Here are a few of the stories that we didn’t get round to covering in depth this month.
Turing’s Sunflowers Project – results
Manchester Science Festival’s mass-participation maths/gardening project, Turing’s Sunflowers, ran in 2012 and invited members of the public to grow their own sunflowers, and then photograph or bring in the seed heads so a group of mathematicians could study them. The aim was to determine whether Fibonacci numbers occur in the seed spirals – this has previously been observed, but no large-scale study like this has ever been undertaken. This carries on the work Alan Turing did before he died.
The results of the research are now published – a paper has been published in the Royal Society’s Open Science journal, and the findings indicate that while Fibonacci numbers do often occur, other types of numbers also crop up, including Lucas numbers and other similarly defined number sequences.
A new episode of the Math/Maths Podcast has been released.
A conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Pulse-Project.org. This week Samuel and Peter spoke about: Endre Szemerédi wins the Abel Prize 2012; Automatically tagging the World Service archive; Intel Science Fair; 72nd Putnam; The Spanish link in cracking the Enigma code; Greater Manchester sunflowers to test Alan Turing theory; e-petition: Put Alan Turing on the next £10 note; Five Math Things to do Before You Die; Music helps children learn maths; Alcohol boosts ability to solve problems creatively; Spiked Math IQ Test; Mondrian of Life; Journalism lecturer to take maths GSCE to test ‘dumbing down’; The Proof is Trivial; Angry Birds Space Mirrors Real Rocket Science; Rosenthal Prize; The New MAA Store; new NCETM contract; Reviving the Carnival of Mathematics; Google interviews: would you get a job with the search giant?; and more.
Get this episode: Math/Maths 90: Maths is to Mathematics as Math is to…?
BBC News are reporting that “thousands of sunflowers are to be planted in Greater Manchester to try to prove a theory put forward by a mathematics genius”.
The genius in question is Alan Turing who, in his work on mathematical biology, apparently theorised “that sunflower heads featured Fibonacci number sequences”. The BBC article explains that Turing:
wrote a paper in 1951 on form in biology and went on to work up a specific theory to explain why Fibonacci sequences appeared in plants.
However, he never had chance to test his theory…
The only surviving programs which he wrote for the Manchester Mk1, one of the world’s earliest modern computers, are devoted to proving his theories.
The BBC quotes Jonathan Swinton, who wrote a detailed article on Turing and Fibonacci Phyllotaxis in 2004, saying:
Since then other scientists believe that Turing’s explanation of why this happens in sunflowers is along the right lines but we need to test this out on a big dataset, so the more people who can grow sunflowers, the more robust the experiment.
The website for the project, Turing’s Sunflowers, part of the Manchester Science Festival, explains:
We need you to sow sunflower seeds in April and May, nurture the plants throughout the summer and when the sunflowers are fully grown we’ll be counting the number of spirals in the seed patterns in the sunflower heads. Don’t worry – expertise will be on hand to help count the seeds and you’ll be able to post your ‘spiral counts’ online.
The results will be announced during the Manchester Science Festival 2012 (27 Oct – 4 Nov), alongside a host of cultural events connected to Turing’s life and legacy, at MOSI, Manchester Museum and other cultural spaces.
Source: BBC News – Greater Manchester sunflowers to test Alan Turing theory.