Physics Congress kicks off – Physics in December

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

Warrick Couch imageAs I write,  we are in the first full day of the Joint Physics Congress  in Brisbane. This week over 100 Australian and Asia-Pacific physicists will be presenting their research. The stellar cast of international physicists includes Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita, LIGO head David Reitze, experimental quantum physicist Alain Aspect, Korean government science advisor Youngah Park, and fusion researcher Jean Jacquinot.

Annual general meetings have been held around all the AIP Branches in the last month, in concert with final public talks for the year that brought exoplanets, topological insulators and more new physics to members and supporters.  A short summary of branch AGMs is included in this bulletin and details of the new office bearers can be found online.

And finally, an exciting opportunity: one of Australia’s premier physics institutions, the University of Sydney, is seeking a new Head for their Physics School. Further details can be found later in this bulletin..


Warrick Couch
President, Australian Institute of Physics


Physics Congress news

Congress launched

The 2016 Physics Congress was launched in Brisbane last night with a popular welcome reception at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. This week will see over 100 physicists from each state and across the Asia-Pacific presenting their latest research.

The joint 2016 APCC-AIP Congress is the 13th Asia Pacific Physics Conference and 22nd Australian Institute of Physics Congress, incorporating the Australian Optical Society Conference. It’s on at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 4 to 8 December 2016.

Highlights will include:

The biggest discovery of 2016 – gravitational waves Hear from LIGO head David Reitze on what’s next. Einstein said we’d never find them. But we did. Have more been found? What’s Australia’s role, and why should we care?

Our neutrino world – explained by 2015 Nobel Prize winner Takaaki Kajita Thousands of billions of neutrinos—mostly created by the Sun—are flowing through your body every second. You cannot see them and you do not feel them. So how did we discover they have mass, and why does that challenge our standard model of the Universe?

Professor Kajita will also be meeting personally with two school students courtesy of the Queensland AIP: Courtney Smith from Rockhampton Girls’ Grammar School and Brody Phillips from Brisbane Adventist College.

The world’s largest science experiment hopes to crack fusion power Speakers from around the world, including senior advisor to the ITER project Jean Jacquinot, will speak about the global race to harness fusion. ANU researchers speak about Australia’s involvement.

Also watch for news on:

  • Australia’s new constellation of satellites – packed up and ready for launch in 2017
  • The rubies and diamonds that will make your cancers glow
  • Quantum computing – how Australia is leading the race
  • Plasma-enhanced beer and milk: the Deakin researchers zapping liquids with plasma
  • The science of plasma welding, and using plasma in surgery
  • No more exploding smartphones: the Australia-China supercapacitor collaboration that could do away with lithium-ion batteries.
  • Squinting at alien Earths with the aid of ANU’s clever new photonic chip.

The full program is available online.




The recipients of the AIP Bragg Gold Medal (best PhD thesis, Phiala Shanahan) and the AIP/IOP Harrie Massey Medal (international contributions to physics, Ray Volkas) will be presented their awards at the formal dinner to wrap up the Congress this Thursday.

Other awards to be announced this week and presented at the Congress dinner include:

  • Asia-Pacific early-career honour: the CN Yang Award
  • AIP Ruby Payne-Scott Award for early-career researcher
  • Chandrasekhar Prize for plasma physics (2014, 2015, 2016)
  • AIP Education Medal
  • AIP Outstanding Service to Physics Award

Follow the Congress buzz on social media

twitterWe’ll be on social media at the Congress and you can follow updates at @AsiaAusPhysics and #BrisPhys16

If you’re at the conference, we encourage you to help us share the goings on by tweeting using #BrisPhys16, and follow us so we can say hi.

Shape-shifting particles and underground super labs: 2015 Nobel Prize winner tells his story

Public Lecture 7pm Monday 5 December
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Great Halls 1 & 2

Professor Takaaki KajitaProfessor Takaaki Kajita was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of neutrino oscillations.

His is a story of twists and turns, including gigantic underground laboratories, passionate conflicts over the nature of matter, and fears of the end of the world—culminating in science’s most prestigious prize and the unexpected conclusion that neutrinos have mass.

Kajita was the man in charge of two massive laboratories in Japan dedicated to capturing neutrinos. In vast pools of water deep underground, flashes of blue proved their existence. But something was awry—scientists only found half as many solar neutrinos as they expected. Was the Sun about to go out?

It was the riddle that made Kajita’s career. Together with Arthur McDonald of Canada, Kajita discovered that neutrinos are shape-shifters that flip back and forth between different states, making some of them invisible to the detectors—hence the apparent lack of them. The Sun is burning nicely, after all.

The finding set to rest fears for life on Earth, and helped us to see the full picture of neutrinos—particles which still have a lot to tell us about supernovae, the working of stars, and the unresolved physics of dark matter.

On Monday night in Brisbane, Professor Takaaki Kajita will tell us his story, and talk a little about what comes next, introduced by Prof Hans Bachor from ANU.

Light vs metamaterials with IOP President

Roy Sambles imageHow do the micron-thick structures on the surfaces of butterfly wings create flickering iridescent patterns, and how could we use such structures to disguise dull-grey, ponderous battleships?

Roy Sambles, president of the 500,000-strong UK Institute of Physics, is in Australia for the Physics congress in Brisbane. Professor Sambles will describe his research in the interaction of light and metamaterials at a series of talks in NSW:

AIP news

Around the branches

aip logo 2State AIP events around the country brought members and physics supporters together over the last month, celebrated awards, and elected new branch officers. Event wrap-ups and office bearers in each state are listed online.

