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The AIP monthly bulletin reaches over 4000 scientists, future scientists and stakeholders. To subscribe to the AIP bulletin, please email aip@aip.org.auTo provide physics news, please email physics@scienceinpublic.com.au. To advertise in the bulletin, see our Jobs page.

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  • 16 Nov 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Commission on Particles and Fields (C11) of IUPAP solicits nominations of outstanding young experimental or theoretical particle physicists for the two 2024 Early Career Scientist Prizes.

    The prizes, each consisting of an IUPAP medal and a cash (€1000) award, will be presented at the 42nd International Conference on High Energy Physics, Prague, Czech Republic on July 18 - 24, 2024.

    Candidates for the prize should have a maximum of 8 years of research experience (excluding career interruptions) following the PhD by February 1, 2024.

    Nominations for the IUPAP Particles and Fields Early Career Scientist Prizes:

    • can be made by experimental or theoretical particle physicists who know the work of the nominee well and include a citation statement,

    • should consist of a minimum of two and a maximum of three letters explaining the nominee's qualifications and scientific achievements, a complete CV, a list of publications, and

    • include a proposed award citation of 50 words or less describing the nominee's contributions.

    Recipients of IUPAP Awards are expected to meet the commonly held standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity. Nominators should include a statement saying that, to the best of their knowledge, there are no concerns that IUPAP should be aware of regarding the nominee satisfying this expectation.

    The nominator should collect the material and upload it at https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/26608

    All material should be submitted before February 1, 2024, at 12:00pm CET.


  • 9 Nov 2023 11:35 AM | Anonymous

    Apply by 31 January 2024

    Science and Technology Australia (STA) has announced that its Science Meets Parliament 2024 program will be held on 20–21 March 2024, in person at Australian Parliament House, Canberra.

    As a STA member organisation, the AIP will be sponsoring two selected delegates to attend the program.

    We encourage early career researchers to apply to attend, as well as those more senior.

    Science Meets Parliament offers science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals a program of bespoke training to help forge deeper connections between federal Parliamentarians and the STEM community.

    If you are interested in attending, please send an expression of interest to AIP Secretary Michael Schmidt at secretary@aip.org.au. Please include:  

    • your CV, no longer than one page
    • a statement, no longer than one page, indicating why you would like to attend and what you hope to gain from the experience.

    The AIP will cover your registration for the event

    Please send your expression of interest to 
    secretary@aip.org.au by 31 January 2024.

    The AIP executive team will assess each application, taking into account gender balance, research area balance and geographic coverage.

    More information about Science Meets Parliament can be found at: https://scienceandtechnologyaustralia.org.au/science-meets-parliament-about


  • 1 Nov 2023 9:45 AM | Anonymous

    Over 150 Year 9 girls gathered at Flinders University for the 2023 STEM Enrichment Academy from 25-27 October, offering opportunities for the students from South Australia and the Northern Territory to engage with the world of STEM.

    AIP President Professor Nicole Bell opened the event with a plenary on ‘The hidden universe – neutrinos and dark matter’.

    Dr Stephen Warren-Smith and Dr Darryl Jones from the AIP SA branch led high school girls through experiments on 'mind-bending light', which included activities such as bouncing laser light around inside a 'jelly waveguide'.

    Over the 3 days, the girls perform science in newly-built labs, engage with scientists, walk and talk with women-in-STEM role-models, and explore STEM opportunities at Flinders University.

    The program will return in 2024 with dates to be announced soon. In the meantime, you can register your interest via the website.

    (Photos by Brenton Edwards)




  • 31 Oct 2023 1:14 PM | Anonymous

     Diagram showing energy burst travelling from a distant galaxy(Story adapted from Macquarie University).

    An eight-billion-year-old burst of energy has been discovered, demonstrating that we can detect and measure matter between galaxies. The discovery opens a path to using fast radio bursts to explore the expansion of the Universe and ultimately even ‘weigh’ the Universe.

    But it will require even more powerful telescopes.

