The Art of Physics and why it matters: physics in March

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics, Bulletins
The Art of Physics and why it matters: physics in March post image

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

This December we’re celebrating ‘The Art of Physics’—from the art of being a physicist to the extension of physics into the world of art—at the AIP’s 21st biennial Congress.

We already have some great speakers lined up, including Nobel laureate and former US Energy Secretary Dr Steven Chu. And it’s our chance to catch up with colleagues and see what’s happening across the various sub-disciplines.

Registration opens next month for the Congress, which will run 7-11 December at the ANU in Canberra.

One of the highlights of the conference for me will be to present the AIP’s medals and awards for outstanding research and contributions to physics. There are six awards, and nominations are open now.

We also have another honour to celebrate: Professor Ron Ekers has won the Grote Reber Gold Medal for radio astronomy. Ron has a distinguished history of research into radio emissions from our and other galaxies, as well as the development of instruments and techniques for making radio images. This includes his leading advocacy for the Square Kilometre Array.

Fundamental physics research like this is valuable not only for its own sake, but for the benefits—often unexpected—that flow on into technology and other fields. AIP members Michelle Simmons, Chennupati Jagadish and David Jamieson argued that physics can be a force for future security in a recent article published by The Conversation and the Office of the Chief Scientist in their Australia 2025 series.

Of course, one way to help grow physics as a discipline to secure its and Australia’s future is to encourage others to join the AIP. Please pass this bulletin on to your non-member colleagues; or if you’ve had this email passed on to you, please consider becoming a member.

Please note that replies to this email go to Science in Public, who send the bulletin out for me. You can contact me directly on, and there is a comprehensive list of contact details at the end of the bulletin.



Rob Robinson
President, Australian Institute of Physics

In this issue…

AIP member news

The Art of Physics – 2014 AIP Congress

Surely the biggest event on the Australian physics calendar this year is the 21st biennial AIP Congress, to be held at the Australian National University in Canberra from 7-11 December 2014.

This year our theme is ‘The Art of Physics’, in recognition of the artistry of our work, the beauty of the images we create, and our interaction with the artist community.  Appreciation of this beauty is an important route for capturing the imagination of others, so we’ll be encouraging our conference presenters to highlight the art in their own physics.

Speakers for the event will include Nobel laureate and former US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, attosecond and laser physicist Paul Corkum, plasma physicist and CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Agency Steven Cowley, project scientist of the Australian SKA Pathfinder Lisa Harvey-Smith, theoretical physicist and science populariser Lawrence M. Krauss, climate modeller Steven Sherwood, and chief executive at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin for Materials and Energy Anke Rita Kaysser-Pyzalla.

Included in the Congress will also be the annual meeting of the Australian Optical Society, as well as the many other technical groups and discipline areas associated with the AIP.

Registrations and the call for abstracts will open in March. For further details watch the website

AIP medals & awards open for nominations

The Institute recognises achievement in physics through its medals and awards. We’re currently calling for nominations for the following prizes:

  • Harrie Massey Medal, for contributions to physics by an Australian anywhere in the world, or for work carried out in Australia by a non- resident (must be an AIP or IoP member).
  • Alan Walsh Medal, for contributions by a practising physicist to Australian industry.
  • Walter Boas Medal, awarded by the Victorian Branch for contributions to physics research by a member of the AIP.
  • Education Medal, for contribution to Australian university physics education by a member of the AIP.
  • Bragg Gold Medal, for the most outstanding PhD thesis in physics at an Australian university.
  • Outstanding Service to Physics, for exceptional contribution by an individual who gives great amounts of time and effort to furthering physics as a discipline.

The AIP President will present these awards at the 2014 Congress in Canberra in December.

Send nominations for the awards, except the Bragg Gold Medal, to Olivia Samardzic,, by 31 May 2014.

Further information on all the awards and details on the Bragg Gold Medal nomination process can be found on the AIP website.

Radio astronomer honoured

Professor Ron EkersAIP member Professor Ron Ekers has been named as this year’s winner of the Grote Reber Gold Medal for innovative and significant contributions to radio astronomy.

Ron’s many achievements include determining the luminosity function of radio galaxies, measuring radio wave deflection by the Sun’s gravitational field, making high-resolution radio images of the center of the Galaxy, determining the Galaxy’s magnetic field through pulsar observations, and developing computer languages and techniques for analysing radio images.

He was also a leading advocate for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and is currently leading a project to investigate how to use the SKA to detect radio emissions from ultra-high energy cosmic neutrinos striking the moon.

He was the Foundation Director of CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) at Narrabri, and is a former director of the Very Large Array in New Mexico, USA. He is currently a CSIRO Fellow at the ATNF and Adjunct Professor at Curtin University in Perth and the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India.

