All posts by ScienceInPublic

New Chief Scientist appointed, Dirac Medal awarded, and Hidden Physicist discovered

Welcome to the final bulletin for 2020 and my final bulletin as AIP president. At our council meeting in February 2021 I will step aside as we welcome Professor Sven Rogge (UNSW Physics) as incoming president, and Professor Nicole Bell (UniMelb Physics) as vice president.

I wish them all the very best. I’m thrilled that the AIP has such a solid leadership team moving forward. Also, can I say what an honour and privilege it was to serve in this role. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard over the past few years to make the AIP so strong.

Last month saw some significant awards and appointments, not the least of which was the welcome news that former AIP president Dr Cathy Foley is set to become Australia’s next Chief Scientist. See our story below.

The AIP was also proud to be co-sponsor of this year’s Dirac Medal, which was presented to Professor Susan Scott from ANU’s Department of Quantum Science.

ANSTO’s new Centre for Accelerator Science has a new leader, Dr Ceri Brenner.

You’ll find more about her, Professor Scott and a slew of other physicists doing marvellous things in this issue.

You’ll also get to meet this month’s Hidden Physicist – Tasmania’s Nicola Ramm – and catch up on the latest physics research happening around the country.

Plus, there are some jobs to be found, and another story from the Australian Physicist vaults.

And a reminder that it’s time to renew your AIP membership. For a quick and easy way to do so, please go here.

Finally, this month’s picture was taken for a media release on making diamonds at room temperature. You’ll find the story below.

I wish you a relaxed and enjoyable holiday period, and sincerely hope that 2021 will be a calmer year for us all.   

Kind regards,
Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading New Chief Scientist appointed, Dirac Medal awarded, and Hidden Physicist discovered

The PM’s Prizes, online gigs galore, new links with Korea and more physics news for November

Since our last bulletin we had the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics which was of course awarded to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for work on Black Holes. I was delighted to see Andrea Ghez being honoured as the fourth women to win a Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, announced last week, saw physics very well represented. Congratulations to David Blair, Susan Scott, David McClelland, Peter Veitch and Xiaojing Hao. I was especially thrilled to hear this news given David and Susan joined us online last month to discuss the result of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics. You’ll find a link to a recording below if you missed it.

Coming up this week there are several online AIP talks and panels around the country, including three Zoom events and talks organised by the NSW branch. This replaces the regular AIP Industry Day at CSIRO and there is a strong career development theme in the first event Three Faces of Physics on Tuesday 3 November. Register here. We are also hosting an online discussion with Dietmar Dommenget from ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes on November 6, at 11am AEST. See below.

Read on, too, to meet this month’s latest Hidden Physicist, Leon Smith.

For physics film buffs, we have five double passes to give away to the new movie, Radioactive, which charts the life of Marie Curie.

We are also looking for an eye-catching physics picture for our 2021 letterhead – please send in your physics pics now! In 2020 we featured ANU Physicist Cormac Corr and a pretty purple plasma. What physics will feature in the AIP’s 2021 communications? See below for details.

On more serious matters, the AIP is proud to announce a new working relationship with a prestigious physics institution in Korea, and our colleagues over at Science & Technology Australia have just released an important survey of the fears and plans of Australian scientists. Details below.

Teachers and researchers might like to note that we’ve added a new section to our website, which is chock full of teaching tools, information packages and handy contacts. Check it out at https://aip.org.au/resources-2/

Finally, I was delighted to celebrate ‘double donut day’ (zero COVID cases, zero COVID deaths) in Victoria last week and the resulting relaxing of lockdown. Thus, this month’s image is of the Australian Synchrotron – Melbourne’s biggest double donut (as pointed out in this tweet by Jessica Hamilton). Well done Victorians and let’s keep up the physical distancing, handing washing, and mask wearing!