    In a paper published in Science, a global team led by Macquarie University’s Dr Stuart Ryder and Swinburne University of Technology’s Associate Professor Ryan Shannon, report on their discovery of the most ancient and distant fast radio burst located to date, about eight billion years old.

    The discovery smashes the team’s previous record by 50 per cent. It confirms that fast radio bursts (FRBs) can be used to measure the “missing” matter between galaxies.

    The source of the burst was shown to be a group of two or three galaxies that are merging, supporting current theories on the cause of fast radio bursts. The team also showed that eight billion years is about as far back as we can expect to see and pinpoint fast radio bursts with current telescopes.

    On 10 June 2022, CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope on Wajarri Yamaji Country was used to detect a fast radio burst, created in a cosmic event that released, in milliseconds, the equivalent of our Sun’s total emission over 30 years. 

    “Using ASKAP’s array of dishes, we were able to determine precisely where the burst came from,” says Dr Ryder, the first author on the paper. “Then we used the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to search for the source galaxy, finding it to be older and further away than any other FRB source found to date, and likely within a small group of merging galaxies.”

    Named FRB 20220610A, the fast radio burst has reaffirmed the concept of weighing the Universe using data from FRBs. This was first demonstrated by the late Australian astronomer Jean-Pierre ‘J-P’ Macquart in a paper in Nature in 2020.

    “J-P showed that the further away a fast radio burst is, the more diffuse gas it reveals between the galaxies,” says Dr Ryder. “This is now known as the Macquart relation. Some recent fast radio bursts appeared to break this relationship. Our measurements confirm the Macquart relation holds out to beyond half the known Universe.”

    About 50 FRBs have been pinpointed to date – nearly half using ASKAP. The authors suggest we should be able to detect thousands of them across the sky, and at even greater distances.

    “While we still don’t know what causes these massive bursts of energy, the paper confirms that fast radio bursts are common events in the cosmos and that we will be able to use them to detect matter between galaxies, and better understand the structure of the Universe,” says Associate Professor Shannon.

    And we will soon have the tools to do so. ASKAP is currently the best radio telescope to detect and locate FRBs. The international SKA telescopes now under construction in Western Australia and South Africa will be even better at allowing astronomers to locate even older and more distant FRBs. The nearly 40-metre mirror of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, currently under construction in the high, dry Chilean desert will then be needed to study their source galaxies.

    The project was a world-wide effort with researchers from ASTRON (Netherlands), Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Chile), Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Japan), SKA Observatory (UK), Northwestern University, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz (USA).

    Australian participants were Macquarie University, Swinburne University of Technology, CSIRO, ICRAR/Curtin University, ASTRO 3D, and University of Sydney.

    Current methods of estimating the mass of the Universe are giving conflicting answers and challenging the standard model of cosmology.

    “If we count up the amount of normal matter in the Universe – the atoms that we are all made of – we find that more than half of what should be there today is missing,” says Associate Professor Shannon.

    “We think that the missing matter is hiding in the space between galaxies, but it may just be so hot and diffuse that it’s impossible to see using normal techniques.

    “Fast radio bursts sense this ionised material. Even in space that is nearly perfectly empty they can ‘see’ all the electrons, and that allows us to measure how much stuff is between the galaxies.”

    CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope is situated at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, about 800 kilometres north of Perth. 

    Currently, 16 countries are partners in the SKA Observatory, which is building two radio telescopes. SKA-Low (the low frequency telescope) – at the same site as ASKAP – will comprise 131,072 two-metre-tall antennas, while SKA-Mid (the mid frequency telescope) in South Africa will comprise 197 dishes.

    The Very Large Telescope (VLT) has four eight-metre mirrors and is operated by the European Southern Observatory, located on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Australia is a strategic partner of ESO, giving Australian astronomers access to the VLT and the opportunity to contribute new technologies to it.

    Australian astronomers are also hoping to gain access to ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope when it starts operation later this decade. The ELT will be able to deliver images 15 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

  • 24 Oct 2023 9:49 AM | Anonymous

    Headshots of Martha Reece and Kirill Koshelev, along with their medalsTwo Australian students have been recognised with awards from the AIP for achieving outstanding results in their university research theses.

