New physics research centres, and Congress deadline extended: physics in October

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

warrickIt is an exciting time for Australian physics research, with five of the new ARC Centres of Excellence announced in September being in physics and astronomy. We briefly outline these four Centres later in this bulletin.

The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt, delivered his Innovation speech this month at the AFR National Innovation Summit. I encourage you to read this speech (linked to below) and vision for the next waves of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, including the strong, simple message: “innovation is about both old and new businesses”.

There is also more below regarding Minister Hunt’s announcements about CSIRO and more funding for quantum computing.

The 2016 Nobel Prizes will be announced next week, with the gravitational waves team (LIGO) favoured for the Physics Prize. We will share the result on Twitter at 8.45pm AEST on Wednesday night.

And of course, we will have 2015 Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita in Australia in just 10 weeks, at the Physics Congress in Brisbane, as well as LIGO Director David Reitze and a wealth of other international speakers. We are extending the Congress registration deadline this month, as well as introducing a new, very affordable undergrad registration option.

Warrick Couch
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Physics Congress

The Physics Congress in December will bring together the brightest physicists from Australia and the Asia Pacific region, including Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita, LIGO Director David Reitze, biological physicist Youngah Park, and more.

Now that we have the schedule of oral presentations decided, we are asking for further submissions for poster papers.

If you have students that would benefit from attending, let them know that we have reduced the registration fee for undergraduate students to $250. We are also extending the deadline for standard registrations.

  • Brisbane, 4–8 December 2016
  • Registration at
  • Meeting Honorary Chair: Brian Schmidt
  • Meeting co-Chairs: Warrick Couch and Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop
  • Joint 13th Asian-Pacific Physics Conference and 22nd AIP Congress

AIP Awards

NSW Postgrad Awards Each NSW university is invited to nominate a student to compete for the $500 Postgraduate prize and medal. The Royal Society of NSW will award the $500 Jak Kelly Scholarship prize as a separate award category. Students’ 20-minute films will be judged on content, scientific quality, clarity, and presentation skills. Presentations will be made on 15 November at UNSW, followed by the NSW AIP annual branch dinner. Details here.

NSW Physics Outreach Award Do you know a passionate NSW physicist encouraging physics education and community engagement? Nominations close on 9 October for the NSW AIP’s Community Outreach Award. More information.

High-school student competitions

What question would you ask a Nobel Laureate? Queensland high school students have the opportunity to meet Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for the discovery of neutrino oscillations. The Queensland AIP’s competition asks students to submit a single question they would ask this Nobel-winning physicist. Physics teachers are encouraged to share details of the competition with their classes. More details.

Frame your physics The AIP’s Frame Your Physics competition is open to students across Australia. Teachers – an entertaining, informative three-minute physics video from your passionate, curious students could win awesome prizes for your school. Entries must be submitted before 31 October. So get filming, be creative, and have some fun with it. Details online.

Seeking next year’s AIP Women in Physics lecturer

Earlier this year, experimental nuclear physicist Catalina Curceanu spoke to budding physicists around the country about the Big Bang, star death, and dark matter. Last year, the ANU’s Jodie Bradby told audiences about the creation of new nanomaterials at extreme pressures.

Could you be next to help inspire the next generation of great Australian physicists? The AIP is now seeking nominations for the 2017 Women in Physics lecturer. Conditions and information online.

Book reviewers sought

Tell us what you think. If you are interested in reviewing any of the books below for the AIP’s bimonthlyAustralian Physics magazine, please contact magazine editor Brian James.

  • Modern Atomic Physics by Vasant Natarajan
  • Why String Theory by Joseph Conlon
  • Quantum Optomechanics by W P Bowen & G J Milburn
  • Physics of Radiation and Climate by Michael A Box and Gail P Box

New ARC Centres

Nine new ARC Centres of Excellence received funding of $283.5 million last month, with four of the Centres in physics and astronomy:

lkCentre for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (CAASTRO 3D) will answer fundamental questions in astrophysics, including the origin of matter and elements of the periodic table, and the origin of ionisation in the universe. The Centre will capitalise on innovative Australian technology and instrumentation to propel Australia to the forefront of astronomical research.

