Knowledge for the millions

Image courtesy of University of Delaware

Whilst developing my Personal Almanac App I have been looking for useful calendar related information to include. Given that the iPhone carries an appointment calendar and alarms, there is nothing useful for me to add there. Having added sunrise and sunset, the phase of the moon, and the sidereal time, I added the three main Biorhythms. Some people find these useful as a diagnostic or predictor, some don’t. To help my users discover which group they fall into, or to do their own research I also added a logging facility so that you could track your own scores at any time and plot these. So far so straightforward. To progress further, I thought I would try Biodynamics. Unencumbered by any proper knowledge in this area, it looked to me to be an interesting area. After all if the moon affects the tides, might it not affect the movement of fluids in the roots, stems and cells of plants, and given their sensitivity to light and day/night length might not the nights with significant moonlight have some effect on growth? It seemed reasonable not to disregard it out of hand. It also seemed to dovetail well with the purpose of the App, to provide ephemera pertinent to the day. So I set out to divine the algorithms for planting, taking cuttings, pruning etc. so I could provide a helpful “Today is a good day for …” page for gardeners. And that’s when the wheels came off.

In an area as universal as Agriculture, with a history as long as settled civilisations clearly any system or process which provided even a minor comparative advantage would surely be properly researched, documented and in widespread use. There would also be some science. You can always tell when there is science as there is detail freely available (Even for drugs in patent but perhaps not for munitions and such), of tests done, results achieved, replication by others and some diagnostic and prognostic tools. (Otherwise you might as well ask an economist or an intellectual). For Biodynamics and its affiliates there isn’t. There are books, courses and calendars you can buy, but no published algorithms for calculating or intuiting the best time to plant root crops or similar. Discounting the groups with more than a hint of Astrology and fairy dust, the long standing groups share no details. It’s like a medieval guild with knowledge hoarded and sold, never shared. tested improved upon etc. Lots of people (Who appear otherwise to be people whose opinions you might trust) seem sold on it and there are any number of Vineyards and local Market Gardeners who say they wouldn’t work any other way, but no detail as to how they go about it. Now I don’t know about you but that alone is enough to put me off. Clearly these people care very much about what they do and what they produce but how can we tell whether their success is due to assiduous preparation and application of the prescribed Biodynamic potions and processes, or just that they obviously care enough to try, and work hard and attentively and that’s what yields the results. So I came to two conclusions :-

  • I wouldn’t include any Biodynamics stuff in the App but I may include some old traditional planting and cropping stuff, and
  • If you have to pay to see it, it probably isn’t based on science.

As a final thought from what I perceive as a similar area :-

If the water which is soaked into the sugar pill in a Homeopathic remedy remembers its original tincture even after a dilution equivalent to a drop placed into the Atlantic, does London tap water have memories of the previous six sets of kidneys it has passed through?


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