What do sunflowers, pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing and the Fibonacci sequence have to do with each other?
Turing is famous today for his mathematical and code-breaking skills and his work on the Enigma machine during the Second World War. But Turing was also fascinated by the mathematical patterns found in plant stems, leaves and seeds, a study known as phyllotaxis. After the war, this formed a key element of his research at the University of Manchester.
Turing noticed that the number of spirals in the seed patterns of sunflower heads and pine cones often conform to a number that appears in the mathematical sequence called the Fibonacci sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89…). This could hold crucial insights into the way that plants develop and grow.
The Manchester Science Festival team explain more: "Sadly, he died before his work was complete and since then scientists have continued his work, but to properly test these hypotheses we need lots of data… and sunflowers are perfect for the job, so long as we can grow enough of them!"
They're asking people across the country to grow sunflowers, with a view to sending in their data to the project when they flower. The results will then be analysed by the Manchester scientists.
So if you're up for the challenge, sign up here.