Australian Institute of Physics

We help the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP) keep AIP members and others up to date on the latest news and events in Australian physics:

  • a monthly bulletin covering physics news, events, prizes and more. The bulletin is available to anyone interested in Australian physics—subscribe here
  • the Australian physics event calendar is the definitive guide to physics events around the country. You can view by filter, and are encouraged to submit entries
  • media releases and announcements on AIP and physics-related events.

The AIP has a Twitter feed (@ausphysics), a Facebook page and a ‘members only’ LinkedIn group. The official AIP website is

A week of physics stories – starting Monday: our neutrino world; hunting dark matter; Australia’s role in big international science; and more


More on these and other stories from this week’s Physics Congress below. [click to continue…]

Gravitational waves herald a new era in physics

Australian Institute of PhysicsIn 1915, Einstein’s theory of general relativity presented a new way of understanding how the Universe worked.

It was a whole new way of thinking about time and space—but it was all theory.

Over the intervening century, nearly all of Einstein’s work has been proven. Except no one could find the gravity waves—dubbed ‘the drums of heaven’ by some physicists.

Until now.

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Prize nominations open for AIP awards and more: physics in March

Posted on behalf of Warrick Couch, President of the Australian Institute of Physics.

This is my first bulletin as AIP President, and I’m looking forward to carrying on in the spirit of my predecessor, Rob Robinson.

I’m an astronomer by trade, and especially interested in the evolution of galaxies. I’m the Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and before that I was Director of the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University. A particular research highlight for me was being a member of the Supernova Cosmology Project, one of the two teams that discovered the universe’s accelerating expansion and whose leader, Saul Perlmutter, shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics with Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess (from the other team).

This year at the AIP we’ll be focusing on growing our membership, and we’ll be asking for your help by encouraging colleagues to join. We’ll also be modernising our constitution this year. And now that our Women in Physics group has been reactivated, we’ll be making sure it gets noticed.

We’re also planning a new prize for our members who are early-career researchers. Details will be announced soon, but in the meantime nominations are open for the Walter Boas Medal for excellence in physics research, the Bragg Gold Medal for the best PhD thesis, and the AIP Award for Outstanding Service to Physics.

On top of this, our NSW branch has their own award for community outreach, won last year by space science educator Ken Silburn—more details are below.

In the spirit of the recent Oscars (and wasn’t it great to see some physics in the limelight this year), prize nomination season is truly upon us, with the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, the Eureka Prizes, the Australian Academy of Science’s honorific awards, FameLab and Tall Poppies all open for entries.

Coming up on 24–25 March, the AIP will be taking part in Science and Technology Australia’s annual Science Meets Parliament event, bringing researchers together with parliamentarians, policymakers and the media. Our representatives will be Joanna Turner (Qld), Peter Metaxas (WA) and Laurence Stamatescu (SA).

There is plenty more to read in this bulletin, with events from our state branches and physicists’ views on poetry and climate science. And don’t forget to check our News in Brief section, with highlights of research from around the country and around the world. [click to continue…]

Australia Day honours for science outreach and a change of president: physics in February

Posted on behalf of Rob Robinson, President of the Australian Institute of Physics.

The Australia Day Honours list again includes one of our own, with science communicator and AIP member Mike Gore being made Officer of the Order of Australia for his decades of work in public outreach and education. This recognises his roles in setting up the Questacon National Science Centre, the travelling Shell Questacon Science Circus and the Centre for Public Awareness of Science at ANU.

Last week saw the official launch of the International Year of Light in Paris. The AIP is proud to support the year’s Australian activities, which celebrate optics, astronomy and anything else involving light. You can read more below.

Next Monday the AIP’s annual general meeting will be held in Melbourne, and I once again encourage any members who are able to attend. This will include the election of, and handover to, the new Executive Committee, marking the end of the current team’s two-year term.

That means that this will be my last bulletin as AIP President. It’s been a privilege for me to serve and contribute to the Institute’s evolution over the past two years.

