Mysterious circles in the desert as explained by Alan Turing’s theory 70 years ago

Mysterious circles in the desert as explained by Alan Turing's theory 70 years ago

This was 1952, and Alan Turing was about to change mankind’s understanding of biology.

A Milestone paper, English mathematician introduced what is known Touring mode – The notion that the dynamics of some uniform systems can lead to static patterns when disturbed.

Such ‘order from disruption’ has become the theoretical basis for all sorts of strange, repetitive themes found in the natural world.

This is a good theory. In fact, decades later, scientists are still discovering Its stunning examples Unusual and exotic places: Real-world touring methods enliven local places that Touring has never had the opportunity to see itself.

Turns out to be the latest incarnation of this theoretical phenomenon Fairy Circles – Mysterious forms of desert grass growing around circular patches of dry soil, first documented in the Namib Desert of South Africa.

Drone image of Australian fairy circles. (Stephen Getsin / University of Cottingham)

The explanations for their existence range from myth to the world, and as a few years ago, their origins are still being debated. Initially, one thought that strange circles were due to climate activity under African soil – but the discovery of fairy circles outside of Australia complicated the descriptions, proving the existence of fairy circles.

Alternatively, scientists have suggested that fairy circles are the result of plants arranging themselves to make greater use of limited water resources in harsh, arid environments.

This seems plausible, and if true, it is another example of the natural occurrence of the Turing system. But there is not a lot of empirical evidence to actually support the hypothesis, say researchers, because physicists who model the Turing dynamics of these systems rarely end up conducting fieldwork in the desert in support of their ideas.

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“There is a strong mismatch between theoretical plant models, their A Priory Assumptions and lack of empirical evidence that model processes are correct from an ecological point of view, “said a team led by Stephen Ketchin, an ecologist at the University of Goodingen in Germany Explains in a new paper.

To bridge that gap, Ketzin and his fellow researchers marched using drones equipped with multispectral cameras to further explore fairytale circles near the mining town of Newman in the Bilbara region of Western Australia.

According to one of the team’s hypotheses, the touring pattern of the fairy circles is highly dependent on the humidity among the arranged grasses.

By analyzing the spatial separation of both high and low vigor grasses, and using moisture sensors to check ground measurements, the team found that healthy, high-vigor grasses were systematically more strongly correlated with angel circles than low-life grasses.

In other words, there is empirical data for the first time to suggest that fairy circles are a fit for Turing’s decades-old theory.

“The intriguing thing is that grasslands actively shape their own environment by creating symmetrical spacing patterns.” Says Gates.

“Plants benefit from the extra running water provided by the big angel circles, so it makes the arid ecosystem function even in the most severe, arid conditions. Without the self-organization of the grasses, this area becomes desert, just dominated by soil.”

According to the researchers, the grasses that make up the fairy circles grow together in a cooperative manner, coping better with their environment amidst the permanent drought of a very arid ecosystem.

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The team says more fieldwork is needed to further verify the math models, but for now, it looks like we may be closer than ever to closing the book on this mysterious phenomenon.

“Plants benefit from the extra water provided by the angel circular spaces, by creating spacing patterns from time to time.” The authors explain, “This allows the ecosystem to function at a lower rainfall value than plants.”

Findings have been reported Environmental Journal.

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Cary Douglas

About the Author: Cary Douglas

Wayne Ma is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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