Archive for category Science

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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Turning Thirty

I’m not sure what most people do once they turn thirty, but so far I’ve returned from a holiday abroad, (joint-) hosted two house parties, been to the zoo, explored the hidden depths of the city, started a (admittedly small) garden, learned dressmaking, discovered how to fight fires, been to a live-action role-playing event and signed up for a university course.

I wouldn’t mind but its only been a little over two months. At least I think I know why I’m so tired now..

I’ve got some annual leave coming up and plan on spending at least some of it getting some rest!

Now to go enjoy the sunshine..

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DIYBio: Manchester Microbe Map

Plates, originally uploaded by MadLabUK.

Manchester DIYBio (McrDIYBio for short and on twitter) is a new project, based at Madlab, supported by Manchester Metropolitan University and funded by the Wellcome Trust. It is part of a world-wide group, that is dedicated to making biology more accessible to non-scientists.

One Wednesday in the middle of May I found myself at Madlab taking part in one of their meetings. McrDIYBio have the aim of creating a map of microbes in Manchester. And on the evening I went we would be taking swabs from as many bus stops as we could and inoculating them onto nutrient agar plates. These plates were incubated at 25C for a few days and the results would be examined at their next meeting.

Photos were taken to document both the process and the resulting growths. Plans are being made to represent the results using various charts and maps. Exciting and certainly an interesting way to spend an evening!

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