Maths and nature link 'proven' by Manchester scientists http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-20116508

Maths And Nature Link 'Proven' By Manchester Scientists The largest ever research project into mathematical patterns in flowers has proved a link between number sequences and nature, Manchester scientists said. Hundreds of volunteers worldwide grew sunflowers as part of the project led by the city's Museum of Science and Industry and university. Scientists aimed to test the theory of Manchester-based computer pioneer Alan Turing, who died in 1954. Research showed most spirals of seeds in the flowers conformed to patterns. 'Wider implications.' Data from 557 sunflowers from seven countries was collected for the Turing's Sunflowers project, set up to celebrate the centenary of the mathematician's birth, and growers kept video diaries about their flowers' progress. It showed 82% of the flowers conformed to complex structures including the mathematical Fibonacci sequence - where each number is the sum of the previous two...

Hundreds of volunteers round the world kept video diaries of their sunflowers' development

The largest ever research project into mathematical patterns in flowers has proved a link between number sequences and nature, Manchester scientists said. Hundreds of volunteers worldwide grew sunflowers as part of the project led by the city's Museum of Science and Industry and university. Scientists aimed to test the theory of Manchester-based computer pioneer Alan Turing, who died in 1954. Research showed most spirals of seeds in the flowers conformed to patterns. 'Wider implications'

Data from 557 sunflowers from seven countries was collected for the Turing's Sunflowers project, set up to celebrate the centenary of the mathematician's birth, and growers kept video diaries about their flowers' progress. It showed 82% of the flowers conformed to complex structures including the mathematical Fibonacci sequence - where each number is the sum of the previous two. Alan Turing died before he could test his theory about the Fibonacci sequence

Scientists said this proves maths is an integral part of nature and could provide clues to help biologists understand how plants develop. Professor Jonathan Swinton, a computational biologist, said: "It's the most comprehensive information we have so far on Fibonacci numbers in sunflowers and we have proved what Alan Turing observed when he looked at a few sunflowers in his own garden in Wilmslow. "Now we need to work together with biologists to understand the wider implications of different number patterns for plant growth." The appearance of patterns in the phyllotaxis - the arrangement of leaves, stems, seeds or similar - has been studied by many well-known scientists, including Leonardo Da Vinci. The results of the project, announced at the Manchester Science Festival earlier, will be published in a scientific paper so further studies can explore the reasons why number patterns occur in nature.

Greater Manchester sunflowers to test Alan Turing theory

Fibonacci numbers can be shown as an ever-increasing spiral

Thousands of sunflowers are to be planted in Greater Manchester to try to prove a theory put forward by a mathematics genius. Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma code in World War II, was fascinated by mathematical patterns found in leaves and seeds. His theory that sunflower heads featured Fibonacci number sequences was left unfinished when he died in 1954. Professor Jonathan Swinton said a "big dataset" was needed to prove it. He said Turing's theory had been "along the right lines". Fibonacci numbers are a sequence which begins with zero and one, where each is the sum of the two numbers before it. The appearance of patterns in the phyllotaxis - the arrangement of leaves, stems, seeds or similar - has been studied by many well-known scientists, including Leonardo Da Vinci. Turing's study of the seed patterns in sunflowers followed that of a Dutch academic, JC Schoute, in 1939, who studied 319 samples before theorising his own conclusions. Turing, who directed the computing laboratory at the University of Manchester and helped to form the basis for the field of artificial intelligence, 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. 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. 'Missing evidence'

Over 3,000 sunflowers will be planted to help try and prove his theories in Turing's Sunflowers, a mass-participation project run by the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester Science Festival and the University of Manchester. Alan Turing was part of the Bletchley Park team who cracked the Enigma code

Prof Swinton, who helped develop the project, said the mathematician had tried to use the Fibonacci sequences in sunflowers "as a clue to help understand how plants grow". "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," he said. Project manager Erinma Ochu said the sunflowers would "provide the missing evidence to test his little-known theories about Fibonacci numbers in sunflowers." She added that it would be "a fitting celebration of the work of Alan Turing".

The results of the experiment will be revealed at Manchester Science Festival in October. This year marks the centenary of Alan Turing's birth. The occasion is being marked by a series of events around the world, including a commemorative postage stamp issued by Royal Mail. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-17469241

Maths and Nature

Published on Nov 9, 2012

Maths and nature link 'proven' by Manchester scientists http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-20116508

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