Centre for Mathematical Sciences
Cambridge CB3 0WA
I became fascinated by plant development in the late 1970's, when trying to understand phyllotaxis. This led to a meeting with a remarkable botanist named Tsvi Sachs, who was developing his ideas about vein formation and canalization of auxin flow. I tried to cast his ideas in the form of mathematical models, and to understand what kinds of cellular mechanisms would be needed to make them work. I also tried to gain some insight into the way auxin moves between and within cells, and to estimate some of the rate constants. Then I moved continents and changed fields.
I can recommend returning to a field after twenty-five years. Science often moves slowly, but there is generally a cumulative achievement, and in botany this has led to a remarkable transformation. Today we can see entities that were only surmised when I was previously involved with the subject. There is now a rich abundance of signalling molecules, transporters, regulatory networks and subcellular structures that promise to give us a much deeper understanding of plant development. I am presently trying to catch up on this quarter decade of discovery, and to gain some insights into the way auxin seemingly controls everything.
I include below some papers from my earlier engagement with botany. I also include a paper from my alternative life as a physicist. In it, Richard Jozsa and I investigate how much information you can get from a quantum computer without switching it on.
Mitchison G.J. 1977 Phyllotaxis and the Fibonacci series. Science, 196, 270-275.
Mitchison G.J. 1980 A model for vein formation in higher plants. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 207, 79-109.
Mitchison G.J. 1980 The dynamics of auxin transport. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 209, 489-511.
Mitchison G.J. 1981 The polar transport of auxin and vein patterns in plants. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 295, 461-471.
Mitchison, G.J. & Jozsa, R. 2001 Counterfactual computation. Proc. Roy. Soc. A 457, 1175-1193.