Top Down, or Bottom Up?

It’s been very warm here in middle England these last few days. So yesterday I went out and bought several trays of little plastic plant pots, 40 per tray, and a GroBag Plus of soil/compost. And today I half filled one tray with GroStuff, and sprinkled two or three of the tobacco seeds Leggy sent me into each pot, and covered them over with more GroStuff, and then watered them all thoroughly with warm water (I just somehow felt that the water needed to be warm). As an afterthought, remembering that Rose said she’d grown peppers from seeds, I planted one row of 5 pots with the seeds of a large red pepper that I’d chopped up yesterday, and another row with the seeds of a green chilli pepper that I’d also chopped up. Unfortunately, I neglected to mark which end of the tray had the pepper seeds in. So if they germinate and grow, I may well end up smoking dried pepper leaves.

I was going to germinate the tobacco seeds separately, on cotton wool or tissue, in a warm box. But I couldn’t find my thermostatic switch. It’s probably somewhere, buried at the bottom of some bag or box, but I don’t know where. But I read that Junican had successfully germinated seeds by just sticking them straight into pots, so I figured I’d try that method, after convincing myself that in the natural world that’s what happens. The tray is sitting indoors in a room at 20° C.  If it gets too chilly, I might put a hot water bottle under it. I’ve no idea how long to wait for green shoots to appear. A week or two is what I imagine.

My only other plant, the basil bush, is showing signs of growth. Tiny leaves have re-appeared on its stem where old leaves fell off, but only where the stem is green. No signs of new leaves on the brown woody stem further down.

It’s set me thinking about plants and animals, and reminded me of a question that was puzzling me last year, which was: do plants have a water circulation system? I know that water goes up from the roots through xylem pipes to the leaves, and sugary water goes down from leaves to roots through phloem pipes. But do the pipes join at top and bottom? I think they must do, but I’ve yet to read anywhere that they do.

After all, living things like animals have a circulation system. And for a long time the bright red blood in arteries was thought to be different from the dark red blood in veins, much like xylem and phloem. It was someone called Harvey who found out that the arteries and veins actually belonged to a single circulation system. That was in 1628, less than 400 years ago.

And water circulates on the surface of the Earth, evaporating by sunlight into the air, condensing into rainfall which flows down streams into wide rivers, which then fan out into deltas when they reach the sea. And since arteries and veins look very like rivers, I’ve been wondering whether they form in the same way as rivers. Nature doesn’t draw up plans of rivers, and drive stakes into the ground where it wants them to go, and then bring in bulldozers.  Rivers aren’t designed in that sort of top-down manner. They emerge out of a bottom-up logic, as individual drops of water roll downhill and merge into streams which carve rivers out of the ground. So why should blood circulation systems, which look just like rivers, emerge in any different way? Perhaps veins and arteries form in exactly the same way as rivers in the inner terrain of a living thing, with blood flowing downhill just like water. But then, rivers don’t have hearts, do they? Hearts are a bit of a puzzle.

I read today that a heart only starts beating in a human embryo 22 days after conception. So how does all the oxygen and glucose and water in blood get to the embryo’s cells before there’s a heart to pump it round? One answer might be that cells are tiny little pumps. After all, they’re little engines, pulling in glucose and oxygen, burning it, and pushing out carbon dioxide and water. And so maybe there’s enough power in all those little pumps to drive a circulation system for the first 22 days.

It’s a bit like boats. If you have a little boat, you can get around with a little outboard motor stuck on the back. And when you’ve got a bigger boat, you can put two outboard motors on it. I’ve seen boats with four outboard motors on the back end, all strapped together. But big ocean-going ships don’t have hundreds or thousands of outboard motors strapped to them. They have just one big engine. And the engine can be as big as a house. It’s more efficient using one big engine. It saves on fuel. Somehow or other, a developing embryo follows the same logic. It starts off with lots of little outboard motors in the form of its cells, and ends up with just one big engine – the heart. And the heart takes over the blood-pumping job from the cells, and relieves them of that work. So they don’t have to work quite so hard.

