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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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  • 31 Mar 2023 10:04 AM | Anonymous

    Collage of Academy of Science award winnersCongratulations to the recipients of the Australian Academy of Science’s (AAS) 2023 honorific awards.

    Among them we find physicists working on gravitational waves, atomic structures of glass and the ‘world’s thinnest lens’.

    From an interest sparked while watching the moon landing on television to detecting gravitational waves from the hearts of neutron stars: Prof Susan Scott, from The Australian National University, has been awarded the 2023 AAS Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal for outstanding achievements in maths and physics.

    Using physics to understanding the structure of disordered solids like different types of glass: congratulations to Dr Amelia Liu, from Monash University, who was awarded the 2023 AAS John Booker Medal in Engineering Science.

    "Nanotechnology allows us to do big things from a tiny world": congratulations to Prof Yuerui Lu, from ANU, who is winner of the AAS Pawsey Medal 2023 for outstanding research in physics.

    See ‘Australia’s stars of science’ on the AAS website.

    Nominations are now open for the 2024 honorific awards. Nominations close 1 May 2023.


  • 31 Mar 2023 9:59 AM | Anonymous

    The AUKUS agreement about Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines is “the single biggest investment in our defence capability in our history and represents a transformational moment for our nation, our Defence Force and our economy,” according to a joint release in March from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Defence Richard Marles.

    AIP President Prof Nicole Bell responded to the announcement to highlight Australia’s need to build nuclear physics skills to support the program.

    “Australia has a critical  skills shortage in nuclear physics. We have an urgent need to develop our capabilities to support the development of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program,” says Prof Bell.

    “Our universities have very few personnel with the expertise to deliver the training programs that will be required. Funding for new positions in nuclear physics is urgently needed,” says Prof Bell.

    “These skills are also needed for many other applications including medicine, such as radiotherapy treatment, and in the space industry, such as developing satellites that can withstand radiation in space.”

    In December, the AIP called for urgent action to train a nuclear savvy generation.

    A government statement has said that as part of the Agreement, the Albanese Government and South Australia have pledged to work together to realise, “An increase in Commonwealth Supported Places to South Australia Universities over the next four years, focused on STEM disciplines in professional engineering (mechanical, electrical, chemical), computer science, mathematics, chemistry, physics, psychology and management.

    “The Commonwealth will allocate an additional 800 places to South Australia Universities over the next four years, with the first 200 places commencing in 2024.” Read the full statement.


  • 1 Mar 2023 1:15 PM | Anonymous

    If you’re a great organiser and would like to increase your visibility and build your network in physics, consider taking on the role of Honorary Secretary for the AIP.

    The Honorary Secretary is supported by our Operations Manager who oversees much of the membership enquiries and daily tasks of the AIP.

    The Honorary National Secretary is a company Director of the AIP, contributing to strategic decisions and helping to coordinate the day-to-day activities of the institute.

    Tasks include responding to emails, organising executive and branch chair meetings including the annual Council meeting and AGM, governance reporting, and liaising with stakeholders such as cognate societies, STA, AAS, IUPAP and AAPPS.

    After six years of dedicated service, our current Honorary National Secretary, Associate Professor Kirrily Rule, is stepping down. So, we are looking for someone to step into this organisational and communication role within the AIP.

    “This role is extremely rewarding and a fantastic way to grow your network of physicists from across the country and around the world,” says Kirrily. 

    “It gives high visibility to the person undertaking these activities and the Secretary has their finger on the pulse of physics within Australia.”

    Whilst the Secretary role does not have a constitutionally limited tenure, it is expected that most secretaries will perform this role for around 2-3 years.

    If you’re interested in finding out more, contact Kirrily at aip_secretary@aip.org.au today.

  • 28 Feb 2023 1:21 PM | Anonymous

    Over the past 60 years, the AIP, through its Council, Executive, committees, groups and branches, has been a staunch advocate of physics in Australia, including responding to governmental issues or other pressing national concerns.