Reflecting on this time, there are encouraging signs that we’ve turned around our fall in membership numbers—a problem plaguing many professional societies. We’ve also embraced the trend of regional collaboration, forging tighter links in the Asia-Pacific and opening unique opportunities beyond from Europe and America.

These links further strengthen at the Asia-Pacific Physics Conference and AIP Congress to be held in Brisbane, 4–8 December 2016. This joint meeting will be chaired by Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop and Warrick Crouch, who is also the AIP’s new incoming president.

With such a promising future there’s no better time for AIP members to get involved and encourage their colleagues, students and friends of physics to be part of the Institute and its activities. [click to continue…]

Achievements in quantum tech & education, challenges for women & climate: stories from the physics congress

Posted on behalf of Rob Robinson, President of the Australian Institute of Physics.

In this special mid-January bulletin, we present some stories from December’s AIP Congress in Canberra.

Among the personal highlights for me was the session on women in physics, where we learned about how, instead of improving gender diversity, Australia is going backwards in some areas. With so much more to be done, the AIP has revitalised its Women in Physics group with new members—you can read about them below.

I also had the honour of giving out the AIP prizes at the closing ceremony and the banquet, which was held in the National Gallery of Australia in the presence of Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles”—thankfully explained to us by an expert. Read on for more about the medal winners’ achievements with quantum lasers, nanotechnology and hands-on physics education.

You can also read about the plenary speakers, including Nobel laureates Steven Chu and Serge Haroche, who were featured guests in what was a very strong program. Abstracts from the presentations are still available on the Congress website.

My thanks to Congress Chair John Howard and his team for their efforts leading up to and throughout the week, and especially to Jodie Bradby for organising the main events.

The next AIP Congress will be in Brisbane in 2016, in conjunction with the 13th Asia-Pacific Physics Conference.

Last month saw a reshuffle of the federal cabinet and Australia once again has a Minister of Science, with Ian MacFarlane adding science to his industry title. This is surely good news, as were the soothing words about research funding from the Minister of Education, Christopher Pyne, in his speech opening the Congress. However, time will tell what these mean in real terms.

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies began on 1 January, with a giant light bulb on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the fireworks. With the world’s attention once more shining on physics, I encourage you to make the most of it and have a happy and productive new year in physics. [click to continue…]

The International Year of Light

Starting 1 January 2015, leaders available for interviews now

Celebrating the power of light to transform society:

  • From the Nobel Prize to your hardware store – the LED lighting revolution
  • The laser, an invention with no practical applications that now powers the internet, is printing jet engines, searching for space junk, and treating cancer
  • Solar lights empowering refugees, solar cells cheaper than coal.

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Stawell to join the search for the missing 85 per cent of our galaxy

Victorian government supports plans to build a dark matter laboratory deep in Stawell Gold Mine.

The Victorian government has committed $1.75 million to help Australian scientists hunt for dark matter a kilometre underground in the Stawell gold mine in regional Victoria. The project will commence once the Federal government provides matching support from their regional development program.

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Four degrees – a message for Lima; laser privacy; letting the quantum cat out of the box

Tomorrow at the national physics and optics conference in Canberra:

  • The catastrophe of a four degree temperature rise – clouds not helping
  • LabPunk – scientific jewellery
  • Letting the quantum cat out of the box
  • Finding airports on Alpha Centauri’s planets
  • Laser beams guarantee data privacy for companies and governments
  • Shrinking X-ray microscopes down to fit on the laboratory bench
  • Using science to create patterns
  • Bending light for faster communication and light-driven computing

There’s more information on these below and much more at

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The art of science in jewellery, metal, tape and music

  • laser rod to lapel pin
  • space–time silver cuff
  • complex art from simple rules
  • geometry, videos and lace on exhibition

Artworks inspired by science are on display and under discussion at the national physics and optics congress at the Australian National University in Canberra from 7 to 11 December. The congress theme is ‘The Art of Physics’.