    Martha Reece from the Australian National University receives the 2023 TH Laby Medal for her Honours thesis: ‘Challenging nuclear vibrations with particle-gamma spectroscopy’.

    Martha’s honours research advances our technical capability to study collective features of atomic nuclei through Coulomb excitation. Using this method, she demonstrated that the collective behaviour of tellurium-124 does not conform with expectations derived from the nuclear shell model.

    Dr Kirill Koshelev from the Australian National University receives the 2023 Bragg Gold Medal for his PhD thesis: ‘Advanced trapping of light in resonant dielectric metastructures for nonlinear optics’.

    Kirill’s PhD research develops pioneering concepts of resonant metaphotonics and metasurfaces, opening the door to new nanodevices capable of computational signal processing using light.

    The compact nanodevices developed through Kirill's work pave the way towards photonics, which is smaller and faster technology that uses laser light instead of electronics.  

    To achieve efficient data processing in photonics, light must be trapped in a small space and held there for a long period of time. Until now, physicists had only achieved this with objects larger than the wavelength of light.

    Kirill's work also has wide-ranging potential application in medicine, surgery and industry; including improved hair removal devices, laser printers, and night-time surveillance technology.

    Both the TH Laby Medal and Bragg Gold Medal will be presented at the ANZCOP-AIP Summer Meeting in Canberra in December.


  • 18 Oct 2023 11:34 AM | Anonymous

    The Australian Academy of Science is hosting a fundamental nuclear science roundtable, to assess Australia’s current and future capability requirements.

    The roundtable will be held on 9 November 2023, and will bring together Australia’s leading experts in the field.  

    Prior to the roundtable, the Academy is seeking responses to a sector-wide survey, which will identify current and future capabilities, knowledge gaps, challenges and opportunities.

    The survey is one of several lines of evidence culminating in the roundtable.

    The survey can be found here and will take 10 to 15 minutes to complete.  The QR code below can also be used to access the survey.

    The survey will be open from 17 October 2023, until 10 am AEDT on 23 October 2023.   

    If you or your colleagues have any questions regarding the survey or roundtable, please contact the project lead.


  • 29 Sep 2023 2:46 PM | Anonymous

    The Australian Institute of Physics and the Astronomical Society of Australia collaborated on a joint response to the Australian Government’s Australia's draft science and research priorities– the document intended to shape a long-term vision for the Australian science system.

    This process is being led by the Office of the Chief Scientist and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

    Joint statement:

    The Astronomical Society of Australia and the Australian Institute of Physics welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft Priorities. As representatives of two of Australia’s peak bodies for the physical sciences, we are pleased to see the contributions of our disciplines, astronomy and physics, recognised in the draft.

    While the draft Priorities capture several important challenges and opportunities, we have identified two critical gaps. Specifically, we suggest that the Priorities would be strengthened by:

    1.       Explicit inclusion of critical technologies in communication and positioning, timing and sensing. These are currently the only broad areas which appear in the Government’s List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest but are not included in the draft Priorities.
     
    2.       Inclusion of discovery research as a further Priority. This fundamental pillar underpins all other Priorities. If this is not possible due to the broad scope of discovery research, we suggest including an explicit statement (for example, in a preamble) to emphasize the essential role of such research in all Priorities. This needs to be the main focus of Australia’s science and research effort, with any specific initiatives being supported in parallel.

    We now provide more context to these suggestions.

     (1)    We were surprised to find several critical technologies missing in “Priority 3: Enabling a productive and innovative economy” under “Harnessing emerging technologies at scale” and “Creating future industries”. Specifically, communications and positioning, timing and sensing are the only broad critical technology areas (from the Government’s List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest) not appearing in the draft Priorities. We advocate for correcting this, via an explicit reference in the list of emerging technologies on p. 11:

           Australia will build new industries and accelerate productivity by having sovereign knowledge and access to develop and harness impactful emerging technologies, particularly in advanced navigation, sensing and communication; AI; quantum; and biotechnology.