    Recent examples include efforts to pivot to ethical banking and drafting a new diversity and inclusion statement.

    It continues to seek the provision of world-standard national research facilities and funding, and learning, such as the recent review the Australian Research Council Act, comments on changes to the school science syllabus, and advocating for the independence of the ARC at a Senate inquiry.

    The AIP was established on 21 February 1963, evolving from the Australian Branch of the Institute of Physics (IOP) in the UK.

    Almost 500 members of the IOP had their membership moved to the AIP, providing the new Institute with a solid foundation for establishing itself as a separate entity; with the assets of the Australian Branch of the IOP transferred to the AIP. Today, nine of those original members are still active members of AIP.

    The Australian Physics magazine began in 1964, and continues to be a forum for the AIP and its members to explore advances in physics and connect with the physics community.

    The AIP commenced its own congresses in 1974 – these have been held biennially ever since, except for two interruptions: industrial issues in the aviation industry and the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view the program and abstracts from 1974 and also see our most recent program from 2022 online.

    The inaugural AIP Council was:

    • Professor Leonard Huxley (President) – later Sir
    • Mr Frederick Lehany (Vice-President) 
    • Mr George Bell (Hon. Treasurer)
    • Dr John Dryden (Hon. Registrar)
    • Mr Arthur Harper (Hon. Secretary) – became Honorary Fellow
    • Professor John Jaeger (Chair, ACT Branch)
    • Dr Guy White (Chair, NSW Branch)
    • Dr Ralph Parsons (Chair, Queensland Branch)
    • Dr Francis Wood (Chair, SA Branch)
    • Dr Brian Spicer (Chair Victorian Branch) – became Honorary Fellow
    • Mr RW Stanford (Chair WA Branch)

    The Tasmanian branch was formed subsequently.

  • 31 Jan 2023 4:28 PM | Anonymous

    Bragg Gold Medal for Excellence In 2023, the AIP’s award nomination due dates are moving earlier in the year.

    We encourage everyone who is considering nominating themselves or others for an award, to start thinking and preparing now for their applications. The due dates and awards available for 2023 are:

    See the AIP website for nomination details for each medal.

    For the TH Laby and Bragg Gold medals, we encourage you to get in touch with your local branch, as the award is submitted to local branches first. The branches may have specific details for submission. You can find the contacts for each branch on the AIP website. 

    The only award nomination date not changing is the Women in Physics Lecture Tour for 2024, which is due 1 June.

    We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about the awards or application process. Just email the Awards Officer at  aip_awards@aip.org.au.

    CN Yang Awards

    The CN Yang Award is an international award that the AIP Groups are eligible to nominate a candidate for. 

    The Award has been established to honour young researchers with prominent research achievements and to promote the development of leaders in physics in the Asia Pacific region. 

    The award does not have a closing date on its website for 2023 yet, however, we have been advised the closing date will be a little later in the year this year. The AIP encourages each group to determine, earlier rather than later, if a suitable candidate is available for nomination. 

    As this award is not administered by the AIP, the submissions will not be sent directly AIP’s Awards Officer. You can find out more about the award from the main website, and the AIP’s website


  • 31 Jan 2023 4:24 PM | Anonymous
    • Applications close 10 Feb

      Science and Technology Australia (STA) is calling for nominations to attend Science Meets Parliament 2023. As a STA member organisation, the AIP is sponsoring two selected delegates to attend the program.

      We encourage early career researchers to apply 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.

      This year, STA will deliver the program in two parts:

    1. Online: Over three days (7,8,9 March), Science & Technology Australia will deliver Science Meets Parliament training, professional development and inspiring speakers online.
    2. On ‘the hill’: Following the online training, delegates are invited for an in-person event in Parliament House in Canberra (Wednesday 22 March) to meet with Members of Parliament, attend the National Press Club address and the Welcome Reception and National Gala Dinner. 