Ron will be presented with his medal at the 31st General Assembly of the International Union of Radio Science, to be held in Beijing, China, in August 2014.

More photos from UQ

Following our last bulletin’s posting of a photo of the University of Queensland Department of Physics in 1992, Norman Heckenberg has uploaded two more, from 1977 and 1989.

This time the names are all known, and you can see them for yourself at

Other physics news

Physics is fundamental to Australia’s future

The Office of the Chief Scientist and The Conversation recently began a 12-part series titled Australia 2025: Smart Science.

This series of articles looks at what the various scientific disciplines can contribute to the aim of Australia in 2025 being “strong, prosperous, healthy and secure and positioned to benefit all Australians in a rapidly changing world.”

As the fundamental science, physics came first, with an article written by AIP members Michelle Simmons, Chennupati Jagadish and David Jamieson.

The trio talked about how fundamental research leads to technological developments, such as electronics, lasers and medical imaging, as well as contributions to other fields, like economics and minimal exploration, and to international collaboration. They also emphasised the importance of physics education to continue Australia’s performance in this field.

You can read and comment on their article at The Conversation.

Do you measure up to a metrology award?

Measurement underpins science, technology and other fields of knowledge, but we rarely celebrate its importance. Australia’s National Measurement Institute is focussing on the significant role that measurement plays in our everyday lives by offering two $2,000 awards for measurement excellence, to mark World Metrology Day, 20 May 2014.

The awards recognise achievements such as research into measurement techniques, applying these techniques to problems in industry, or leadership in measurement. One award will be given to an outstanding individual or group, the other to an individual under 35.

Nominations close 5 pm AEST, 31 March 2014. For more information see

Women in physics in print

Our last bulletin highlighted the AIP’s emphasis this year on its Women in Physics programs. In that vein, we’ve been alerted to a new publication by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).

This book features 18 article reprints, including reviews, research, biographies and analysis of the role of women in science.

Pre-publication sales for the book are now open, with proceeds to support the endowment of the Melba Newell Phillips Medal. You can find out more and order a copy at the AAPT online store.

AIP events

Graphene: deep physics from the all-surface material

Tue 18 Mar 2014, 6.30pm
Macquarie University, Building E6B, North Ryde, NSW

Public lecture

Michael S. Fuhrer from Monash University will try to give a sense of why graphene, a single atom-thick plane of graphite, has sparked, and continues to generate, such excitement in the condensed matter physics community.

The Australian Synchrotron in the International Year of Crystallography

Tue 13 May 2014, 6pm
ANSTO Discovery Centre, Lucas Heights, NSW

Public lecture and tour

Andrew Peele will discuss some of the outstanding science produced at the Australian Synchrotron that was made possible by the work of “Australia’s” W. L. Bragg.

More events below

News in brief

Prize for young computational physicist

Nominations for the IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Computational Physics are open until 1 April 2014.

“Science in Fiction” student video contest

An international competition invites year 7-12 students to make a video investigating the practicality of science fiction movies, TV and games. Entries close 21 March 2014.

Asteroids caught pounding pulsar

Scientists at CSIRO’s Australian National Telescope Facility have found evidence of incoming asteroids being vaporised by a pulsar’s radio beam.

Stellar nursery located

UNSW researchers using an Antarctic telescope have identified the formation of a molecular gas cloud 200 light years long.

One-way photonic circuits created

Photonics researchers at the University of Sydney have built a non-reciprocal, one-way light circuit using fundamental quantum mechanics.

Pushing Heisenberg to the limit

Physicists at the University of Queensland have experimentally tested theoretical limits on the accuracy of joint measurements of incompatible quantities.

Solar eclipse tools for students

QUT astrophysicists have released high-definition video footage of the November 2012 total solar eclipse for use in classroom experiments.

Modelling radiotherapy at the nanoscale

A PhD student at the University of Adelaide has developed a computer simulation of how cancer cells respond to radiation.

Oldest known star discovered

Astronomers from ANU and Monash University have identified a 13.6-billion-year-old star, from the second generation after the Big Bang.

Cheaper infrared laser with more power

Researchers from the University of Adelaide have designed a mid-infrared fibre laser that uses dual-wavelength pumping for 25 times more power.

Books for review

John Macfarlane, the book review editor for Australian Physics, is seeking volunteers write a short review (300-500 words) of one of the following books:

Magnificent Principia: Exploring Newton’s Masterpiece

Colin Pask, Prometheus Books 2013 (2 copies received, one review in progress)

Nothing: from absolute zero to cosmic oblivion

New Scientist, Profile Books Ltd 2013

Particle Physics – a graphic guide

Tom Whyntie and Oliver Pugh, Icon Books 2013

40 Years of Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless Theory

Edited by Jorge V Jose, 2013, World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd

If your review is accepted for publication you may keep the book for your own use.