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading The PM’s Prizes, online gigs galore, new links with Korea and more physics news for November

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for Black Holes

ONLINE EVENT: Wed 21 Oct 11am AEDT

Presented by Susan Scott and David Blair

Register here: https://bit.ly/37buQ35

In the first half of the talk Susan will outline the development of the concept of singularities and the related notion of a black hole in General Relativity theory. She will describe Roger Penrose’s spectacular theoretical breakthrough in this field for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. David will briefly touch on Penrose’s other work, and then present an overview of the quest to explore the centre of the Milky Way, and why it was of special interest to gravitational wave physicists. He will review the seminal contributions by Australian radio astronomy pioneers, and then outline the discoveries made by Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for which they were also co-recipients of the Nobel Prize.

Continue reading The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for Black Holes

The Nobel approaches, the Ig Nobels pass, Eureka Prize finalists, physics poetry, ET and more in October

With the Nobel Prizes to be announced shortly here is a fun Nobel Physics trivia question for you. Who is the only person to win the Physics Prize twice? When the 2020 Prize is announced we will be staging an online event to celebrate and discuss the science behind it so watch out for that announcement.

As usual the Ig Nobel’s were a stellar list of “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Congratulations to Swinburne University’s Ivan Maksymov and Andrey Pototsky, a physicist and mathematician, for their award on their work on vibrating worms! See more below.

The AIP has been active in defence of research and teaching, and is quoted twice in the recent report of the Senate Inquiry into the Federal Government’s proposed job-ready graduates legislation. Read on for details.

I was pleased to see that physics features heavily in the finalists for this year’s Eureka Prizes. You’ll find several examples below. Good luck to all involved! And don’t forget the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, coming up at the end of the month.

In this month’s bulletin you’ll meet our latest Hidden Physicist, Shermiyah Rienecker. I was particularly fascinated to hear how Shermiyah is working on culturally appropriate approaches for BreastScreen Australia with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as part of the Closing the Gap initiative. One more amazing #PhysicsGotMeHere story!

You’ll also find a rundown of what’s in the current issue of the AIP’s Australian Physics magazine, along with an excellent contribution to the little-known literary genre of physics poetry.

Find out, too, what was making headlines in the magazine four decades ago.

Australian physics in the news includes impossible black holes, no signs of ET, and vibrating worms.

And keep scrolling to discover news from Science & Technology Australia, and some really interesting jobs open in the sector.

The answer to my Nobel Prize trivia question, by the way, is John Bardeen. He won in 1956 for the discovery (with William Shockley and Walter Brattain) of the transistor effect. He won again in 1972 (with Leon Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer) for the theory of superconductivity.

Finally, this very challenging year has entered its final quarter. We are all thinking about our fellow Australians in Victoria and it is really great to see the COVID numbers coming right down. I hope the warmer weather is a pleasant it can be, given the circumstances.

Kind regards,
Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading The Nobel approaches, the Ig Nobels pass, Eureka Prize finalists, physics poetry, ET and more in October

AIP fights physics education cuts, photovoltaics and machine-learning, Hidden Physicists, and physics springs into September

Over the past month, the AIP has been lobbying against proposed proposed Federal Government legislation set to significantly cut funding for science degrees in Australia. We believe this will impoverish both teaching and research  ultimately damaging Australia’s ability to produce top-quality physics graduates.

We are grateful to all the members who responded to our call for feedback during the government’s short consultation period. I wish to acknowledge the hard work of A/Prof Gerd Schröder-Turk, the AIP Policy officer who pulled together the AIP submission under difficult circumstances.  It was great to see our submission picked up by many news outlets, including the ABC and Campus Morning Mail. This month’s picture is a screen shot of the story in the Financial Review. See more on this issue below.

This month’s AIP live-streamed event is from Exciton Science and focusses on machine learning to predict the properties of photovoltaic material. Read on for details. And if you missed the 2020 Einstein Lecture ‘The World According to Physics’, co-organised by the AIP NSW branch, you can catch it here.

Read on to meet this month’s Hidden Physicist – communicator and comedian Phil Dooley.

Check out our new regular feature – From the Vault, from the AIP’s magazine, Australian Physics. Our Australian Physics editors, Peter Kappen and David Hoxley, are also seeking articles, poems, cartoons, book reviews – and an editorial assistant! Read on for details.

