to every natural arrangement of time. Neither in the natural processes on earth, nor the motions of stars, is a periodicity of seven days to be found.”

Wow! How did the Jews know this so early in human history? Its hard to deny the possibility of God’s revelation here!

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2 responses to “Wow Moments – Winston Churchill’s Afternoon Nap

  • Christine

    Josh, this is really fascinating stuff. I might just have to read this book.

  • joshthejuggler

    Christine,

    I found the book had quite a lot of interesting content, but it is definitely a technical introduction for the lay-person to the sub-field of biology. There were large parts of the book I skimmed, but I’m glad that I brought it into my public library.

    Another section of the book I loved was about how even inter-personal conversation follows rhythms, which explains why we often use “ums” and “uhs” more than we might in public speaking–they become rhythm markers to help the conversation flow.

    I plan to use that chapter in my Oral Communications course next year.

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