  • Led by Australian National University
  • Director Lisa Kewley

awCentre for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQuS) will harness the quantum world for the future health, economy, environment, and security of Australian society. The Centre aims to solve the most challenging research problems at the interface of basic quantum physics and engineering, working with industry to translate research discoveries into practical applications and devices, and training scientists in research, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

  • Led by the University of Queensland
  • Director Andrew White

mbCentre for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) will explore the extreme physics of black holes and warped spacetime, inspiring the next generation of Australian scientists and engineers. Researchers will build on decades of Australian investment in gravitational wave and pulsar science, coalescing research activities into a focused national program.

  • Led by Swinburne University of Technology
  • Director Matthew Bailes

msCentre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) is expected to provide a strategic advantage in a world where information and security are increasingly important. The Centre aims to implement quantum processors able to transfer information across networks with absolute security.

  • Led by the University of New South Wales
  • Director Michelle Simmons

mfCentre for Future Low Energy Electronics Technologies will meet the challenge of decreasing society’s energy use by realising fundamentally new types of electronic conduction, expected to form the basis of integrated electronics technology with ultra-low energy consumption.

  • Monash University
  • Michael Fuhrer

And there will also be some wonderful physics research at the new Centre for Exciton Science (University of Melbourne, Paul Mulvaney) and Centre for Climate Extremes (UNSW, Andrew Pitman).

We’ll be covering plans, events and news from each of the new Centres of Excellence in future editions of the AIP bulletin.

CSIRO vision and quantum computing funding: announcements from the Minister

An increased CSIRO focus on blue sky science was announced last month, with the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt, announcing an increase in frontier science funding to $52 million per year by 2019–20. This will include the establishment of Future Science Platforms covering biosystems, digiscape, synthetic biology, environomics, deep earth imaging, and advanced integrated materials. Read the media release.

At the same time, 39 Australian research teams received support to commercialise their science with ON-Prime, the CSIRO acceleration program that helps research teams match their discoveries to real-world applications.

Minister Hunt also recently confirmed funding for quantum computing research, with $70 million committed by government and industry to develop a prototype silicon quantum integrated circuit at the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T). Read the release. (And, why silicon qubits? Andrea Morello explains.)

The Minister also announced the opening of the Business Research and Innovation Initiative, covering five public sector challenges for which small to medium-sized enterprises can develop solutions. He announced the new STEM Business Fellowship program, the opening of a new funding round under the Cooperative Research Centres programme, grants under the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, grants under the Global Connection Fund, and with Minister Birmingham, $10 million for CSIRO to extend the Scientist and Mathematicians in Schools programme.

Investigating electricity infrastructure and accelerator science

Two reports last month from the Australian Academy of Science looked at Australian accelerator science and energy:

  • Energy for Australia in the 21st Century: The central role of electricity looked at the challenges posed by Australia’s aging electricity infrastructure.
  • Discovery Machines: Accelerators for science, technology, health and innovation looked at the potential for particle accelerator science in medicine, energy, manufacturing, the environment, and research.

Read the reports at

Calling for synchrotron submissions

Registrations and submissions are now open for the two-day Australian Synchrotron User Meeting. The meeting will showcase the best research undertaken at the Synchrotron, feature local and international plenary speakers, and provide updates on techniques and developments covering advanced materials, biological systems, structural biology, Earth and environment, therapies, surfaces, industry, and imaging. Deadline is 3 October for submissions and 31 October for  registration. More online.


A fifth fundamental force? (Geraint Lewis)

The scientific media was abuzz recently with hints that a fifth force of nature had been seen. If confirmed, this would be big news – a revolution of our understanding of the fundamental workings of the universe. But should we get excited just yet?