As always, in this edition of the bulletin you’ll find lots of physics news, physics awards and some excellent physics jobs.

Finally, I am sure many of you will join me in rejoicing that winter 2020 is officially over. Happy Wattle Day!

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading AIP fights physics education cuts, photovoltaics and machine-learning, Hidden Physicists, and physics springs into September

the photonics economy, quantum computing, alien life, the search for a lecturer and more physics fun in August

One of our cognate societies – the newly rebranded Australian and New Zealand Optical Society – has launched a report called The Future is Bright: The Photonics Industry in New Zealand and Australia.

It is impressive to see the scope and impact of this industry. I think that in the post-COVID-19 Australian-based manufacturing sector, it will become even more important.

There’s good news on the recommencement of visa processing for international students – even though the borders remain closed. This is an issue that Science & Technology Australia, of which the AIP is a member, has highlighted with the Federal Government. See more below.

Outcomes for the ARC Future Fellowships were announced last week. We congratulate the physicists who were successful. Read on for details.

If you ask most people to nominate their two most exciting areas of science, chances are you’d get a lot of votes for quantum computing and looking for alien life.

Well, we’ve got both in this bulletin, with AIP lectures on solutions to scaling up the first and better ways to hunt for the second.

You’ll also get to meet our latest Hidden Physicist – NSW education analyst and LGBTQ activist Dr Sarah Midgely OAM.

We’re looking for an outstanding female physicist to become our 2021 Women in Physics lecturer. See below for more details.

Read on, too, for news on some upcoming events and awards, and some of the great media stories generated by Australian physicists in recent weeks.

Good luck to all the students and staff heading back to universities around Australia for classes – both in person and virtually. 

This month’s pic features me lecturing at ANU. I’m wearing a mask to protect my students as I teach my class. As a native of Victoria, my thoughts are with those in Melbourne battling the current surge in COVID-19 cases. Masks have been shown to reduce the spread of droplets and aerosols while we talk and breathe, and it makes sense we all start to accept them as part of daily life.

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading the photonics economy, quantum computing, alien life, the search for a lecturer and more physics fun in August

Asia’s toughest physics competition; understanding the foldable mobile phone, the first image of a black hole; and more physics in May

Join our election campaign to ‘solve it with science’. The AIP has signed up to Science and Technology Australia’s call for a science focus this election, alongside 100 other leaders from the science and technology sector. The call to action is in response to declines in research funding, falling business investment, freezes to government support of universities and insufficient STEM graduates to meet future demands. You can support the campaign by joining the conversation on Twitter at #SolveitwithScience or by writing to or meeting your local member or candidates. Read more on the STA website and in last month’s bulletin.

See Pegah Maasoumi in Queensland in August talking about the mystery of foldable mobile phones and next-gen apartment windows that can produce light. Congratulations and thank you Pegah, our 2019 John Mainstone Youth Lecturer and past Chair of our Women in Physics Group.

Our newly-elected Chair of the Women in Physics Group is nanotechnologist Victoria Coleman. Victoria has a strong interest in equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM and we’re delighted that she is taking on this role.

Last month I was lucky enough to attend the announcement of the Australian team for the Asian Physics Olympiad—eight teens who will compete against more than 200 of the region’s smartest kids in Asia’s toughest physics competition (pictured right). It’s the first time the Olympiad will be held in Australia. We wish Stephen, Benjamin, Min-Je, Alexander, Jessie, William, Simon and Rosemary the best of luck in May!

Like me, I’m sure physicists around the country were very excited about the first image of a black hole released in April by the Event Horizon Telescope team. Although there weren’t any Australians involved, the picture was the result of almost a decade of preparation and involved a global collaboration of researchers. It’s an example of the amazing, seemingly impossible things that can be achieved with collaboration. Read more about the announcement below, or for a quick recap take a look at this great comic produced by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

Also this month: apply for the Women in STEM early career grant and paper writing retreat, take part in a survey for ECRs to help improve job satisfaction, read more physics-related jobs in the new Jobs Corner section and put yourself forward to be a presenter at Physics in the Pub in Canberra or Melbourne.

