Wednesday 13 June 2012
My Turing Sunflower
Unfortunately (if not rather predictably) the weather prevented me from observing the transit of Venus on the 6th. Dense low forming clouds prevented me from seeing this celestial event that will not occur again for over a century! I’m still rather bitter about this so let us hastily move on to the other sun related topic I had intended for this thread, Sunflowers.
I think its safe to say that we have now firmly established that I like science, but did you know that I am also partial to a spot of gardening as well? Well I am, More so if I can combine science and gardening together and that’s just what I have done! Like thousands of others I have planted a Turing sunflower in honour of the great mathematician Alan Turing on this his Centenary year as part of a new research project led by MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester)
Alan Turing the famous code-breaker, developer of the Enigma machine and the founder of computer science/ artificial intelligence in his later life became interested in phyllotaxy (the mathematical arrangements of leaves on plant stems) and the spirals on sunflower heads that conform to a Fibonacci number. Turing hoped to explain the ‘Fibonacci phyllotaxis’ but tragically died in 1954 before the work was completed. This year the University of Manchester is encouraging everyone to grow 3000 sunflowers to celebrate life of the great man and complete his work! Mathematicians at The University of Manchester hope to analyse thousands of sunflower heads to test the extent to which they follow the Fibonacci rule, to explain why this happens and the reasons why they sometimes don’t. The results will be announced during Manchester Science Festival (27 October – 4 November 2012) alongside a host of cultural events across Greater Manchester to celebrate Turing’s life.
© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world