Thursday, April 5, 2012

#Turing's #sunflowers

In addition to his many other talents: mathematician, codebreaker, electrical engineer, programmer, computer scientist, long distance runner... Alan Turing was also pioneer of bioinformatics - the application of mathematics to biology. He was fascinated with the mathematical patterns found in plant stems, leaves and seeds, a study know as phyllotaxis
   Turing noticed, for example, that the number of spirals in the seed patterns of sunflower heads often conform to a number that appears in the mathematical sequence called the Fibonacci sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89…). Turing set out to explain how this might help us to understand the growth of plants. To test this hypothesis the Manchester Science Festival wants we gather lots of data… and sunflowers are perfect for the job, so long as you can grow enough of them!
  Go over to their website and see how you can be involved by growing sunflowers this (northern hemisphere) summer. This is a great way of involving children in the Alan Turing Year.