Nobel-winning topology and your chance to get involved: Physics in November

Warrick Couch imageWe 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.

Guests are also welcome to the AGMs, and to the interesting talks accompanying them. If you have colleagues or friends who are interested in physics, bring them along. Continue reading Nobel-winning topology and your chance to get involved: Physics in November

A fifth fundamental force? (Geraint Lewis)

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.

Continue reading A fifth fundamental force? (Geraint Lewis)

New physics research centres, and Congress deadline extended: physics in October

warrickIt 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.

Continue reading New physics research centres, and Congress deadline extended: physics in October

Eureka-winning physics: physics in September

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.

Continue reading Eureka-winning physics: physics in September

Queensland laser shows celebrate Australia’s forgotten Nobel

Rediscovering the physicist born a century ago in Far North Queensland who went on to win a Nobel Prize for his role in the invention of the laser. 
 
Laser shows and more in Prokhorov’s honour in Atherton, Cairns and Townsville
 
Australia’s forgotten Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Prokhorov was born 11 July 1916 in Atherton, Far North Queensland—the child of refugee parents fleeing Tsarist Russia.
 
When he died in 2002, Prokhorov was a national hero in Russia. Here, his Australian roots are largely forgotten.
 
Australian physicists are now working to change that. 

Continue reading Queensland laser shows celebrate Australia’s forgotten Nobel

National Science Week: physics in August

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.

Continue reading National Science Week: physics in August

What happened at 750GeV? (Amelia Brennan)

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.

Continue reading What happened at 750GeV? (Amelia Brennan)

Congress deadline and physics tours: physics in July

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.

Continue reading Congress deadline and physics tours: physics in July

LIGO Director coming to Australia this year, and Federal physics funding – physics in June

With Warrick away this month, I am taking on the task of writing to you on behalf of the AIP Executive.

As current AIP Vice President it has been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the wider physics community, beyond my day job as Director of the Australian Synchrotron – there is always so much activity underway in Australian physics.

Last month’s Federal Budget included new funding for some important physics infrastructure projects. See later in this bulletin for details, as well as an excellent analysis from the Australian Academy of Science (AAS).

The AAS announced the election of 21 new Fellows last week, including three AIP Fellows and one member of the AIP Executive.

Continue reading LIGO Director coming to Australia this year, and Federal physics funding – physics in June