Nanotech honours and the 2016 national physics conference: physics in February

Happy New Year from the AIP Executive. It has been a busy couple of months in physics, with rumours of the first gravitational wave detection with LIGO, further confirmation of an unexpected bump in the data coming from the Large Hadron Collider, and the possible presence of a large, distant ninth planet in the far reaches of our solar system. Not to mention the addition of four new elements to the periodic table.

Here in Australia, 2016 is an AIP Congress year. The AIP Congress is a biennial event, where physicists from all over Australia and overseas come together for a week-long program of plenary, keynote and contributed talks, social events, and the opportunity to network. This year’s (22nd) AIP Congress will be held in Brisbane from 4-8 December. Very importantly, for the first time it will be held in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Physics Conference—the triennial meeting (this being the 13th) of the Association of Asia-Pacific Physics Societies that brings together physicists from across the entire Asian-Pacific region. More on this below.

Last week we farewelled Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, who has been a vocal and fearless champion of Australian science in his five years in the role. On behalf of the AIP I would like to thank Ian for all his hard work and effective advocacy for science, and to welcome Alan Finkel to the role.

And finally, congratulations to AIP Fellow Chennupati Jagadish who was named a Companion of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC) in the Australia Day honours, in recognition of his outstanding contributions and service to Australian physics and engineering.

Warrick Couch
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Highest honour for nanotech physicist

The impressive contributions to Australian science made by ANU nanotechnologist Chennupati Jagadish were recognised in last week’s Australia Day honours. Prof Jagadish was named a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)—the country’s highest civilian honour.

Chennupati’s nanotech projects are diverse. He is developing new lasers with a view to faster telecommunications, as well as lightweight, more-efficient nanotech-derived solar cells. He is also working on improved bio-medical imaging.

He describes one of his most exciting current nanotech projects as a designing a ‘brain on a chip’—encouraging the growth of artificial, trainable neurons, with exciting potential for future computing power.

Chennupati is vice-president of the Australian Academy of Science, founder of the Australian Nanotechnology Network, and head of the ANU’s Semiconductor Optoelectronics and Nanotechnology Group

A congress of physicists

Held every two years, the Australian Physics Congress is a highlight of the AIP calendar, bringing together Australian and international physicists for a week-long program of great physics and networking.

We are delighted that this year’s AIP Congress will be held in the significant physics hub of Brisbane (4-8 December).

This year’s Congress will be held in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Physics Conference, the triennial meeting of the Association of Asia-Pacific Physics Societies, which brings together physicists from 18 professional societies across the region. It will be the first time that the two meetings have been held jointly, and will enrich the Congress scientific program as well as helping forge new links between the Australian and Asia-Pacific physics communities—which is an important AIP priority.

We are looking forward to you joining us in Brisbane in December, helping us make this year’s Congress an outstanding success, both scientifically and collegially.

If you are interested in attending or presenting, please register your expressions of interest online.

Meeting co-chairs: Warrick Couch and Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop


We’ll have full details about this year’s AIP prizes in next month’s bulletin.

In the meantime, nominations are now open for the National Measurement Institute (NMI) awards, which recognise excellent measurement research and practice. Closing date is 30 April 2016.

For early-career researchers, Fresh Science also opens in February. Fresh Science is a national competition that selects up-and-coming researchers with research results, or a discovery, and empowers them to share their story with the media and the public.

Books for review

If you are interested in reviewing any of the books below for publication in Australian Physics please contact magazine editor Brian James.

In synch with the future

A $520 million, ten-year investment announced in December transfers ownership of the Australian Synchrotron to the Federal government via ANSTO, and allows for growth via new partnerships and increased capacity. ‘This will make the Australian Synchrotron not only a formidable science facility, but a true research hub,’ said Andrew Peele, Director of the Synchrotron.

With a view to continuous development of the country’s physics skillsets, the Synchrotron sponsors some important professional opportunities in January and February:

In January, the ACAS School for Accelerator Physics continued the introduction of late-undergrad and early postdoc students to synchrotron physics.

This week, running in collaboration with the Society of Crystallographers in Australia and New Zealand (SCANZ), this year’s Australasian Crystallography School (31 Jan–5 February) at the Synchrotron is an opportunity for PhD students and early postdocs to develop theoretical and practical structure-determination skills, coached by expert X-ray crystallographers.

The Synchrotron also sponsors the Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting (2–5 February) in Wagga Wagga, NSW, where Australia/NZ’s condensed matter community will share the best research, latest techniques and developments.

The Synchrotron hosts VCE physics lab sessions in Clayton throughout the year.

See Events later in this bulletin for more conferences, workshops, seminars and public talks

Physics shorts

Dark physics photography wins Two images showcasing the raw, early days in the development of the Stawell Underground Physics Lab in Victoria placed highly in the international physics photography competition Global Physics Photowalk. You can see the images on the competition website. The Stawell lab will host the southern hemisphere’s first direct experiment to detect dark matter when it begins operation late this year.

Antimatter clues A new study by Igor Bray and fellow researchers at Curtin University has demonstrated two very different computational approaches to explain the creation of antimatter. For antihydrogen, the study found a surprising convergence.

Embracing changes large and small In this UK Journal of Physics article, Amanda Barnard explains current research at CSIRO’s nanoscience lab, and offers advice to young scientists.