How many cells are there in an embryo after 22 days? I read somewhere today that human embryo cells divide every 8 hours or so. So they go 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 and so on. And so every day there are 8 times as many of them as there were the previous day. That’s pretty near 10 times, and means that after 22 days, there’d be 1022  cells. That’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 cells. But, hang on, I also read today that there are only 1013 cells in an adult human body. So embryo cell division rates must slow down a lot if women are to give birth to only 3.5 kg babies after 37 weeks of gestation. If not, pregnant women would simply explode a few weeks after conception. And their first baby would be their last baby. And in my theoretical model of ageing, cells are expected to slow their reproduction rate.

Anyway, today I’ve been toying with the idea that there’s no top-down blueprint design of living things, but instead a bottom-up emergence. Humans design things, but Nature doesn’t.

All this may seem utterly irrelevant, but in thinking about how 10 trillion cells come to form a single human body, with heart, arteries, veins, bones, muscles, etc, one is also thinking about how 7 billion humans might form a single global society or nation. Are human societies best ordered and arranged top-down or bottom-up? Our present lords and masters seem to think it’s done top-down. The EU is a piece of top-down political engineering. AGW is top-down authoritarian science, with the IPCC telling us all that we’ve got to cut our carbon emissions. And the smoking ban is a piece of top-down social engineering too. They have drawn up their blueprint, and we’re all supposed to fit into it.

And signs are these days that their plans are all beginning to go wrong.

About Frank Davis

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20 Responses to Top Down, or Bottom Up?

  1. Looks like the bottom frank:
    Osborne: UK has run out of money
    The Government ‘has run out of money’ and cannot afford debt-fuelled tax cuts or extra spending, George Osborne has admitted.

    In a stark warning ahead of next month’s Budget, the Chancellor said there was little the Coalition could do to stimulate the economy.

    Mr Osborne made it clear that due to the parlous state of the public finances the best hope for economic growth was to encourage businesses to flourish and hire more workers.

    “The British Government has run out of money because all the money was spent in the good years,” the Chancellor said. “The money and the investment and the jobs need to come from the private sector.”

    Mr Osborne’s bleak assessment echoes that of Liam Byrne, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, who bluntly joked that Labour had left Britain broke when he exited the Government in 2010.

    He left David Laws, his successor, a one-line note saying: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left”.

    Mr Osborne is under severe pressure to boost growth, amid signs the economy is slipping back into a recession.

    The Institute of Fiscal Studies has urged him to consider emergency tax cuts in the Budget to reduce the risk of a prolonged economic slump.

    But the Chancellor yesterday said he would stand firm on his effort to balance the books by refusing to borrow money. “Any tax cut would have to be paid for,” Mr Osborne told Sky News. “In other words there would have to be a tax rise somewhere else or a spending reduction.

    “In other words what we are not going to do in this Budget is borrow more money to either increase spending or cut taxes.”

    The strongest suggestion of help for squeezed family budgets came from the Chancellor’s claim that he was “very seriously and carefully” considering plans to help lower earners by raising the personal allowance for income tax, a proposal that has been championed by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.

    But he implied there would be no more help for motorists struggling with record petrol prices this spring. “I have taken action already this year to avoid increases in fuel duty which were planned by the last Labour government,” he said.

    The Chancellor’s tough words were echoed by Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, the foreign minister, who warned that Britain faced “accelerated decline” without measures to tackle its debt and increase competitiveness.

  2. Thye could drop the green taxes on the citizens! Thatd help the families!

  3. waltc says:

    They could drop the funding for tobacco control, too, but I believe they’ve already committed to funding for ASH.

    On topic:

    “They have drawn up their blueprint and we’re all supposed to fit into it.”

    I was thinking pretty much that this morning when I heard some pol proposing how to deal with the unemployed. His scheme was that in order to collect unemployment insurance, people would have to register for occupational retraining. I immediately thought of (say) a 50 year-old accountant who, instead of spending his time looking for another job in accounting,would then have to waste it learning auto mechanics or animal husbandry in order to pay the rent . The trouble with all of these top down blueprints is they start by thinking, in vaccuo, of “policy” and not of individuals and what they might actually want or need and how the “policy” would effect actual people and then building up from there.

    • beobrigitte says:

      They could drop the funding for tobacco control, too, but I believe they’ve already committed to funding for ASH.

