Archive for July, 2012

Turing’s Sunflowers

This year marks one hundred years since the birth of Alan Turing, and in Manchester especially, there are lots of activities happening to celebrate the anniversary. I’m taking part in one such activity, along with thousands of other people and the Manchester Science Festival.

Before his death, Turing studied the growth of plants, as part of his research into morphogenesis. He noticed a tendency for seeds in flower heads to be arranged in a Fibonacci sequence, but never had enough data to prove this fully. So the Manchester Science Festival have designed a crowd-sourced experiment involving sunflowers to finish his work. This should help our understanding of how plants grow.

Alan Turing is well-known for his work in computing and for his part in code-breaking activities during the second world war. However, he also made contributions to other fields, including biology, where he looked at morphogenesis. This is the study of the processes that cause an organism to develop its shape; from the structure of a single cellular organism, to the arrangement of cells in a larger organism and even the structure of flower heads.

People are taking part in the experiment all around the world and at the end, the seeds from the thousands of sunflowers will be counted and recorded. The results will be announced during the Science Festival in the autumn.

I’ve documented the growing process of my three sunflowers from seed to flower..

Now, all I have to do is keep fighting off the snails until the sunflowers have finished flowering and the seeds can be counted.

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