    Australian physics and astronomy have a proud history of leading in several critical technology areas. Indeed, two explicitly listed focus areas, quantum and semiconductors, have come out of discovery physics research. Many aspects of two further areas, advanced radio and optical communications, and satellite and positioning technologies, have emerged from astronomy and physics research.

    Australia currently has several competitive advantages in communications, positioning, timing and sensing. These research areas also contribute to national security. The counterfactual of not investing in these areas – as would be the case if they are not included in the Priorities – would have Australia lag behind competitor economies in building industries of the future, and not have sufficiently advanced sovereign capability.

    (2)      We were disappointed to not see fundamental, discovery research as a fifth, underpinning national Priority. As stated in the Terms of Reference, the Priorities are “a signal-setting tool, give clarity on the areas government considers important and help encourage activity and growth in these areas”.

    Omission of fundamental research from the list sends a message that this is not a priority for Australia, with downstream consequences for translational and applied research in due time. This point was also explicitly raised in the submissions to the Priorities Taskforce by the Australian Academy of Science and Science and Technology Australia, the two organisations with the largest reach and hence best placed to speak on behalf of all Australian scientists; as well as in the peak bodies roundtable attended by our representatives.

    In our own disciplines, fundamental physics research has led to quantum and semiconductor technologies. Fundamental research in astronomy has enabled accurate positioning including via GPS, minimized disruptions to vital satellite services and electrical power grids, improved medical imaging techniques, and facilitated development of smart phone cameras and WiFi networks. Research excellence by Australian astronomers has also led to direct $1.8 billion foreign investment in Australia through construction of the Square Kilometre Array. None of this would have happened without sustained investment in fundamental physics and astronomy research.

    Fundamental science is also essential for inspiring people, and attracting them to STEM. An explicit focus area in the National Science Statement is to “enable and grow a STEM-skilled workforce” – but participation by Australians in STEM subjects is stagnating or going backwards. Yet Australia needs skilled professionals to fill a rapidly-growing number of STEM jobs (e.g. 1.1 million tech jobs by 2030). Discovery sciences such as astronomy and physics are often the gateway for STEM-curious minds. They also make a large contribution to training a STEM-capable workforce that benefits the nation. For example, almost one third of astronomy PhD graduates become data science specialists, contributing widely across the Australian economy in areas as diverse as energy, biotech and medical industries, defence research, supercomputing, business and non-profit enterprises. Physics graduates make similarly broad contributions. Any reduction in focus on fundamental research is likely to undermine this production pipeline, with potentially serious long-term consequences.

    Finally, fundamental sciences such as astronomy and physics provide an exceptional opportunity for both international and domestic engagement. Worldwide collaborations, across cultures, are essential for advancing these disciplines. The fact that every culture has its own relation to the sky gives us an opportunity to engage on a fundamental level with other cultures and nations, especially Australia’s First Nations – the world’s oldest astronomers.

    For these reasons, we strongly support the recent statement by the Academy of Science on the importance of appropriately resourced discovery research. We respectfully suggest that the Priorities should reflect this, by listing fundamental research as an underpinning pillar.

    Thank you for consideration of our suggestions above, and for your stewardship of Australian science.

    See the complete statement.

  • 27 Sep 2023 4:14 PM | Anonymous
    Headshots of Professor Mahananda Dasgupta and Emeritus Professor David John HindeWe know explosive stellar events can form superheavy elements, but describing exactly how this happens pushes the boundaries of our understanding of physics and chemistry.

    On Earth, researchers can synthesise superheavy elements at accelerator laboratories through fusion of two heavy nuclei. Understanding the many-body quantum dynamics involved is crucial for successfully forming superheavy nuclides in the lab and gives us new insight into how this may occur in cosmic stellar events.

    Professor Mahananda Dasgupta and Emeritus Professor David John Hinde, both from the Australian National University, are jointly awarded the 2023 Walter Boas Medal for Excellence in Research for ‘elucidating the crucial roles and mechanisms of nuclear structure in the synthesis of superheavy nuclei’.

