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MYSTERIOUS circles in the desert can be explained with a 70 year old theory from Alan Turing, according to a new study.
A theory called the Turing pattern, created by the famous English mathematician, is now being used to explain strange ‘fairy circles’ of desert grass.
Scientists have been debating why and how they form in similar ways all over the world for years.
A team led by ecologist Stephan Getzin from the University of Göttingen wrote in their paper: “There is a strong imbalance between the theoretical vegetation models, their a priori assumptions and the scarcity of empirical proof that the modelled processes are correct from an ecological point of view.”
The team took drones and cameras to the Australian desert to examine the fairy circles for themselves.
This is a theory that some uniform systems, like desert grasses growing in different deserts, can give rise to stable patterns when they are disturbed by something, such as the desperate need to look for water.
Getzin said: “The intriguing thing is that the grasses are actively engineering their own environment by forming symmetrically spaced gap patterns.
“The vegetation benefits from the additional runoff water provided by the large fairy circles, and so keeps the arid ecosystem functional even in very harsh, dry conditions.
“Without the self-organisation of the grasses, this area would likely become desert, dominated by bare soil.”
The team added: “By forming periodic gap patterns, the vegetation benefits from the additional water resource provided by the fairy circle gaps and thereby keeps the ecosystem functional at lower precipitation values compared with uniform vegetation.”
Alan Turing was born on June 1912 in Maida Vale, London and from an early age it was clear that he was highly intelligent.
It was at Princeton that he developed the notion of a “universal computing machine” which could solve complex calculations.
At Princeton he also studied cryptology codes and cyphers which can be used to send secret messages.
Turing was asked join the Government Codes and Cypher School, a code-breaking organisation which is now known as GCHQ.
The organisation moved to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, which became the top secret home of Britain’s code breakers.
He was based in the famous Hut 8 and his most notable achievement at Bletchley was cracking the German’s ‘Enigma’ code.
The Enigma was a machine used by the German armed forces to send encrypted messages securely.
Turing was as awarded an OBE for his services to the country in 1945 and made deputy director of the Computing Laboratory at Manchester University.
He was charged with gross indecency and convicted under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.
He pleaded guilty and opted for chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones.
The scientist was rendered impotent and his security clearance was removed barring him for continuing his code breaking work for GCHQ.
Turing died two years later from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide – though there have been suggestions his death was an accident.
In 2013 he was officially pardoned thanks to a campaign backed by MPs and celebrities like Professor Stephen Hawking, Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch.
In other news, toxins in water produced by bacteria killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana this year, officials said on Monday.
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Alan Turing, Desert, Fairy circle, Theory, Ecosystem
World news – CA – Mystery over ‘fairy circles’ in African desert solved using Alan Turing theory