      Drop the funding for the lot of them! The generation that grew up with tobacco smoke almost everywhere is also the one who is the greatest worry of any government as they are approaching old age PENSION AGE. And there are a lot of them alive and kickin’!!!!!

  4. Good luck in your gardening, but avoid using products by the US company Scotts, best known for Miracle-Gro. They don’t hire smokers and they gave their smoking empoyees a year to quit smoking or be fired.

  5. wolfpackcu says:

    You didn’t really think you could get away from us, did you, Frank?

    • Frank Davis says:

      Pleased to meet you, Ludwig Boltzmann.

      • reinholdfrombavaria says:

        OT and just for fun, I dare to translate Boltzmann‘s principle:

        Bring vor, was wahr ist;
        schreib so, dass es klar ist.
        Und verficht’s, bis es mit dir gar ist!

        Bring up what is true;
        make it clear when you write it down, too.
        And stand up for it till it’s all up with you!


  6. gdf1 says:

    Frank –

    When the peppers sprout – they will be an inch or so tall. When the tobacco sprouts – they will be teeny-tiny (you’ll have to look closely to even see them), Much like the seeds they come from. (You’ll easily tell the difference). That’s the problem with top down watering of the tobacco seeds – they are so tiny they could get washed away.

    Last summer I had great success with backyard grown tobacco.
    Good luck!

  7. junican says:


    You don’t need to cover the seeds with compost or anything. Just sprinkle them on the surface of the compost.after you have dampened it. If I was you, I would sprinkle a few more directly on top. Can you cover the pots with a hot, damp towel? The objective is to maintain a warm, damp atmosphere at the surface of the compost where the seeds lie. The advantage is that you do not disturb the seeds. I wet the towel with hot water morning and night, but wring it out so that it is damp but not soaking. I have germinated seeds in 60 pots in batches of 20 per week. All of them have a plentiful supply of seedlings. In fact, I have thinned out bowls one and two. so that only three or four seedlings remain in each pot.

    It took five days for the seedlings to show and a couple more days for them to get a little stalk with a couple of little leaves. Seeds may still continue to germinate as time passes.

    My pots are in a washing-up bowl. I put the bowl on a shelf over a radiator. The radiator warms the shelf which warms the bottom of the bowl. You could put the pots on a tray and elevate the tray so that you can slip a hot water bottle underneath the tray. I suspect that that would be very helpful. Maybe only refill the hot water bottle a couple of times a day. Once the seeds germinate, ordinary room temperature is ok and you can stop using the damp towel and the hot water bottle.

    You might try reading my ‘Tobacco Growing Diary’ which is linked to in the sidebar of:

    Good luck!

    • Frank Davis says:

      Thanks. I’ve taken your advice, and sprinkled a few seeds on top. Seems that light is important:

      Growing your own tobacco is so easy and not dissimilar to growing tomatoes. Place commercial seedling compost into a tray and soak the soil with water and allow the excess water to drain off. Sprinkle the tobacco seeds onto the surface of the damp soil. Do not cover the seeds, as they need light for germination. Tobacco seeds are very tiny, so be careful to spread the seeds as evenly as possible. Keep the soil damp being careful not to wash the seeds around when you water; better still water from below or use a mist sprayer.

      Start the seeds 4-6 weeks before the last frost, making sure they are kept warm during this period and not allowed to dry out. A typical propagator is ideal. At a temperature of 75-80 degrees, seeds typically take a matter of days to germinate; though at this stage they are still rather small. At lower temperatures, the germination simply takes a few days longer.

      • junican says:

        The odd thing is that I don’t understand why they say that the seeds need light to germinate. I’ve always covered them (the bowl, that is) with a hot, damp towel so they are covered all the time except when I re-dampen the towel. They germinate in profusion. Funny, that.

  8. jackiec06 says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that what we’re told by the powers-that-be to be true, is false; and what we’re told is false, is true. Here’s a few things that I’ve been looking at the past couple of days:

    This one is about your Lord James of Blackheath:

    This is a video by Thomas Sheridan, who I think is in your neck of the woods, about “The War Against Humanity”:

    And this one is kind of long and convoluted, but just makes a lot of sense to me. Some may be true, some not, but there is a lot of history woven in and fits my true/false paradigm:

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on any of this. Certainly won’t find this kind of stuff in the corporate media!