If you are interested or want to suggest another book to review, contact John at


AIP event denotes AIP events


Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Fri, 24 Oct 2014, 7pm
Royal Theatre, NCCC
Public lecture


AIP event Michael S. Fuhrer: Graphene – deep physics from the all-surface material
Tue, 18 Mar 2014, 6.30pm
Macquarie University, Building E6B, Herring Road, North Ryde
Public lecture

AIP event Andrew Peele: The Australian Synchrotron in the International Year of Crystallography
Tue, 13 May 2014, 6pm
ANSTO Discovery Centre, New Illawarra Rd, Lucas Heights
Public lecture

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Wed, 22 Oct 2014, 7pm
State Theatre, Sydney
Public lecture


Journey Through the Cosmos with Brian Cox and the QSO
Thu, 6 Nov 2014
QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane
Public lectures and music


Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Tue, 14 Oct 2014, 7pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Public lecture


No upcoming events are currently listed.


AIP event VCE Physics Days at Luna Park (fully booked)Tue, 4 Mar – Thu 6 Mar 2014
18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda
For students and teachers

Ulrich Steiner: How nature makes materials
Wed, 5 Mar 2014, 5:45pm
Masson Theatre, Chemistry Building, The University of Melbourne
Public lecture

Alicia Oshlack: From Astrophysics to Bioinformatics
Thu, 6 Mar 2014, 4:30pm
Laby Ideas Centre & Hercus Theatre, David Caro Building, The University of Melbourne
Public lecture and tour

Rachel Webster: VCE Lecture 2 – Astronomy in Australia: Our part in the Big Picture
Thu, 6 Mar 2014, 6pm
Laby Theatre, School of Physics, The University of Melbourne
For students and teachers

Max Thompson: VCE Lecture 3 – When I was very young: Misconceptions in Physics
Thu, 20 Mar 2014, 6pm
Laby Theatre, School of Physics, The University of Melbourne
For students and teachers

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Sat, 18 Oct 2014, 7pm
The Plenary, MCEC
Public lecture


Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Thu, 16 Oct 2014, 7pm
Riverside Theatre, PCEC
Public lecture


International Conference on Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology (ICNN-2014)
3–5 March 2014. Karachi, Pakistan

NEW iWAT — 2014 International Workshop on Antenna Technology: “Small Antennas, Novel EM Structures and Materials, and Applications”
4–6 March 2014, Darling Harbour, NSW

SIEA 2014 – Workshop on Strain/Stress Scanning and Imaging for Engineering Applications
1–2 April 2014, ANSTO, Lucas Heights, NSW

Solar 2014 Conference and Expo
8–9 May 2014, Melbourne, Vic

NEW CRC Association National Conference: Innovating with Asia 2014
20–21 May 2014, Perth, WA

Powerful AGN and Their Host Galaxies Across Cosmic Time
16–20 June 2014, Port Douglas, Qld

19th OptoElectronics and Communications Conference/39th Australian Conference on Optical Fibre Technology (OECC/ACOFT 2014)
6–10 July 2014, Melbourne, Vic

6th Pacific Rim Conference on Rheology
20–25 July 2014, The University of Melbourne, Vic

Joint International Conference on Hyperfine Interactions and Symposium on Nuclear Quadrupole Interactions 2014
21–26 September 2014, Academy of Sciences, Canberra, ACT

XRM2014 — 12th International Conference on X-ray Microscopy
26–31 October 2014, Melbourne, Vic

NEW OSA Optics and Photonics Congress on Light, Energy and the Environment
2–5 December 2014, Australian National University, ACT

NEW AIP Congress – The Art of Physics
7–11 December 2014, Australian National University, ACT

Contributions and contact details

Please get in contact if you have any queries about physics in Australia:

  • Rob Robinson, AIP President
  • the AIP website is
  • membership enquiries to the Secretariat or 03 9646 9515
  • ideas for articles for Australian Physics to the Chair of the Editorial Board and Acting Editor Brian James, on, or the editorial board, which is listed in your latest copy of the magazine
  • contributions to the bulletin (e.g. activities, conferences and announcements) to Chris Lassig from Science in Public on or call (03) 9398 1416, by the 23rd of the month prior
  • the AIP Events Calendar to check what’s on, and also to submit your own physics-related events (any queries to Chris, as above)
  • to receive these bulletins, please email Chris, as above (you don’t need to be a member of the Institute).

(Sent by Niall Byrne, Science in Public, on behalf of the Australian Institute of Physics,