Monday, 28 May 2012

How and why to look after your Turing's Sunflowers

Our project Turing’s Sunflowers is in full swing. We’ve had some brilliant planting events at MOSI and other partner venues like Manchester Museum and over 8000 sunflowers have been pledged on the Turing’s Sunflowers website. It’s been such a fantastic response.

The next step of the project now everyone’s seeds are in the ground, is the “nurturing phase”. Every day the Festival team are checking our sunflowers at MOSI and at home, watering them, removing pests and trying to prevent slugs. Some of them are also getting a little heavy and leaning over, so we’ve been lightly tying them to stakes in the ground. We need you to do the same!

In this hot weather keep your sunflowers well watered, but be careful not to over-water as this can loosen the soil and your plant might lean over. Mix in some liquid feed about once a month for good health!

As well as inspiring people with maths in nature, and Alan Turing’s work, what we’re really trying to achieve is lots of data from everyone’s lovely sunflowers. When they are in full bloom, we’ll be launching the next phase of the project with details of the information we need from your you. The main things to look at will be the Fibonacci patterns in the seed heads, the petals and the bracks (the green bits on the back of the flowers).

It’s fairly well documented that you can see Fibonacci patterns in nature, but it really is anecdotal. There have only been a few small scientific studies on this and we want to collect a large amount of data (from about 3000 sunflowers to be precise) to form the largest study of this phenomena. The reason for doing this is the data will be useful to tell us how often this pattern is found in nature. We’ll make this data and photos available to others, so plant scientists and others can use the large data set for their own work. One of the principles underpinning science is experimentation and the replication of such experiments. It will help to further our understanding of the frequency of this pattern, what pattern or shift from the Fibonacci sequence we get if the sequence doesn’t occur, and perhaps why they appear in nature so ordered and regimented.

More information about how to spot the Fibonacci patterns in your sunflowers and how to count these patterns will be coming over the summer here on our blog and the Turing’s Sunflowers website.