Faster, safer, more accurate medical scanning Yuri Kivshar, head of Nonlinear Physics at ANU co-authored a recent paper discussing new technology that allows for faster, safer MRI scans without radical changes to hospital equipment. Their addition of a metamaterial bedding beneath the patient improved the scanner-to-noise ratio sufficiently to reduce scanning times by 50 per cent.

Not so lonely Simon Murphy at the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics contributed to the recent study that proved a known rogue or ‘lonely’ planet (that is, a planet without a star) did indeed orbit a distant star—a dwarf star a trillion km away, which it orbits only once every 900,000 years. That means the planet has only orbited 50 times since it formed, in comparison with the Earth’s 4.5 billion orbits.

Who’s watching for solar flares Some fascinating insights into the work of the Bureau of Meteorology’s space-weather group are available via material from the Bureau’s recent users workshop, online.



Hugh Durrant Whyte: Rise of the machines
9 February
Shine Dome, Gordon St, Canberra
Public talk: Hear how digital disruption—data analytics, computing, automation and robotics—is transforming our world.

Heinrich Hora: Environmentally clean and economic energy by boron fusion with peta–exawatt laser pulses
10 February
ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences, Canberra
Departmental seminar: The implications of new discoveries in high-intensity laser interaction for low-cost clean energy by fusion.

Panel discussion: The future of physical science
2 March
ANU Arts Centre, Canberra
Public event: What’s next in physics? An expert ANU panel discusses what physics could reveal in the next hundred years.

New South Wales

Macquarie University public planetarium session
4 February
E7B Courtyard, Macquarie University, Sydney
Public planetarium sessions are held on the first Thursday of every month. Summer sessions are not dependent on the weather, so will go ahead rain, hail or shine.

TJ Brandt: Galactic cosmic rays—from Earth to sources
10 February
Australian Astronomical Observatory, North Ryde, Sydney
Departmental seminar: How the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope Large Area Detector (Fermi LAT) has improved our understanding of the link between high-energy cosmic rays and supernovae.

Valentine’s Day at Sydney Observatory
14 February
Sydney Observatory, Millers Pt, Sydney
Public event: Celebrate Valentine’s Day watching the sunset over Sydney Harbour and stargazing with a drink in hand after nightfall.

Lisa Harvey-Smith and Tamara Davis: Most of our universe is missing (and how Australia will find it)
24 February
Leighton Hall, UNSW, Kensington, Sydney
Public talk: What are dark matter and dark energy? How have they influenced our cosmic past, present and future? Leading physicists explain how the world’s biggest telescope, being built in Australia’s outback, could reveal their secrets.

Adult Astronomy Course: Astronomical concepts
25 February – 14 April
Sydney Observatory, Millers Pt, Sydney
Short course: Explores the concepts that underpin our understanding of the universe—from the planets to the stars and the cosmos. And applies some more elaborate theories, like quantum physics and relativity, to the latest astronomical discoveries. Suitable for adults and senior students (years 11 and 12).

Michael Biercuk: The quantum future—powering the next technological revolution
2 March
Sydney Nanoscience Hub, University of Sydney,
Public event: How quantum mechanics has already transformed our world and what lies ahead. Control of the strangest phenomena in quantum physics is powering a technological revolution.

Anna Frebel: A single prolific r-process event preserved in an ultra-faint dwarf galaxy
2 March
Australian Astronomical Observatory, North Ryde, Sydney
Departmental seminar: How supernovas and neutron stars create the heaviest elements in the periodic table; an improved spectroscopic study of metal-poor stars in ultra-faint dwarf galaxies.

Northern Territory

No upcoming events currently listed.


Panel: Chasing down the comet
11 March
Griffith University, South Brisbane
World Science Festival public event: The 11 billion km journey of space probe Rosetta to land on a comet travelling at 135,000 kph. Hear what we’ll learn from the comet’s frozen water, and how it will help explain the history of the solar system.

Panel: Alien life—will we know it when we find it?
13 March
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, South Brisbane
World Science Festival public event: Physicists and astrobiologists discuss whether we are alone in the universe, and reveal how we’ll recognise life on other planets

South Australia

Panel moderated by Alice Gorman: Space and popular culture
4 February
University of South Australia, City West Campus
Public event: Panel members discuss how the romance and mystery of space exploration have influenced popular culture, including literature, movies, visual arts, music and computer games.


No upcoming events currently listed.


Mark Krumholz: Fuelling star formation across cosmic time
4 February
Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Melbourne
Departmental seminar: How star formation and gas-transport theories explain the patterns of stars within galaxies.

Mount Burnett Observatory members night
5, 12, 19, 26 February (weekly)
420 Paternoster Road, Mount Burnett
Regular members nights which include invited talks, video lectures on astronomy, observing, and a guide to the night sky for the coming month. Stars, supper and socialising.

An afternoon with Nobel Laureate, William E. Moerner
11 February
Monash University
Public event: In normal microscopes the wavelength of light sets a limit to the level of detail possible. Super-resolved fluorescence microscopy allows very high resolution and makes it possible to track processes occurring inside living cells.

Paul Lasky: Advanced LIGOs first observing run—A status update
18 February
Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Melbourne
Departmental seminar

VCE Physics Day at Luna Park
29 February—4 March
Luna Park, St Kilda, Melbourne
For VCE physics students: Physics and fun riding Luna Park’s attractions. Exclusive access to Luna Park, with data loggers and accelerometers available to track your g-forces. Backed by AIP Education subcommittee worksheets and materials.

Western Australia

No upcoming events currently listed.