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2018 Alexander and Leicester McAulay Winter Lecture Series

Australian Institute of Physics – Tasmanian Branch

From Mad Scientists to Eco-Warriors: The changing image of scientists in fiction and film

Tuesday 10 April 2018, 8.00-9.00 pm
Physics Lecture Theatre 1
University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay Campus, Hobart


Adjunct Associate Professor Roslynn Haynes
School of English, Media and Performing Arts, University of New South Wales

For approximately 600 years, from 1380 to 1980, scientists or their predecessors, the alchemists and natural philosophers, fared ill at the hands of writers and, later, film makers.

They were obsessed to the point of madness, or evil, amoral, arrogant, impersonal, and inhuman. At best, they were well intentioned but blind to the dangers of forces they barely controlled. They were Faustus and Frankenstein, Jekyll and Moreau, Caligari and Strangelove – the scientists of film and fiction, cultural archetypes that reflected ancient fears of tampering with the unknown or unleashing the little-understood powers of nature.

Yet, since the 1990s, there has been a trend by novelists to present scientists as more complex, realistic figures, many honest and admirable even if confused as to their role. They are eco-warriors saving the planet, or medical researchers discovering new cures for humanity. However, in films, the mad, evil stereotype endures. What are the reasons for this disparity?  What do they teach us about the difficulties scientists have in convincing politicians and large sections of society of the need to take environmental pollution and climate change seriously?

Further details: Andrew Klekociuk (T 0418 323 341, E

Bronze Bragg Presentation and Free Public Lecture

6:30 pm, Thursday February 22nd 2018

 Napier 102 lecture theatre,
Napier Building, University of Adelaide (North Terrace campus)


DavidOttawayGravitational Wave Detection and the Birth of Multi Messenger Astronomy”

Prof. David Ottaway,
University of Adelaide



The existence of gravitational waves was first predicted by Albert Einstein as a direct consequence of his Theory of General Relativity. These waves were first directly detected on Earth a little more than 2 years ago. These waves were created by the collision between two black holes that occurred over a billion years ago. The significance of this detection was celebrated with the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics to Weiss, Barish and Thorne. Further detections have helped solve the mystery of how gold and other heavy elements are created in the Universe. In this talk I will present an overview of the field of gravitational wave detection and how this has led to the opening of a new window on the universe.




The Bronze Bragg medals and merit certificates will be presented at the lecture.


The medal is awarded for highest achievement in Physics in 2017 in the SACE Stage 2 assessments, with certificates being for students who achieved a merit.

2017 Tasmanian Branch Public Lecture Recordings

Thanks so much to the speakers who presented our winter series lectures this year. Here are links to recordings if you were not able to attend or would like to revisit the talks (apologies for some glitches):…/f288734f-dd86-4db6-acd1-b74…/public (Sue Cook, 20 Sep – Giant Icebergs)…/f72c9681-6279-48f7-aba9-125…/public (Clive Baldock, 22 Aug – Radiation)…/b6997c3d-40b7-453f-9612-3ff…/public (Katie Mack, 8 Aug – Universe, AUDIO ONLY + video of Katie talking, but no slides)…/e5958f39-65e9-48e6-ac3c-aca…/public (Matthew Hole, 27 Jul – Fusion)…/46c71f35-84ba-4ec9-bbb0-c81…/public (David Jamieson, 17 May – Power)…/faee3c5b-524e-4eca-bf5f-ef9…/public (Nick Seymour, 6 Apr – Big Telescope, AUDIO ONLY)


Australian Institute of Physics – Tasmanian Branch

The Birth of Suns

Thursday 30 November 2017, 6.00-7.00 pm
Physics Lecture Theatre 1
University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay Campus, Hobart


Professor Mark Krumholz
Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University

We’ve all learned that space is an empty vacuum, but it’s not. The space between the stars in our Galaxy contains, on average, about 1 atom per cubic centimeter. That’s a better vacuum than the best vacuum chamber we know how to make, but there are a lot of cubic centimeters in interstellar space, so the mass of all the gas between the stars adds up to about 10% of the mass of all the stars put together. The temperature of this gas varies enormously from place to place in the Galaxy, with temperatures as high as
millions of degrees and as low as a few degrees above absolute zero.

In the coldest regions of interstellar space, over millions of years gravity is able to draw the atoms together into immense clouds that ultimately condense into clusters of new stars. In our Galaxy, this process produces stars at a rate of about 1 new Sun per year, and the stars it makes are typically the size of the Sun or a little smaller. While we understand how this happens in general outline, many fundamental questions remain unanswered. What sets the rate at which stars form? What determines the final sizes of the individual stars? Where did our Sun form, and what happened to its siblings, the stars that formed out of the same cloud?

In this talk Mark will describe what we currently know, and what we don’t, about the birth of new Suns.

Further details: Andrew Klekociuk (T 0418 323 341, E

2018 QLD Branch Committee confirmed

At the recent Branch Annual General Meeting (26th October, 2017 held at UQ), the 2018 Branch committee was proposed and accepted.

Our 2018 Committee is:

Till Weinhold (Chair) (UQ)
Joanna Turner  (Secretary) (USQ)
Joel Alroe (Vice-Chair) (QUT)
Igor Litvinyuk (Treasurer) (GU)
Scott Adamson (All Hallows)
Simon Critchley (Qld Health)
Austin Lund (UQ)
Nunzio Motta (QUT)
Carolyn Brown (USQ)

The contact email addresses for the executive positions are provided on the Committees page found here.

Feel free to chat (to) or contact our committee members if you want to be involved in, or introduce events that you would like QLD AIP to consider being part of.

