Posts tagged Around the world

Growing Alan Turing's legacy

Wednesday 18 May 2016 Tagged inAround the world, Counting, Weird & Wonderful

We’re proud to share exciting news about the Turing’s Sunflowers project, a citizen science experiment celebrating the legacy of Alan Turing in the centenary of his birth.

Thousands of sunflowers were planted by families, schools and community groups in honour of Turing as part of the study to explore number patterns in sunflowers and to help solve a mathematical riddle that Turing worked on before his death in 1954.

Famous for his code-breaking skills, which helped to crack the Enigma Code during the Second World War, and as a founder of computer science and artificial intelligence, Alan Turing later became fascinated with the mathematical patterns found in stems, leaves and seeds - a study known as phyllotaxis.

The spirals in sunflower seed heads often conform to a Fibonacci number (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55, and so on, where each number is the sum of the two numbers before it). Turing was one of a number of scientists who tried to explain ‘Fibonacci phyllotaxis’, but he died before the work was complete.

Professor Jonathan Swinton who led on the study has now re-checked all of the sunflower pictures and data sent in by growers and, with the project coordinator, Dr Erinma Ochu, published the findings and the dataset in the academic Journal, Royal Society Open Science, which anyone can download.

Excitingly in addition to finding sunflowers with Fibonacci numbers, in a few cases, seedheads with non-Fibonacci numbers or ‘nearly’ Fibonacci numbers were discovered.

This paper, not only includes sunflower pictures submitted by you, the growers, but also provides a new dataset, which will allow theoretical explanations of Fibonacci phyllotaxis to be tested.

The challenge now, will be to create mathematical models of how sunflowers grow to take into account the rare exceptions to Fibonacci patterns.

We really want to thank every single grower who submitted data, pictures, cake  and photographic exhibitions.

To download the paper visit:

Photo gallery

Janet's picture of Samsun

The Big Sunflower Project

Monday 18 March 2013 Tagged inAround the world, Weird & Wonderful

Butterfly on sunflower

We love hearing from people that use sunflowers to celebrate or raise awareness of a good cause. Recently Toni Abram contacted us about The Big Sunflower Project and how Turing's Sunflower growers could get involved... 

This year I am asking people to raise awareness of the rare neuromuscular conditions called centronuclear (CNM) and myotubular myopathy (MTM) by growing a sunflower.

My father and I were diagnosed with a mild form of centronuclear myopathy in 1998 and after our diagnosis, I set up the Information Point website to raise awareness and provide information and support to anyone affected by any form of the condition.

Illustrations of sunflowers appear on the website. I chose sunflowers for the positive outlook which I think they convey. I love the way they grow to such dizzy heights, as if they are on a mission to touch the sky and nothing can hold them back.

In 2011 I decided that growing sunflowers would be a good way to mark 10 years of the website and three years on, thanks to generous seed donations, the project is still taking place and has become a lovely way of engaging the CNM / MTM community and others in a fun pastime to raise awareness of these neuromuscular conditions, for which currently there are no cure.

This year some of the seeds have gone to a gardening tutor in Liverpool with lots of growing spaces to fill; to Leigh on Sea for some raised beds and a kitchen garden; to Leeds where they are to be passed around an allotment association; to High Wycombe for growing on an allotment run by four people with learning disabilities; and to a family in London, a firm of architects in Chester and a school in Tipperary for sunflower growing competitions. The project has been taken up further afield also and this year The Big Sunflower Project will be taking place in Canada and the USA too.

Get some seeds & get involved!

Seeds for The Big Sunflower Project UK and Europe are available in return for a stamped addressed envelope by emailing

Further information

Find out about the Big Sunflower Project here. Like the project on facebook and share photos on flickr.

For more information on centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, visit

Photo gallery

Janet's picture of 007 butterfly on sunflower Butterfly on sunflower

Patterns in Nature Exhibition

Tuesday 26 February 2013 Tagged inAround the world, events, Meet the growers

Turing Sunflower

We are really excited that two of the wonderful images from the Growers' gallery have been selected to feature in Edinburgh Science Festival's Patterns in Nature exhibition which is currently on display in St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh.

