Angels dancing on the point of a needle

My apologies for dredging up not only an old column topic, but also one involving medieval scholasticism! However, the mention of Thomas Aquinas and other sources overlooks another vast example of reductio ad absurdium (unless you read carefully): talmudic debates.
Christianity had no scholars to compare to the rabbinical debates over Jewish law, life and scriptural meaning. One small example which appeals to my scifi predelictions is a debate over when the day starts and ends. Daily observances, begininings of holidays and the sabbath all require an exact awareness of the beginning and end of the day. This was determined traditionally by holding a white and a black thread in one’s hand, and the moment you can tell the difference is dawn, when you no longer can, it’s sunset. But this changes from place to place; so what if you lived in a house that moved along with the sun? The rabbis speculated on a house that actually flew in the air - how would you tell if you were at dawn, dusk or any given day if the sun was in the same position relative to you? Well, what were they discussing here - air travel? Orbiting platforms? They treated these debates very seriously and the results are still applicable today, not only to the devout, but even to non-believers on a practical level. So how about it, kizd? Is theological debate always silly?
BPBob - “honi soit qui mal y pense”

Welcome to the Straight Dope, BPBob. Don’t worry, we actually kind of like obtruse intellectual discussion here, espescially if it’s with science fiction fans. To further such discussion, the article to which you refer can be found on-line at Did medieval scholars argue over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin?.

Incidentally, now that you’ve raised the topic, ya gotta tell us… What did they conclude about the start of day in such a flying house?

Well, shoot, you WOULD ask, wouldn’t you? Darn, where is my copy of the Talmud??? I thought I had it in my desk drawer… Gotta get back to you on this. Hopefully the rabbi isn’t on vacation! (Oy gevalt!)
BPBob “Respect my authoritah!”