The story begins with a team of Hungarian physicists bombarding a target of lithium-7 with protons, resulting in an excited state of beryllium-8. This then decays to the ground-state with the emission of a positron-electron pair. By examining the properties of these ejected particles, the Hungarian team was searching for the potential signature of an additional particle playing a role in the decay, an unseen intermediate that exists for only a moment before itself decaying.

Click here for more.

Quantum video competition

Fancy yourself as a film-maker? Interested in quantum physics? The Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems is encouraging  Australian nominations for Quantum Shorts 2016, an international festival for short films drawing inspiration from quantum physics. Top prize is US$1500, and submission deadline is 1 December. More information here.

What happened at 750 GeV? (Amelia Brennan)

The particle physics community was left shuffling its feet in mild embarrassment recently as the new 750 GeV di-photon resonance, which had inspired upwards of 500 submitted papers, turned out to be just another statistical fluctuation in the data.

The apparent resonance was first publicly announced by CERN in December last year, when both the ATLAS and CMS Collaborations – using new 13 TeV data produced by the Large Hadron Collider and collected by the two multi-purpose detectors – reported seeing more events than predicted by the Standard Model in data containing two high-energy photons. Significantly, both experiments saw this excess occurring when the two photons had an invariant mass close to 750 GeV (indicating a single new heavy particle at the same mass), with local significance measures of 3.9 sigmas (ATLAS) and 3.4 sigmas (CMS). Typically, a significance of 5 sigmas is required before a discovery can be claimed.

Click here for more.

Physics shorts

Ghost X-rays could enable safer, low-intensity medical imaging RMIT researchers have split an X-ray source into two beams: one via the sample and one direct to sensor – potentially enabling more-sensitive detectors that could image the human body at much lower, safer X-ray intensities.

New crystal found by smashing Buckyballs with light Imaging Centre researchers using the brilliant light from Stanford University’s X-ray free-electron laser have inadvertently discovered a new type of crystal, with round Buckyballs subjected to the XFEL light rearranging in a completely unknown ‘rugby ball’ formation.

Diamonds: a laser researcher’s best friend? Macquarie University laser researchers have used light-amplifying diamonds to create lasers uncorrupted by destabilising effects that blur their frequency range, increasing their function for ultra-stable applications such as gravitational wave measurement.

Deciphering the galactic zoo Astronomers at the University of Western Australia, University of Sydney and CAASTRO have helped untangle the physics behind galaxy shape, developing a very fine spectroscopy tool for the Anglo Australian Telescope (NSW) that allows measurement of gas and star movement within galaxies.

Nuclear physics ebooks available Following the International Nuclear Physics Conference last month in Adelaide, the UK’s IOP has shared a selection of relevant articles, special issues, and titles from their ebooks programme.


Reach a bigger audience. The Australian physics events calendar is the definitive source for physics events around the country. If your physics event isn’t listed here, ask us about adding it, having it included in these regular bulletins, and tweeted from the AusPhysics account.

Australian Capital Territory

Seminar: Partial Dynamical Symmetries and Rotation-Vibration Interactions in Deformed Nuclei
Tue, 4 Oct 2016, 11am

Holiday activities: How to find a planet, make a black hole, or build a solar system
4–6 Oct 2016, 9.30am, 10.30am, 1.30pm

Mars: The Live Experience Canberra
Mon, 7 Nov 2016, 8pm
Llewellyn Hall, ANU

New South Wales

Sat, 1 Oct 2016, 9:30am
Siding Spring Observatory, Coonabarabran, NSW

Seminar: In-situ IMF at z~2
Thu, 6 Oct 2016, 11am
Australian Astronomical Observatory

Seminar: Charge and spin in a two-dimensional electron gas: always an exciting encounter
Mon, 10 Oct 2016, 3pm

Jeff Cooke Colloquium: Deeper, wider, faster – Chasing the fastest transients in the universe
Wed, 12 Oct 2016, 3pm
Australia Telescope National Facility, Marsfield, NSW

AIP event  Dark Matter in the Universe: 2016 Dirac Lecture and Award of the Dirac Medal 
Thu, 13 Oct 2016, 5.45pm

