Last Saturday was the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, and to celebrate his life and his contributions to science, the whole of 2012 has been designated Alan Turing Year.
It’s a long time since I was last at Bletchley Park and I can’t find any photos, but Alan Turing is of course famous for his contribution to code breaking during World War II. He’s also famous for being prosecuted for being gay, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK.
What I didn’t know until today was that, at the time of his death, Turing was investigating why the Fibonacci sequence (where each number in the sequence is the sum of the preceding two numbers) often occurs in sunflower seed heads. Since then, mathematicians have come up with some ideas, but the question remains unanswered. Which is why one of the special projects this year, Turing’s sunflowers, is inviting the participating of the public – to grow sunflowers and record any Fibonacci spirals they find in the seed heads. The results will be collated and announced at the Manchester Science Festival in the autumn.
It may be too late to sow sunflowers now (although, given the weather, it may not!) but many people will no doubt already have some growing. I have a couple of sunflower ‘Waooh’ growing in Malvern:
I got three plants free when I ordered my white saffron bulbs (keep an eye on the offers and coupons blog if you’re interested in more deals like that). They arrived very well-grown, but also very pot-bound, and one didn’t survive being planted out. The last report from Malvern was that the other two were surviving, and I hope they do because they are interesting plants. They have flower buds growing all the way up the stem:
So hopefully there will be some seed heads later in the year for me to investigate for Fibonacci sequences!