We attended the festival launch at the National Museum of Scotland at the end of January and had a look around the wonderful Patterns in Nature exhibition which celebrates 'the glorious beauty, symmetry and complexity of patterns and invites the public to walk through some of nature’s most stunning visual creations and discover the secrets of how and why these patterns are formed'.

Sunflower seedheads

Congratulations to photographers, Chris Foster and John Thurm, whose images are being enjoyed by visitors from around the world. And a huge thank you to the Edinburgh Science Festival team for getting us involved.

Erinma from the Turing's Sunflower team will be heading up to Edinburgh to talk 'crowdsourced science' alongside Galaxy Zoo pioneer, Chris Lintott on Saturday, 6th April 2013 at 17.30 as part of the festival's programme. Browse the programme here. We hope to see a good turn out from any Edinburgh growers!

Photo gallery

Sunflower spirals by John Thurm Sunflowers spirals

Sunday Planting at MOSI

Saturday 26 May 2012 Tagged inAround the world, events, Meet the growers

We were lucky to have great weather for all of our planting events at MOSI, including the staff planting on the 9th of May and the two public planting days on the 13th and 20th May 2012.

At the first public event lots of people came and helped us plant seeds in a growbox. The seeds are just peeping thrugh now. We were lucky that this Manchester group of lads came down after hearing about the event via twitter and facebook as they helped to plant the middle of the growbox which is a bit tricky to reach.

Meet the Growers from our public planting event

The following Sunday MOSI's very own Turing Character joined us out by the grow boxes to give an insight into Turing's life as master codebreaker and how to look for spiral patterns in the sunflower seedheads. We were also helped out by two very enthusiastic STEM ambassadors, Diana (University of Manchester) and Stephen(Cooperative Group) and from MOSI's Visitor Experience team, Louise, who knows her stuff when it comes to gardening. We planted all of the sunflowers grown by the Visitor Experience team and a few that members of the public brought in to plant.

The planting team with MOSI's very own Turing character and master code makers, Rory and Calvin

We were delighted to meet two master code makers, Rory and Calvin (in photo below) who loved hearing about Turing and codebreaking so much that they spent most of the afternoon dreaming up their own codes for us to crack.

Master code makersIf code breaking is something you'd like to try, come along to MOSI's half term Turing Centenary events in June and meet our Turing character too. Here's what Beren, one of the code-maker's mums had to say about the event:

"Thanks so much for the super day out on Sunday at MOSI: our 7 year olds were completely fixated by Alan Turing and the code breaking, they're still creating puzzles for us before and after school! It was a real inspiration and great for us to meet people so passionate about something (lovely website too-we've planted our sunflowers and waiting for them to sprout!)"

The experiment is capturing the interest of all generations - we were bowled over by a lovely lady who visited from Germany who came to plant sunflowers at MOSI and is delivering some seeds to a friend in Manchester before heading back to Germany. When Turing Sunflowers show up on the growers map in Germany - we'll know where they came from - so far there are over ten countries growing sunflowers for the experiment!  Are you on the map yet?

Sunflower seeds - a german perspectiveSunflower seeds - a german perspective

One of our partners, Caroline, from BBC Outreach was on hand to film clips from the planting event as we are hoping to make a film about the project working with BBC staff volunteers. More on that very soon, including how you can get involved in the film...

We've got two final boxes to grow on the railway at MOSI - we'll be planting those up next week with staff who have kindly grown sunflowers. We'll be posting pictures in the sunflower gallery as they grow and we look forward to your photos too. And, don't forget you can come and visit our Turing sunflowers anytime. We've even got some outdoor events lined up, including the Retro Bicycle Picnic in June and the Manchester Mini-Maker Faire in July.

In the meantime - there are only a few days left to plant before the end of May - so... seeds at the ready and plant away, its perfect weather to plant outside.

