Sabbath- and the rest

THIS week’s letter covers an important prophet, a king and various aspects of Jewish life and religion.

Sabbath: The seventh day of the week (Saturday) in the Jewish calendar. God ceased his work of Creation on the Sabbath (see Genesis 2:2, 3) and commanded that it be a day of rest and worship (see Exodus 20:8–11).

Sackcloth: Rough clothing made of goat or camel hair, worn as a sign of mourning, repentance over a personal sin or sorrow over disaster.

Sense and spirituality

NEVER out of print. More than once during our conversation, Paula Hollingsworth makes the point that in the 200 years since they were published, Jane Austen’s novels have always been available.

They have also been serialised for TV, and Elizabeth Bennet, Mr Darcy, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley have even graced the silver screen.

Aisle: be there

THEY are everywhere. Almost as though they reflect the omnipresence of the Almighty, from city centre to tranquil village, on bustling high street or miles from anywhere, the defining landmark of the British landscape is the parish church.

It's time to scan Q,R

THIS week’s letters include a queen as well as a foreigner who was to become an important figure in the ancestry of Jesus.

Quail: the type of small bird that God provided daily for the Israelites to eat during their 40 years in the wilderness (see Exodus 16:13).

I am being punished for what my son did

MUMS know, don’t they. I knew something was wrong. My son, John, had changed. Normally, he was outgoing and open. Now he was withdrawn and barely wanted to talk. I knew he’d had a letter from the police about an incident, but he said it was nothing to worry about.

Then I got a phone call from a police officer, asking if John was home. I said that he wasn’t and asked if I could help. She said that it was about a forthcoming interview and asked if I would tell him to bring some photo ID with him. She then told me that they already had his fingerprints.

We're only human

Professor Wyatt, what is your involvement in the debate on the future of AI and robotics?

I am co-leading a research project at the Faraday Institute of Science and Religion, Cambridge, called Being Human in a World of Nearly Human Machines. I am fascinated by the question: What does it mean to be human?

Deus et machina

WHEN classical dramatists wanted to resolve the plot, they would often have a deity descend on a wire to the stage to decide the outcome. The device was known as deus ex machina – ‘god from a machine’. The 2014 film Ex Machina focuses on a modern-day conundrum posed by wartime codebreaker Alan Turing: When will robots pass for humans?

Many sci-fi movies explore a future in which robots overcome humans and rule the world.

Grantchester mysteries uncovered

IN 2010, novelist James Runcie was thinking about what to do for his next book. He considered writing a story about a teacher or a doctor. But then his wife put forward a different idea. ‘She suggested that I write about a vicar,’ James tells me when we meet one lunchtime in London. ‘She said: “You know about vicars. You can create a loveable character you can return to. And writing about a priest would be a good way to remember your father.”’

The time of our lives

 ON hearing news stories last week about university researchers’ claims that ‘buying time’ can promote happiness, some people might have wanted to look into the 5,000-word article and its statistical samples – but then concluded that there just aren’t enough minutes in the day. The academics from the US, Canada and the Netherlands published their finding that in a world where people feel short of time, ‘working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase’.

Play turns spotlight on modern slavery

‘THE nature and all the circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us; we can no longer plead ignorance.’ William Wilberforce’s words may be centuries old – they were spoken in Parliament in 1789 during his quest to abolish the slave trade – but they are still poignant, and their message is at the heart of a play that will feature at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. My Mind is Free focuses on the slavery that still exists in the world today, telling the interlinked stories of trafficked victims in the UK.