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Asia’s toughest physics competition; understanding the foldable mobile phone, the first image of a black hole; and more physics in May

Cleaning the Sydney Harbour Bridge with lasers; make science a focus this election; and more physics in April

It’s been an exciting month for Australian physics. And particularly for women in physics. We started with a call for gender balance around the world on International Women’s Day earlier this month. The AIP is striving to achieve gender balance in a variety of ways, including the Women in Physics group and annual Women in Physics lecture tour that supports a female physicist touring the country. 

I’m very excited to announce the Women in Physics lecturer for 2019: a talented physicist who will be spreading the good word about how neutrons can save the world. Read on to see who it is! 

We thank Pegah Maasoumi for her time as the Chair of the Women in Physics group for the last two years. We are looking for a new chair of this committee. Please send in an expression of interest if you’d like to take on this important role.

The cut off to renew your AIP membership was last Sunday, but it’s easy to renew (just email aip@aip.org.au with your request). If you need your memory jogged about all the benefits of being a member of AIP, read on below.

Jacq Romero is on a winning streak and will receive $1 million in combined funding over three years for the Westpac Research Fellowship. Our 1999 Women in Physics lecturer, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, has donated her £2.3m Breakthrough Prize to the Institute of Physics to a new PhD scholarship fund to encourage greater diversity in physics. Register your interest to keep up to date with the Scholarship Fund.

I attended Science and Technology Australia’s (STA) President and CEO Forum in Sydney last week. STA represents more than 77,000 scientists and technology workers and is heavily focused on promoting science in the upcoming election cycle. We added the AIP logo to the STA media release as part of the #SolveitwithScience campaign (along with those of almost 100 other Australian science and technology organisations!) I encourage you to support the campaign by writing to or meeting your local member or candidates. More below.

The 14th Asia-Pacific Physics Conference will be held in Malaysia from 17-22 November. Only eight Australians are registered so far and it would be great to see a stronger Australian cohort. Last time this conference was held in Australia. Submit your abstracts before Monday 15th April.

Also in April: the largest telescope in Victoria officially opened, physicists found that quantum tunnelling is instantaneous, National Science Week grants are open and it’s prize season so don’t forget to nominate, or encourage others to nominate today.

Finally, as part of a push to make the AIP a useful resource for our student and ECR members, keep an eye out in our new section called Jobs Corner. We’re going to start featuring physics-related jobs. Send us through any opportunities you’d like to advertise and we’ll include a link for free.

Kind regards,
Jodie Bradby

President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Cleaning the Sydney Harbour Bridge with lasers; make science a focus this election; and more physics in April

Our new president; commercialising physics; the infinite shapes of particles of light; and more physics news in March

It is with great enthusiasm and delight that I step into the role of the new President of the AIP. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you over the coming years at AIP events. I would like to take this opportunity to first warmly thank Andrew Peele for his hard work and dedication to the role of President over the past two years. Big shoes to fill.

It has been a busy start to the year. The AIP was recently involved in the review of the Australian decadal plan for Australian Physics and in mid-February the AIP had our Council Meeting and AGM. Given that the AIP has seven state branches, eighttopical groups and nine Cognate Societies council meetings are always a very full two days. The scope of activities undertaken over the past 12 months was very impressive, as are many of the exciting events currently being planned for this coming year.

The council meeting was also a chance to welcome our new Vice-President Sven Rogge from UNSW to the AIP national executive. Sven will take over as AIP President for two years from 2021—so the future is looking bright. We also fondly farewelled Warrick Couch as he stepped down from the national executive as Immediate Past President. You can read more on the Exec team below.

The review of the Physics Decadal Plan at the Shine Dome also was a full two days. You can see my recap below. We’re aiming to publish the final review report by October and will need the support of the Australian Physics community to review and then ultimately implement this plan—so watch this space!