      See more info about the program, and the special additional day event – 'Building the SABRE Biosecurity Alliance'.

    If you are interested in attending, please send an expression of interest to AIP Secretary Kirrily Rule at aip_secretary@aip.org.au. Please include:  
    • A 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 expressions of interest to aip_secretary@aip.org.au by 10 Feb.

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

    Travel scholarships are currently available via STA https://sta.eventsair.com/science-meets-parliament-2023/registration, also closing on 10 Feb.

    More information about this year’s Science Meets Parliament can be found at https://sta.eventsair.com/science-meets-parliament-2023.


  • 31 Jan 2023 4:11 PM | Anonymous

    The 2022 AIP Congress secured some high quality and high impact media coverage, with over 300 news articles around the world mentioning the Congress and/or its speakers.

    Highlights of the coverage included:

    • Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland talking for twenty minutes on Radio National’s Drive program, and also on 5AA’s breakfast show
    • Andrew Stuchbery and Ken Baldwin talking ‘everywhere’ about the US fusion announcement, including RN Breakfast, ABC News, ABC News Breakfast and The Australian amongst 280 stories around the world, with the help of the AusSMC who picked up and recirculated their comments, referencing the Congress.
    • Cathy Foley with an opinion piece about investment in Australia’s quantum sector.

    More story highlights from the Congress included:

    See the Congress speakers in the news media, including:

    Ken Baldwin on ABC News Breakfast talking about fusion energy

    Andrew Stuchbery on RN Breakfast commenting on the US fusion breakthrough

    AJ Mitchell on RN Breakfast and ABC Melbourne with a call to boost nuclear science education

    Ken Baldwin in The Australian on the fusion breakthrough

    Expert comments on fusion breakthrough via AusSMC

    Cathy Foley with her opinion piece about investment in Australia’s quantum sector.


  • 31 Jan 2023 4:07 PM | Anonymous

    Opinion article written by Professor Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist, for the 24th Congress of the Australian Institute of Physics in December 2022.

    Australia’s leadership in quantum computing and quantum science today isn’t an accident. It is the result of over sixty years of investment in the physical sciences in our universities and research agencies, and it gives us the opportunity to lead the world in new technologie

    s, industries and jobs.

    It’s a truism that there’s no such thing as overnight success; achievement comes from long-term commitment.

    This is definitely the case of Australia’s investment and expertise in the quantum research sector. We invested early – largely because our researchers and public funding bodies recognised the promise of quantum, and the physicists were organised and had strong leadership.

    We’ve had 14 Centres of Excellence over the past 20 years, devoted to various aspects of quantum research. Today, Australia has 22 quantum-related research institutions, whose researchers participate in these Centres of Excellence.

    The first Australian research paper was published in 1959 on time-correlated photons, and that same year, Guy White from my old team at CSIRO published Experimental Techniques in Low-Temperature Physics, still the go-to text.

    Since then, Australian researchers have made theoretical breakthroughs and pioneered many techniques, including in silicon quantum computing, photonics and cold-atom systems.

    So, it’s a long history.

    That depth of quantum research is why we have such a wealth of expertise.

    It’s why we have around 20 and growing quantum-related start-ups in Australia spanning investments across hardware, software, communications, sensing, cryptography, biology and consultancy capability.

    This week, at the Australian Institute of Physics Congress in Adelaide, we’re hearing about the latest developments in precision navigation and timing without GPS; and sensing, including quantum clocks, diamond-based sensors, and sensing for defence, intelligence, navigation and earth observation.

    There are papers on superconducting quantum hardware and NV diamond foundries, and technologies that can sense the start of a volcanic eruption.

    We’re hearing about quantum technologies to explore the brain, and how enzymes in our bodies catalyse complex reaction.

    Our talent is behind many existing and emerging quantum applications, including quantum random number generators for security and sensors for mining and civil engineering – a lot of this research is done with the support of international partners.

    However, Australia’s ambition goes well beyond supplying a hungry world with expertise. We are building our own quantum industry.