Summer Series: The world’s Largest experiment
Wed, 19 Oct 2016, 6pm
Sydney Observatory, Millers Pt, Sydney

New Scientist presents… Instant expert – the quantum world
Sat, 22 Oct 2016, 10am

Seminar: The most massive galaxies in 3D
Tue, 25 Oct 2016, 3pm

Mars: The Live Experience Sydney
Sun, 6 Nov 2016, 7:30pm
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney


AIP event  Queensland University of Technology Physics Society AGM
Fri, 7 Oct 2016, 12pm
Artisian’s Café, QUT, Gardens Point campus

AIP event  AIP Congress – in association with the Asia Pacific Physics Conference
Sun, 4 Dec 2016
Brisbane Convention Centre

South Australia

Exhibition: The Observer effect
Until 4 Nov 2016
The Science Exchange Adelaide

Seminar: Electrochemical adventures at liquid-liquid interfaces
Thu, 27 Oct 2016, 1pm
Flinders University


Where, when, what? The road to unification
Tue, 27 Sep 2016, 8pm
University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay campus

Supersymmetry: an exhibit inspired by experimental particle physics at CERN
Ongoing exhibition
MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), Hobart


AIP event  Mount Burnett Observatory members nights
Fridays, 8pm
Mount Burnett, VIC

MCATM Seminar: Yuri Kivshar – topological photonics
Wed, 5 Oct 2016, 11am
Monash University

Lecture: X-Ray Lasers: The new wave in diffraction
Thu, 6 Oct 2016, 2:30pm
CSIRO, Clayton

Colloquium: Lessons learned from modern large cosmological simulations
Thu, 6 Oct 2016, 11.30am
Swinburne University of Technology

Seminar: Probing the fast transient universe
Wed, 12 Oct 2016, 12pm
University of Melbourne

Dark Matter: a southern hemisphere perspective
Thu, 13 Oct 2016, 7pm
The Royal Society of Victoria

XFRMR performance
13 and 14 Oct, 8pm
The Substation, Newport

Colloquium: The intriguing life of massive relic galaxies
Thu, 20 Oct 2016, 11.30am
Swinburne University of Technology

Western Australia

There are no upcoming events.

AIP event denotes AIP events



SPIE Bio-Photonics Australasia 2016
16–19 October 2016, Adelaide, SA

The First Pietro Baracchi Conference: Italo-Australian Radio Astronomy in the Era of the SKA
1–4 November 2016, Australian Resources Research Centre,  Perth, WA

Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine Summer School 2016
4–6 November 2016, UNSW

Understanding the origins of the Galaxy and its stellar content
21–25 November 2016, Shine Dome, Canberra

New Quantum Photonic Connections Conference
24 November 206, Sydney Nanoscience Hub, Sydney, NSW

Australian Synchrotron User Meeting 2016
24–25 November 2016, Australian Synchrotron, Clayton, VIC

IAU Symposia: The lives and death-throes of massive stars
28 November to 2 December 2016, Auckland, NZ

AIP event 2016 AIP Congress (in association with the Asia-Pacific Physics Conference)
4–8 December 2016, Brisbane Convention Centre, Brisbane, QLD

Conference on Optoelectronic and Microelectronic Materials and Devices COMMAD 2016 (Colombo Theaters, UNSW)
12–14 December 2016, UNSW, Sydney

Wagga 2017–The 41st Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting
31 January to 3 February, Wagga Wagga Campus Charles Stuart University, NSW

Australian X-ray Analytical Association (AXAA) 2017 Conference and Exhibition
5–9 February 2017, Pullman Albert Park, Melbourne

International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology
12–16 February 2017, Queenstown, NZ

Cosmic Stars Astronomy and Space Science Education Workshop
4 Mar 2017, Giralang Primary School, ACT

International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions (ICPEAC XXX)
26 July to 1 August 2017, Cairns
Note the AIP student travel scheme for AIP student members will be available for this conference.