Last month the independent review into the Defence Trade Controls Act was praised by Universities Australia, the Group of Eight, the Australian Academy of Science and others. The AIP hopes that Australia adopts the recommendations of the review of the Defence Trade Controls Act—a sensible and workable approach that enables researchers to interact smoothly with our colleagues overseas and in industry without compromising Australia’s national security.

And if you’ve been thinking about commercialising your physics research but need some tips, the very successful entrepreneur Andre Luiten offers some suggestions as head of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) at the University of Adelaide and co-founder of Cryoclock Pty Ltd. More below.

It’s my pleasure to congratulate quantum physicist and AIP member Jacq Romero who has been selected as a L’Oréal International Rising Talent. Congratulations on this wonderful achievement—hot on the heels of her AIP Ruby Payne-Scott Award! This year we’ll be featuring science prizes, job opportunities and conferences, especially for our early-career and student members. Please spread the word and encourage others to get involved with the AIP.

Follow the AIP at @ausphysics on Twitter and Facebook for updates on physics news, events, prizes and job opportunities around the country.

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au Continue reading Our new president; commercialising physics; the infinite shapes of particles of light; and more physics news in March

Hear Elisabetta Barberio speak about Higgs boson at the AGM in Melbourne; AIP Congress highlights; and the world’s thinnest hologram

The AGM is a great opportunity for members to give feedback on the future direction of the AIP. It will be held at The University of Melbourne on February 11th and 12th 2019. Everyone is welcome to attend and particle physicist Elisabetta Barberio will give a public lecture about the Higgs boson and the search for physics beyond the standard model.

On Australia Day four physicists were appointed to the Australian Honour Roll. Congratulations to Elaine Sadler, Ron Ekers, David Malin and Albert Pittock. Saturday also marked the end to quantum physicist Michelle Simmons’ tenure as 2018 Australian of the Year. Congratulations Michelle on a wonderful year.

Congratulations to the remarkable Tanya Monro on her new appointment as Chief Scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Group. It’s 20 years since Tanya won the Bragg Gold Medal for the best physics PhD thesis. We wish you all the best in the new role.

We had a fantastic conclusion to 2018 with 789 attendees at our Congress in Perth, including a dozen excellent plenary speakers from around the world. Read more below about the plenary talks about gravitational wave detection, metamaterials that can act as invisibility cloaks, and holographic optical tweezers. Our next Congress will be in 2020 in Adelaide—thank you to Andre Luiten and his team for hosting.

Congratulations to the six 2018 AIP medallists: including particle physicist Elisabetta Barberio, optical and quantum physicist Jacqui Romero, Michael Johnston for his significant contributions to applied science, Andre Luiten for his leadership in commercialising breakthrough research to support industry needs, Yevgeny Stadnik for their thesis on dark matter and fundamental constants, and Maria Parappilly for significant contributions to physics education in Australia. More on those awards below and a story about how Maria is making physics more accessible to students.

There’s another chance to have your say on the future of physics following the meeting about the Physics Decadal Plan at the 2018 AIP Congress. The National Committee for Physics will be meeting in Canberra in the coming weeks to conduct the mid-term plan review, so please have your say in the survey online.

RMIT’s Min Gu has been recognised by the International Society of Optics and Photonics for his work designing the world’s thinnest hologram. More below.

We’re also helping circulate the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies’ bulletin to raise their profile. You can subscribe to their bi-monthly bulletin online, which aims to promote the research developments and activities in the field of physics in the Asia Pacific region.

This is my last bulletin as President of the AIP. Next month you will be hearing from Jodie Bradby, who will be taking over the reins.
It has been a busy and enjoyable two years where I think we have continued the good work of previous committees in communicating the vital importance of physics for all Australians. My profound thanks and respect goes to my fellow executive committee members, to our branch and other committees around the country, and to you—our active and innovative physics community!

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this introduction stated that it was 11 years ago since Tanya Monro won the Bragg Gold Medal. This online newsletter has been corrected to say 20 years ago.

Continue reading Hear Elisabetta Barberio speak about Higgs boson at the AGM in Melbourne; AIP Congress highlights; and the world’s thinnest hologram