Award winners celebrated at the AGMs included:

  • James Titchener of the Australian National University who won the NSW AIP Postgraduate Presentation.
  • Joe Wolfe at the University of New South Wales who was recognised with the NSW AIP Community Outreach to Physics Award.

Madeline Marshall of the University of Tasmania whose thesis Triggering Active Galactic Nuclei in Galaxy Clusters was awarded the Ken McCracken Prize for best performance in final year (Honours) physics at the University

Deadline extended: seeking next WIP lecturer

The deadline has been extended for nominations for next year’s Women in Physics lecturer.

Could you be next to inspire the next generation of great Australian physicists? Conditions and information online.

Magazine contributions sought

aip logo 2If you would like to write a piece for the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies (AAPPS), the AIP’s partner in this year’s Congress, please contact Australian Physics magazine editor Brian James.

Brian would also like to hear from anyone interested in reviewing any of the books below:

  • Modern Atomic Physics by Vasant Natarajan
  • Why String Theory by Joseph Conlon
  • Quantum Optomechanics by W P Bowen & G J Milburn

So, tell us about yourself

The NSW branch is soliciting responses to a short survey, to understand members and physics supporters. We want to hear from everyone who has a passion for physics, even if you’re not a member, so that we can deliver the best programme to benefit you and the rest of the physics community.

Click here to complete the survey before 9 December. It should take less than 10 minutes and you could win a $100 prize.

Other physics news

New Head of Physics sought, University of Sydney

UoSThe University of Sydney is seeking applicants for the Head of School, Physics. This is an opportunity to join the University of Sydney at an exciting time with the release of a new strategic direction, building upon the University’s outstanding global reputation of educational and research excellence and innovation.

More details on the AIP website.

Seeking exceptional laser/photonics scientists

Are you, or do you work with, an exceptional early-career researcher in the field of laser physics or photonics?

The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) is seeking nominations for Young Scientist Prizes in the field of lasers and photonics. There are two prizes: one for fundamental science and one for applied science. Details online.

The medals and 1000 euro prize will be presented at the Pacific-Rim Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in Singapore in July-August 2017. Deadline for submissions is 20 December. IUPAP welcomes applications from outstanding women and other under-represented groups.

Always dreamed of working with NASA?

Australian university students have the opportunity to participate in a NASA-affiliated summer internship program, working directly with NASA scientists and engineers. Entry closes 9 December. Details online.


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

Extreme light concentration with optical resonance
Mon, 5 Dec 2016, 2pm

New South Wales

Why Are We Here? Physics and the Fortunate Universe
Mon, 5 Dec 2016, 5:30pm
Westmead Institute, Parramatta

Secondary science teacher professional development day
Fri, 9 Dec 2016, 9:30am
ANSTO Discovery Centre

Metasurfaces – from butterflies to battleships
Fri, 9 Dec 2016, 11am
School of Physics, UNSW

Antarctic Astronomical Adventures
Fri, 9 Dec 2016, 6:30pm

Microwaves and Metastructures
Mon, 12 Dec 2016, 10:30am
Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, Wollongong

Acoustic Metasurfaces
Tue, 13 Dec 2016, 11am
University of Sydney

Newly Discovered Planetary Nebulae in the Small Magellanic Cloud
Thu, 15 Dec 2016, 11am
Macquarie University


AIP Congress: in association with the Asia Pacific Physics Conference
4–8 Dec 2016
Brisbane Convention Centre

Shape-shifting particles and underground super labs: 2015 Nobel Prize winner tells his story
Mon, 5 Dec 2016, 7pm
Brisbane Convention Centre

South Australia

Secondary science teacher professional development day (pre-service)
Thu, 8–9 Jun 2017, 9am
The Science Exchange


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


Mount Burnett Observatory members night
Fridays, 8pm
Mount Burnett, VIC

Quantum information technology: from the spooky world of quantum physics
Thu, 8 Dec 2016, 6:30pm
The Royal Society of Victoria

LIGO, Gravitational Waves and the New Astronomy
Fri, 16 Dec 2016, 6:30pm
Swinburne University of Technology

Western Australia

Radio galaxies and galaxy evolution
Thu, 1 Dec 2016, 3pm
University of Western Australia


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

ECU & WesCEF Astronomy Day: Towards ensuring a STEM workforce
7 Dec 2016, Edith Cowan University, Perth, WA

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

Interactions Between Topological Recursion, Modularity, Quantum Invariants and Low-Dimensional Topology
14–23 Dec 2016, University of Melbourne, Creswick, Vic

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

New Fifth Annual Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Mathematical Physics
1–3 Feb 2017, Kiama NSW

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

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

New Realising Ska-­Low: New Technologies & Techniques For Imaging And Calibration Of Low Frequency Arrays
29–31 Mar 2017, Perth, WA

New IRA 2017 — Innovation in Radiation Applications
20–22 Apr 2017, Wollongong, NSW

Innovation in Radiation Applications 2017
20–22 Apr 2017, University of Wollongong, NSW

International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC 2019)
25–29 May 2017, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Vic

New Surveying the Cosmos: The Science From Massively Multiplexed Surveys
5–9 Jun 2017, Sydney, NSW

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