    As Australia’s Chief Scientist, I am very committed to this, as is the Australian Government. We recognise the transformative implications of quantum technologies, not only to the defence and security sphere, but ultimately to the way we live our lives.

    We’re in the process of finalising a National Quantum Strategy and have established a National Quantum Advisory Committee comprising quantum and business experts around the country, along with a network of state and territory governments.

    Our goal is to advance the quantum sector to build knowledge, speed discovery, lift the complexity of our economy and improve lives.

    The way I see it, there are three things that are critical for the global quantum community as we accelerate this set of technologies.

    First, investing in basic science, the process of discovery, must continue. I have sometimes described quantum computing as being still very much a science project.

    The same can be said of many of the potential applications in quantum, in health, communications, sensing, or encryption.

    But the potential is extraordinary in many areas. Quantum computing could be a game-changer in climate technologies to help us reach that difficult net-zero target.

    In everything from battery chemistry, to the efficiency of solar cells, to reduce methane emissions, and to find new catalysts for hydrogen, quantum simulation and computing holds great promise.

    We don’t know precisely how it will play out and over what timeframe. We can’t say for sure which areas will see progress that surpasses expectations, and where it will fall short. Discovery is a rich and unpredictable process!

    As leaders in this field, we need to keep reinforcing that message, so investors and decision-makers understand that not every avenue will emerge in the sun. We do have to play the patience game.

    Yet at every stage, we learn more, and build the knowledge base from which new and unexpected discoveries will follow.

    This is how to maintain the excitement, interest and momentum. It’s the scientific process in action, and it’s what I love about my profession.

    Second, the skills gaps. It sometimes feels as though advanced economies have entered the international talent wars.

    We’re all competing for the same pool of people and pinning hopes on skilled migration to solve significant skills shortages across a range of critical industries.

    Of course, this is a zero/sum game. The only way to tackle the skills shortage is to continue the focus on STEM engagement across the board.

    And to be frank, this shouldn’t be so hard. Kids are born scientists, explorers and inventors – all kids, not only the boys. With the right expectations and teaching, we can close the skills deficit.

    In Australia, we have a number of skills initiatives, including a focus on transferable skills which recognises the uncertainty embedded in these disruptive sectors.

    At the same time, we will continue to support the international flow of talent, always an important part of our research and innovation ecosystem.

    The third and final consideration relates to regulation – the frameworks in which we develop these technologies to ensure they remain a force for good.

    Australia was part of the development of first governance guidelines for quantum computing through the World Economic Forum process last year.

    The core values set out in the Quantum Governance Principles are an excellent and sensible guide.

    We’re pursuing the promise of quantum partly for the sake of discovery, simply to learn. But also – and ultimately – this shared mission is about improving our lives.

    It’s about solving environmental, medical and energy challenges, understanding more about our place in the cosmos as we chart humanity’s future.

    Those are the goals to guide our actions.

    Read more stories from the 2022 AIP Congress.

  • 31 Jan 2023 4:01 PM | Anonymous

    Media release from the 24th Congress of the Australian Institute of Physics in December 2022.

    The US fusion news is amazing. But it’s a long way from endless clean power. The researchers probably generated enough excess energy to boil a kettle.

    The US experimenters apparently have got out more energy than they put in in a fusion experiment, thus technically achieving ignition. This indeed is a breakthrough worthy of celebration.

    However, there is a long way to go. From the nature of the facility where the experiment was performed, I’d say this energy came in a single pulse or “flash”. So, for a viable power source it would be necessary to have sustained repeated such pulses, and be able to collect the energy released efficiently. There’s still a long way to go. That said, achieving ignition is an essential milestone that apparently now has been reached. Practical fusion power is a step closer to reality.