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Women in physics going backwards, 11 dimensions, MOOCs

Today at the national physics and optics conference in Canberra:

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Education stories at the national physics congress

  • Letting first-year students loose in the lab

  • Girls in physics—what’s keeping the door closed?

  • MOOCs—better than uni?

  • Special effects improve understanding of complex science

Speakers available for interview in Canberra. Photos available. Stories embargoed until conference presentation.

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Women in physics still going backwards

Australia’s physicists will hear today that they’re still losing the fight for gender equity in the physical sciences.

International and national speakers at the national physics congress in Canberra today will reveal:

  • Australian schoolgirls still prefer life sciences to physical sciences (chemistry, physics etc) – with a 2:1 ratio

  • At university that worsens to 4:1 locking out women from many career options

  • The proportion of women in senior science positions is improving at just 1 per cent per annum, and going backwards in lower levels.

  • UK physicists are fixing the problem with Project Juno. Could Australia follow them?

There are also some remarkable role models of women in physics speaking at the conference including: string theory guru Lisa Randall, SKA astronomer Lisa Harvey-Smith, Bronwyn Dolman studying weather and footballers’ hamstrings; Elisabetta Barberio looking for dark energy in a gold mine; quantum computing guru Michelle Simmons and many others. [click to continue…]

Lasers and burps, a four degree catastrophe, fusion in five years, Chu at the Press Club and more

Coming up next week:

Fusion power in five years, 30 years or never; dark matter in a gold mine; lasers and burps, eleven dimensions, the worldwide spider web, and much more at the biennial physics congress in Canberra opening Monday morning.

And today – How obesity causes hypertension, a Monash paper in Cell

We also have five free tickets for journalists to see James Randi in Melbourne tonight at 6pm at the Convention Centre.

The physics conference highlights include:

  • The catastrophe of a four degree temperature rise. Steve Sherwood’s work on clouds suggests it’s more likely. But are they listening in Lima?
  • At the National Press Club Steven Chu on prudent management of risks of climate change with continued economic growth.
  • Looking for dark matter in the Stawell Gold Mine
  • Why we need 11 dimensions, and physics librettos – Harvard theoretical physicist Lisa Randall
  • Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at the University of Arizona, who thinks Lisa’s ideas are far too complex, and also wrote The Physics of Star Trek
  • Women in physics are still going backwards – in schools, and academia in Australia. Speakers tell us how bad it is. Then UK physics leader Frances Saunders will tell us how to fix it
  • A portable synchrotron? The $200 million Australian Synchrotron’s X-ray microscopes are amazing. A Monash physicist thinks he can create a lab bench sized X-ray microscope.
  • The sound of a dozen birds – a system that can recognise any sound is being used to track the elusive orange-bellied parrot and can follow twelve songs at once – bird, fish, whale, human…
  • The beauty and serendipity of blue sky research – Serge Haroche from the College De France, who won a Nobel for trapping photons between super-reflective mirrors
  • Brian Schmidt from the ANU, whose Nobel-winning discovery that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating won his team the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics last month.

It’s Australia’s biennial physics congress—this year, it’s in Canberra from 7 to 11 December. Here are some of the highlights. All stories are embargoed until presentation at the conference. [click to continue…]

Obama’s energy guru, lasers and cows, fusion power and how many dimensions do we need?

This week the magician and sceptic James Randi begins touring the country. Back in the day he debunked Uri Geller’s psychic spoon-bending. More below.

And then next week I’ve got:Congress_banner_900x291_72dpi

  • Nobel winners on the future of energy and science
  • lasers measuring burping cows
  • spiders making optical fibres
  • the truth about fusion power
  • arguments about the number of dimensions in the Universe
  • the maths of The Great War
  • the physics of Star Trek
  • physics jewellery and art.

It’s Australia’s biennial physics congress —this year, it’s in Canberra from 7 to 11 December. Here are some of the highlights. All stories are embargoed until presentation at the conference.  [click to continue…]