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Not mentioned on The Aperiodical this month, May 2016

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.

More information

Manchester Science Festival – Turing’s Sunflowers project

Novel Fibonacci and non-Fibonacci structure in the sunflower: results of a citizen science experiment, Royal Society Open Science

Mathematical FRSs

Earlier this month the Royal Society announced their new Fellows, which include several mathematicians.

You can also view the full directory of Royal Society Fellows, and the sublist of Fellows elected in 2016.

Research facility dedicated to NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson is a mathematician who worked for NASA at the height of the space race. Her work included computing (by hand!) trajectories for early rocket flights and influences spaceflight even today, for which she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by Barack Obama.

The new Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility was formally dedicated to the venerated mathematician earlier this month, and houses advanced computational research and development in a 40,000-square-foot consolidated data centre.

It’s also been announced this year that Hidden Figures, an upcoming film about African-American women working at NASA will feature Taraji P. Henson as Johnson, as well as Janelle Monáe and Oscar winner Octavia Johnson. The film will be out in 2017.

More information

NASA Dedicates Facility to Mathematician, Presidential Medal Winner,  NASA Langley Research Centre.
Katherine Johnson, the girl who loved to count
She was a computer when computers wore skirts,  NASA Langley Research Centre.
NASA on flickr
Hidden Figures, on IMDB
Janelle Monáe & Taraji P. Henson To Star In Film About Black Women In NASA, at Vibe


The L-Functions and Modular Forms Database is a huge reference for data on all sorts of number-theoretical objects. It’s been going for a little while, but the creators recently declared the site “ready to use”, and went on a little press blitz.

In short, the Riemann zeta function is a kind of L-function, so one of the reasons people look at L-functions is the chance that doing so will help them make progress on the Riemann hypothesis. None of us understand enough about the maths involved to explain the LMFDB in any more depth, but plenty of people who do understand have written blog posts about it, so I’ll just link to those.

Numberphile made this video talking about how L-functions relate to the Riemann hypothesis:

More information

The site itself: L-Functions and Modular Forms Database

International team launches vast atlas of mathematical objects press release from MIT.

The L-functions and modular forms database project paper describing the project, by John Cremona.

L-functions database! at E. Kowalski’s blog.

LMFDB! at Jordan Ellenberg’s blog.

L-functions and modular forms database at Timothy Gowers’s blog.


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