    A bit more technical detail. This is probably deuterium plus tritium fusion – the joining of the two heavy isotopes of hydrogen that is the favoured nuclear reaction to achieve fusion power. The two positively charged nuclei have to be pushed together against their electrical repulsion, which in this case is achieved by heating the isotopes in a plasma to temperatures where the nuclei are going so fast that they can overcome the repulsion and bang together.

    Professor Andrew Stuchbery
    Head, Department of Nuclear Physics and Accelerator Applications, ANU

    Nuclear fusion – the energy that powers the sun – has been a holy grail of physics for decades 

    There are two main routes to nuclear fusion.  The first is magnetic confinement fusion that contains extremely high temperature nuclei in a magnetic bottle.  The second is inertial confinement fusion that uses high power lasers to blast together nuclei in a miniature hydrogen bomb, as pursued at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

    Both have come close to demonstrating energy breakeven, but now it appears that Livermore may achieved this for the first time – a truly ground-breaking achievement.

    I’m at the national physics congress in Adelaide where the announcement has attracted lots of interest.

    However, it’s unlikely that fusion power – which generates no greenhouse gases and minimal nuclear waste – will save us from climate change.  The energy apparently released from the Livermore experiments is only enough to boil a kettle.

    All the heavy lifting for the energy transition will be done by renewable energy and nuclear fission (existing nuclear power) – with nuclear fusion at commercial scale unlikely to be available until later this century, well after the 2050 deadline needed to keep global warming below two degrees.  But beyond that fusion might provide limitless energy for centuries to come.

    Professor Ken Baldwin, Research School of Physics, ANU

     

    Note: these comments were made ahead of the US announcement and were distributed with the support of the Australian Science Media Centre, AusSMC.

    Read more stories from the 2022 AIP Congress

  • 31 Jan 2023 3:47 PM | Anonymous

    Media release from the 24th Congress of the Australian Institute of Physics in December 2022.

    • A call to action to train a nuclear savvy generation
    • Australia will need thousands of people trained in nuclear science
    • For submarines, cancer treatments, space industry, mining…

    Our new submarine fleet, new cancer therapies, quantum computing, space industry and satellites, the extraction of critical minerals and monitoring the environment will all demand levels of training in nuclear science we cannot at present meet.

    Australia’s physicists, meeting in Adelaide today, are calling for a national plan to boost education and training in nuclear science.

    “The need is urgent. The captain of our first nuclear submarine is probably already in secondary school today,” says Dr AJ Mitchell, senior lecturer in physics at the Australian National University (ANU).

    “As nuclear science takes an increasingly important part of our day-to-day life, we need to make people understand that ‘nuclear’ is not something to be scared of, but rather to cherish and appreciate,” he says.

    “While some of the initial training for submarine operations can take place in the US and the UK, we must take this role on ourselves. This must be a sovereign capability. And it needs to start yesterday.”

    He has brought together leaders across Australia to discuss a National Vision for Nuclear Science and Applications at the 2022 Australian Institute of Physics (AIP) Congress at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

    “Today we are starting construction of an Australia-wide program of nuclear science education and training,” AJ says.

    Topics include:

    “Emerging radiation therapies for cancer treatment. The Bragg Centre is currently being built near the Royal Adelaide Hospital and is due to open in 2025. It will be the first facility in Australia to provide advanced radiation treatment for cancer using heavy particle beams already available in Europe,” says Associate Professor Scott Penfold from the Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research.

    But it demands computer modellers and machine operators trained in nuclear physics to make it work. Similar facilities are on the drawing board for Australia’s other major population centres.

    Radiation in the mining industry, led by Professor Nigel Spooner of the University of Adelaide

    Keeping up with demand for radiation safety skills, led by Cameron Jefferies of the Australasian Radiation Protection Society. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency already has positions it can’t fill, AJ says.

    “People tend to be less afraid of things they understand. So we’re looking at changing the nuclear mindset across a whole range of industries and a general uplift in scientific literacy. So, for instance, wherever the submarine bases end up, people will be able to understand and assess the risk.”

    Read more stories from the Congress



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