    Dasgupta and Hinde have revealed key physics at each of the three stages in the synthesis of superheavy nuclides. They’ve achieved this through innovative measurements made on specialist instrumentation they developed for this purpose.

    Their research has contributed to Australia’s leading role in nuclear reaction dynamics, drawing invitations to join international superheavy element collaborations, and attracting top research teams to Australia to run experiments.

    The Walter Boas Medal was established in 1984 to promote excellence in research in Physics and to commemorate the life and work of Walter Moritz Boas, who was an AIP Honorary Fellow.

    The Medal is awarded annually for original research that makes an important contribution to physics in Australia.

  • 4 Sep 2023 12:03 PM | Anonymous
    • Front cover of the Review of the Australian Research Council Act 2001 The Government’s response to the Final Report of the Independent Review panel: Trusting Australia’s Ability: Review of the Australian Research Council Act 2001, was released on 20 August 2023.

      “The report is very welcome news,” said AIP President Nicole Bell.

      “The Government intends to implement all the key recommendations of the ARC review, including changes that the Australian Institute of Physics advocated for.”

      The ARC’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms Judi Zielke PSM, said in a media release that the final report is a strong endorsement of the role and positive impact the ARC has had on Australia’s research capability over the last 20 years.

      It affirms the broader reform schedule the ARC is already undertaking to restore stakeholder trust and drive excellent research for the advancement of all Australians.

      “The Government’s response to the review confirms the ARC’s role in underpinning and shaping the national research landscape.

      It will define in legislation our role in supporting basic and strategic basic research as well as applied research, research integrity, evaluation of the excellence, quality and impact of research in Australian universities, and the development of researchers through their career progression.”

      “There is significant work already underway at the ARC to address the recommendations that do not require legislative change, such as those relating to grant guidelines improvements and reduction of administrative burden for researchers, universities and partners.

      We are also consulting with Indigenous researchers regarding the establishment of an ARC Indigenous Forum,” Ms Zielke said.

      Australian Academy of Science President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said in a media release that the underlying theme of the review is that of trust with a strong emphasis on the critical role of the ARC in Australia’s research system.

      “The role of the ARC, its leadership and the execution of its functions should reflect our aspirations for the research landscape, for research excellence and how they can best support our national ambitions,” Professor Jagadish said.

      “The recommendations in the review provide a strong basis to support this purpose and the ongoing effectiveness of the ARC.

      “The Academy welcomes the recommendation that the commitment to funding basic research should be incorporated into the ARC’s purpose under the Act.

      “The Academy views this as important to safeguard fundamental research that grows our knowledge base.”

      The Academy also endorsed several other noteworthy recommendations to:

    • restore the ARC Board and populate it with members with the right combination of skills and experience
    • discontinue Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) and modernise ARC capacity and requirements for data collection and analysis
    • streamline National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) guidelines to reflect international best practice and reduce the administrative burden on academic and research organisations.

    Professor Jagadish said the focus of ministerial discretion on the NCGP guidelines and funding available, rather than on individual grants, would place the recommendations and approvals in the hands of the people with the expertise to assess their merit.

    “It is positive to see the recommendations to advance Indigenous Australians in research and recognition of the impact of the ARC on attracting and retaining research talent,” Professor Jagadish said.

    The Report and the Government’s response can be found at: Review of the Australian Research Council Act 2001 - Department of Education, Australian Government.


  • 30 Aug 2023 12:07 PM | Anonymous

    Black and white photo of Emeritus Professor John White We were saddened to learn of the recent death of John White, FAIP.

    John, originally from Newcastle, studied chemistry at the University of Sydney and then at Oxford where, after gaining his doctorate, he was appointed a Fellow of St John’s College.

    In 1985, John returned to Australia as Professor of Physical & Theoretical Chemistry at ANU, continuing his research on the application of neutron scattering to a wide variety of problems in chemistry.

    A distinguished scientist, John was a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Science and the Royal Society of London. Additionally, in Australia he helped to establish ISCAST – Christians in Science and Technology; serving as its President from 1992 to 2006.

    Read about John on Wikipedia



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