Here's fifty people who have planted their sunflowers and are sharing their photos and growing tips on twitter. To join the list, tweet @turingsunflower. There are also lots of people sharing their photos and talking about Turing's Sunflowers on facebook

Photo gallery

Erinma's picture of 13 Meet the Growers from our public planting event

Staff Planting at MOSI

Tuesday 15 May 2012 Tagged inAround the world, events, Growing Tips

Staff planting at MOSI

Staff planting at MOSI, 9th May 2012

We've all been really busy growing sunflowers at MOSI. Everyone at MOSI have been helping out and it starts long before planting seeds as Stephen Hoyle, Project coordinator in MOSI's Technical Service team explains...

"After working in MOSI’s Technical Services department for the past seven years, I’m somewhat used to receiving strange work requests. Over the years the department has had to transport giant noses and Doctor Who’s TARDIS through rush-hour traffic, completely re-build a train and squeeze a dinosaur into a building, amongst many other things. So, in February when Manchester Science Festival Director, Natalie Ireland called and asked us to come up with some ideas on how and where we could plant hundreds of sunflowers at MOSI, my natural response was: “sure!”

I’m not the most natural horticulturist, as my overgrown and shabby back garden at home testifies. So, throughout the glorious sunshine of March, I locked myself away in my office learning all about the optimum conditions and locations for growing sunflowers and occasionally stepping outside and squinting in the sunlight to monitor exactly where the premium spots at MOSI are for catching the sun. Once I had acquired the knowledge, I started work on designing and sourcing materials for construction of eight huge 13.8m³ sunflower grow boxes which will triple the amount of green space on MOSI’s historic, but cobbled and very industrial looking, six acre site. Hopefully, if the sunflowers grow as hoped, by the summer they’ll also add some beautiful, vibrant colour to the site.

Manchester being Manchester, the beautiful weather in March is now a distant memory in late April. The materials for the grow boxes have been delivered and some of the more unfortunate souls in the Technical Services department have been braving some horrendous downpours and frankly miserable weather to construct the boxes outside our Great Western Warehouse. In the meantime, my job has been to source around 30 tonnes of soil and compost mix to fill the boxes in time for staff and public planting days in early May. In the spirit of team bonding, I did get my hands dirty and a much-needed pre-holiday upper body workout by helping to shovel the soil into the grow boxes. We used 50% topsoil & 50% compost.

Grow box construction

Grow box construction

Filling grow boxes with soil

Over the past few months I have also been doing my bit to promote the Turing Sunflowers experiment. I have cajoled several of our suppliers into participating; my American father in-law was so enthused by my discussions with him about the project that he has taken it upon himself to rope in several of his friends in the USA and Indonesia into growing sunflowers and last night, my girlfriend returned from the supermarket with terracotta pots and sunflower seeds, one for her work and one for home. Which is probably a hint that I should get round to mowing the lawn in the back garden."

... Now we know where some of those international growers came from on the map! There's still time to plant... if you don't have a garden, come can join us this Sunday (20th May) at MOSI to plant some sunflowers in Stephen's grow boxes and meet our very own Turing character, played by Lee, who'll be giving an insight into Turing's Life, legacy and obsession with maths in nature. See you there!

Photo gallery

Erinma's picture of 12

International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day

Tuesday 1 May 2012 Tagged inAround the world, events, Growing Tips

Not got a garden? Well today, May 1st, is International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day and the perfect day to creatively plant a Turing Sunflower or two somewhere that could use a bit of brightening up. Every year on the 1st of May, the Guerrilla Gardeners have been encouraging people to grow sunflowers to brighten up neglected public spaces.

This video from Richard Reynolds from Guerilla Gardeners introduces the results of International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day 2010 of October 9 and gives and insight into last year's International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day 2011 on Sunday 1 May. It also gives a quick guide as to how to plant your sunflower seeds and pictures of guerrilla sunflower planting from around the world.

Sign up to today's International Event on facebook and add your photos to the Guerilla Gardeners' photo group. We'll be heading out with a pocketfull of Russian Giants to plant around central Manchester today and joining 2500 people signed up from around the world. Follow @Richard_001 for Guerilla updates.

Let's hope we can brighten up Manchester and the rest of the world with the results!

Thanks to @TallulahTangle for reminding us of this great event!

Happy May Day everyone.

Photo gallery

Julia's picture of Five