Dating an Eclipse

Imagine it’s 1178 BC and you’re in the middle of writing one of the most essential works in the western canon, when all of the sudden an intense eclipse takes form ominously in the distance, leaving an indelible mark on an important passage in book 20. As the exhaustive research of the mathematical physicist Marcelo Magnasco reveals, this is exactly what happened to Homer on April 16th of that year, when he was penning “Theoclymenus’s prophecy” and a total lunar eclipse fell over the Ionian Islands. The passage, as Magnasco suggests in today’s Big Think interview, thus acts as a description of the baffling phenomenon.

In order to illustrate this, Magnasco tracked references in the text to Mercury, Venus, and the moon in relation to the rotation of these celestial bodies between the years 1250-1115 B.C., a process which left this day as the only suitable date.

Sound esoteric? Maybe, but Magnasco’s research also represents a valuable merger between the sciences and the humanities, employing the tools of the modern era to shed new light on some of the humanities’ centuries-old academic impasses. Imagine, for instance, if an analogous technique were applied to dating, say, The Old Testament.

Magnasco performed this research as a hobby, and his day-job as the head of Rockfeller University’s Lab of Mathematical Physics has yielded a number of other equally fascinating findings. He has, for instance, been a pioneering figure in discovering how our mind actually processes the information derived from our senses, demonstrating, for example, that what we hear actually has a powerful influence on what we see.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less