  9. Rose says:


    The tobacco is easy to grow and fairly forgiving, but the peppers need warmth night and day until they germinate, then they are fine.
    However, though the red pepper seeds may be OK, the green chilli may not be ripe enough.

    The way I collect pepper seeds is to cut all the way round them half an inch below the shoulder of the fruit, being careful not to sever the core with the seeds on, and hang it up by the stalk for about a month so that the seeds can continue to ripen a little longer.

    Good luck!

  10. Rose says:

    Scotts Miracle-Gro Joins List of Companies Who Plan to Fire Smokers
    December 9, 2005


    Health and safety
    Scotts has a dismal health and safety record, with its prolonged exposure of its employees to contaminated vermiculite (see below) demonstrating just how little weight the company gives to the welfare of its employees.”

    “Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. yesterday blamed a national recall of products containing an illegal herbicide on a rogue employee.

    The company said the unidentified female employee, who was responsible for obtaining government registrations for herbicides, sent invalid forms to state and federal regulators for a commercial fertilizer used by Scotts lawn service and for another product sold in stores, Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n’ Feed With Weed Preventer All Purpose Plant Food.

    Scotts on Wednesday announced it had stopped using the fertilizer and that it would recall more than 1 million units of the plant food.”

    “The EPA is accusing Scotts of breaking a federal law that requires all new pesticides, including herbicides, to be submitted for review and registration. This is done to make sure the chemicals pose no threat to people or the environment.

    The EPA said the registration numbers that Scotts used for these herbicides don’t exist. That leaves the company open to fines of up to $6,500 for each shipment of herbicides it made to stores and its lawn service. It’s unclear how much that could total.

    Gade also said yesterday that the EPA sent notices to nine big-box retailers that sell the plant food, including Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Lowes, telling them to pull the product from shelves.

    Gade said she thinks the plant food was on the market since 2006. She said the commercial fertilizer was about a year old.

    “It’s unprecedented of a major manufacturer to have this kind of problem,” Gade said. This isn’t the first recall the company has announced for inappropriate chemicals.”

    ScottsMiracle-Gro’s Partnership With NWF Was Timed with Tainted Bird Seed News – 2012

    “It’s not really a surprise that Scotts timed this particular announcement to best serve its own interests. reports this morning that the company is being fined $4.5 million dollars for falsifying records and knowingly selling over 70 million units of pesticide-tainted bird seed between 2005 and 2008”

  11. junican says:

    @ jackiec.

    I decided to listen to the video for a few minutes – and finished up listening to the lot.

    Sheridan says that people are waking up and recognising that there is a massive con going on, especially in the Western World; that ordinary people are being used and exploited and the fruits of the labour are being stolen from them; that there are people who are predators and psychopaths and do not give a damn about anyone; that they suck people dry and toss them aside. The answer, he says, is to disconnect.

    I think that is what many smokers are doing – certainly, I am. I am growing my own tobacco; I have in mind to start making my own red wine; I used to be a subscriber to the Daily Telegraph – kicked that into touch; fashion is meaningless to me; I take no shit from the powers-that-be, whoever they are; I buy only what I wish to and spend not a penny more than I have to; since the smoking ban in airports, I spend nothing there except on one cup of coffee; I trust no one except my own.

    But the predators have the law on their side, so we are limited in what we can do. Try to disconnect as much as possible and use the system to your advantage as best you can.

    On the other hand, and this is important to remember, the vast, vast majority of people are decent and kind. It is the Leaders and New Aristocrats who are the psychopaths.

    Psychopath: A person with an antisocial personality disorder, especially one manifested in perverted, criminal, or amoral behaviour.

    In this connection, I think that ‘amoral’ fits the bill.

    • jackiec06 says:

      Thanks for this, Junican. I, too, was just going to listen for a bit and wound up listening to the whole thing. I posted the link because I felt that some could relate and have begun to do precisely what Mr. Sheridan advocates. The smoking bans (and, for me, electronic cigarettes) are what woke some of us up.

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