Monday, 22 August 2011

Mathematical biology. The creator.

2012 is the year of Alan Turing's centenary. Not only was he the father of computational logic as we know it today but he also had a lesser known interest in biology. Specifically, he was interested in such questions as:
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • How are complex structures formed from simple components?
  • Why doesn't everything tend to a state of uniformity?
In 1952 he published a paper, The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis, trying to answer these questions. His ideas were revolutionary and not fully appreciated at the time. However, his paper was the start of a whole new field of mathematics, which 60 years later still uses his ideas as their foundation.

Over the next few weeks I'll be giving you an insight into how mathematics can unravel the mysteries of biological development. Not only does this extend our understanding of the natural world but it also offers us a new way to appreciate the beauty, simplicity and diversity of the world around us.

We start next week, where I will illustrate what a mathematician interested in pattern formation can do.

Just a small selection of the patterns which Turing's theory can produce. Taken from which gives you the highlights of Turing's weirdness. 

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