Bracketing our AGM were two marvelous talks! If you would like to be on the newsletter that is sent out about events we are running, please contact our Branch Secretary to have your name added.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Anticipating the atmosphere: a look at the modern weather forecast process

The Australian Meteorological & Oceanographic Society,
Australian Meteorological Association,
and Australian Institute of Physics

present a Public Lecture

Time and place: Kerr Grant Lecture Theatre, Physics Bldg.,
University of Adelaide,

at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday 2 November 2017.

“Anticipating the atmosphere: a look at the modern weather forecast process”

Benjamin Owen

Meteorologist, South Australian Regional Forecasting Centre
Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Our complex relationship with the world around is no more apparent than that we share with the weather. On a personal level, weather has the potential to make or break our day, whether it be warm and sunny or cold, wet and windy. From a commercial perspective, weather plays a critical role to a range of important industries which include aviation, agriculture and energy. And probably on the most profound level, weather has the potential to deliver catastrophic destruction in a relatively short time frame. It is therefore unsurprising that we depend on weather forecasts to best prepare and respond to the future weather as appropriate.

Over the past 50 years, our ability to accurately predict the weather has improved dramatically. While our understanding of the atmosphere has certainly evolved over this time, the most significant advances have come through improvements in the tools a forecaster has at their disposal. Where the challenge of 50 years ago was trying to make a forecast from the sparse information available, the challenge today is trying to create the best possible forecast from the vast amount of information available. In this talk, we take a look at exactly how forecasters go about creating a weather forecast, considering the tools used to capture the current and future state of the atmosphere, and how these are used to translate this into the forecast that is sent out to the world.

Please enter via the eastern door of the Physics building, from the roadway between the Scott Theatre and the Hub Building. There will be a person at the door to let people into the building until 6:30 p.m.  Refreshments will be available in Room G10 on the ground floor from 6:00 p.m.

For more details, contact Murray Hamilton, chair of the AMOS South Australia branch ( If there are issues with access on the night, please phone 0478 453 642.

Understanding Dark Matter

The Australian Institute of Physics (AIP),
Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale (CoEPP) and
Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter (CSSM)
present the
2017 DARK MATTER DAY Public Lecture on

Understanding Dark Matter

Professor Anthony Williams
University of Adelaide


Tuesday 31st October, 6:30 pm
Kerr Grant Lecture Theatre
University of Adelaide


There’s more to the universe than stars, planets, asteroids, comets, and space dust and the familiar matter that we interact with on a daily basis. Despite the fantastic successes of our theories that have predicted the Higgs boson and gravitational waves, there’s a lot about the universe that we can’t yet explain.

We believe that dark matter, which we have so far only detected through its gravity-based effects in space, makes up about a quarter (26.8 percent) of the total mass and energy of the universe. Something that is driving the universe’s accelerating expansion – which we call dark energy – accounts for another 68.3 percent. The ordinary matter, like stars and planets and galaxies, makes up just 4.9 percent of the total mass and energy of the universe.

It seems likely that dark matter is made up of undiscovered particles and one of the major challenges today is how to combine this possibility with our already highly successful Standard Model of particle physics that so well explains the behaviour of normal matter.


Surviving the Red Planet: ‘The Martian’ and the Reality of Living and Working on Mars

The Australian Institute of Physics, the State Library and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics present:

            “Surviving the Red Planet: ‘The Martian’ and the Reality of Living and Working on Mars”

                 by former NASA Astronaut Dr Jim ReillyJR-astronaut

                     Friday 27th October 2017
6:15pm for 6:30pm start

          Braggs Lecture Theatre, The University of Adelaide

Register for a free ticket –


The recent best-seller novel and the blockbuster movie “The Martian” presented an adventure tale of an astronaut marooned by his crew and forced to become the first colonist required to “live off the land” on Mars.  The story is well done and, for the most part, technically plausible but what would it take to live off the Martian land?  What can Mark Watney expect if he really did exist and had to grow his own to survive? Can we make this work in reality?  Can we test that environment here on Earth?  If so, can we make “living off the land” work to reduce the mass (and cost) of exploring the Red Planet?

Mars is a unique environment and the more we explore with our robotic colleagues, the more interesting and challenging the terrains become.  The soils are enriched in sulfates and phosphides which can be good fertilizers in some forms but toxic in others.  The surface is very dry; so dry there is nowhere on Earth as dry as Mars. Mars also has essentially no geomagnetic field protecting the surface from solar and galactic radiation, therefore some form of protected facility will be required for the crew and any other living organisms required to support the mission. It has a very low pressure atmosphere composed almost completely of carbon dioxide, and about half the incident solar energy seen at Earth.

Instead of OJT on Mars, as Watney had to do, we will need to consider these requirements in designing future Mars mission parameters and objectives. We can build some analog experiences here on Earth, though none can fully expose the future exploration teams to the true Martian environment.  One of the few places that can get close will be on the Moon.  For this, and other reasons, an extension of the lunar research program begun in the Apollo heroic phase of exploration needs to be an international space priority.

Special Pre-lecture tour of the State Library Exhibition

‘From Outback to Outer Space: Woomera 1955 – 1980’

5:15pm for 6:00pm, State Library of South Australia

Register for a free ticket (first 40 registrations only) using the same link as above

Woomera put Australia into the space age. The ‘From Outback to Outer Space: Woomera 1955 – 1980’ exhibition will not only tell the story of that journey into the stars, but also what life was like for the men, women and children who lived on the ground. Presented by the State Library and the National Archives of Australia.

Sponsor: The Sir Ross & Sir Keith Smith Fund