We live in a world of neutrinos. Thousands of billions of neutrinos—mostly created by the Sun—are flowing through your body every second. You cannot see them and you do not feel them; and they are very hard for scientists to measure.
Then, when scientists were finally able to catch them, there were fewer than they expected. But why? Was our Sun losing its power?
End-of-year AIP events around the country in November have brought members and supporters together to recognise up-and-coming physics stars and long-standing performers, and elect branch officers to help drive AIP contributions in 2017.
We are now on the final countdown to the joint Asia-Pacific Physics Conference and AIP Congress in Brisbane, with just five weeks to go before it kicks off on 4 December. The full program containing an outstanding mix of plenary, keynote, invited and contributed talks has now been released, many of which will be given by physicists from the Asia-Pacific region. It is still not too late to register.
As usual, October was a big month in physics. Congratulations to US physicists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz, who were awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”. We take a peek at some Australian research in this area of topological phase transitions later in this bulletin.
Closer to home, congratulations to physicists Michelle Simmons and Lloyd Hollenberg, whose work in quantum computing has been recognised by the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award and the Royal Society of Victoria’s 2016 Medal for Excellence in Scientific Research, respectively. Congratulations also to physicist Colin Hall from UniSA, who won the inaugural Prime Minister’s “New Innovator” Prize for leading the invention of the highly successful plastic automotive mirror.
As we near the end of the year, state AIP branches are holding their AGMs, and I encourage you to get along and engage with the championing of physics in your area. (See the full list below.) You may also consider becoming one of our office bearers or committee members to help the AIP promote physics in research, education, industry and the community.
The scientific media was abuzz recently with hints that a fifth force of nature had been seen. If confirmed, this would be big news, a revolution of our understanding of the fundamental workings of the universe. But should we get getting excited just yet?
The story begins with a team of Hungarian physicists bombarding a target of lithium-7 with protons, resulting in an excited state of beryllium-8. This then decays to the ground-state with the emission of a positron-electron pair. By examining the properties of these ejected particles, the Hungarian team was searching for the potential signature of an additional particle playing a role in the decay, an unseen intermediate that exists for only a moment before itself decaying.
It is an exciting time for Australian physics research, with five of the new ARC Centres of Excellence announced in September being in physics and astronomy. We briefly outline these four Centres later in this bulletin.
The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt, delivered his Innovation speech this month at the AFR National Innovation Summit. I encourage you to read this speech (linked to below) and vision for the next waves of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, including the strong, simple message: “innovation is about both old and new businesses”.
There is also more below regarding Minister Hunt’s announcements about CSIRO and more funding for quantum computing.
Congratulations to the physicists who were among the winners of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes announced this week, listed below.
Last month’s National Science Week was a resounding success. Many science enthusiasts came to hear particle physicist Brian Cox, space historian Amy Shira Teitel, and femtosecond laser researcher Eric Mazur, as well as attending so many other physics events around the country.
The AIP’s Women in Physics Lecturer tour meshed nicely with Science Week this year. In this bulletin we include a report from our 2016 lecturer, Catalina Curceanu. Also, we are now calling for nominations for the 2017 Women in Physics Lecturer. Details below.
This month is our bumper National Science Week edition of the AIP Bulletin. Science Week kicks off on Saturday 13 August and runs until the following Sunday 21 August.
Federally, things have settled down following last month’s election, with Government departments no longer in caretaker mode.
We are looking forward to working with Greg Hunt, the new Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. It was great to see him visit Questacon almost immediately after he was appointed and hear him speak on how critical science and innovation are to Australia’s future prosperity. His instruction to the CSIRO to renew its focus on climate science is also very encouraging.
The particle physics community was left shuffling its feet in mild embarrassment recently as the new 750 GeV di-photon resonance, which had inspired upwards of 500 submitted papers, turned out to be just another statistical fluctuation in the data.
The apparent resonance was first publicly announced by CERN in December last year, when both the ATLAS and CMS Collaborations, using new 13 TeV data produced by the Large Hadron Collider and collected by the two multi-purpose detectors, reported seeing more events than predicted by the Standard Model in data containing two high-energy photons. Significantly, both experiments saw this excess occurring when the two photons had an invariant mass close to 750 GeV (indicating a single new heavy particle at the same mass), with local significance measures of 3.9 sigmas (ATLAS) and 3.4 sigmas (CMS). Typically, a significance of 5 sigmas is required before a discovery can be claimed.
Are you coming to the Physics Congress in Brisbane this year? If so, a reminder that to get a significant discount on the cost of registration, the early-bird deadline is next Monday, 4 July. This is also the deadline for abstract submission. There is more information about the joint meeting later in this bulletin.
We are calling for nominations for four key roles within the AIP. Details, and the Executive’s nominations for these four roles, are given below.