Physics around the country – February 2009

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

This is my last newsletter as AIP President. The AIP AGM will be held in Melbourne on Thursday 12 February (details below), after which we will have a new executive committee. Next month Brian James, who will become AIP President, will bring you all the news and events.

It has been a wonderful privilege to represent the AIP as President. I have worked to make the AIP an active and effective professional society with the aim to help boost your career in physics, to lobby for adequate funding of research and investment in the education of our future generation or physics, to create a broader view of who works in physics including those physicists in industry and for the wider community to understand the impact that physics has on their life and society in general. I expect my overall impact is nowhere near as great as I would like but I hope that I have set in motion some initiatives and approaches for the AIP to continue as I move to the role of immediate past president where I hope I can finish a few things. I would like to acknowledge the incredible dedication and hard work of the executive I worked with and all the branches committees and groups. As President I was alerted to the amazing dedication of some many people who are committed to physics. Thank you to you all and I hope that you will give this level of support to the incoming executive and committees.

We are entering into a new world order where there are a lot of major changes occurring across the globe. I think that we should take heart at the words of the new US President, Mr Barack Obama when he said in his inauguration speech:

“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

We work in physics because we get a thrill from the challenge but my association with physicists has also revealed that there is a deep belief that the work we do is important and does make a difference to our world. I hope that you are all able to continue to have this passion and “maintain the rage”!

We are hitting the ground running this year, with lots of activities listed around the country. Many of them come under the umbrella of the International Year of Astronomy. The Astronomy Year was launched in Canberra in a spectacular event which included a live cross to the 8m Gemini telescope in Chile and remarkable high resolution footage of Earthrise as seen from the moon. You can find more events at the IYA website

If you want to contact me or Brian regarding other AIP or physics matters please email If you have any questions or comments on this bulletin, the AIP or physics in Australia please let us know.

Cathy Foley,

AIP President (until 12 February)

In this bulletin:

1.      AIP events across the country

2.      Physics activities across the country – general events

3.      Physics activities across the country – seminars

4.      Nominations for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science now open

5.      Call for nominations for the Young Scientist Prize in Computational Physics

6.      Australian Postgraduate Award (Industry) in Polymers for Medical Device Engineering

7.      Gemini School Astronomy Contest

8.      Scinema student space or astronomy film competition

9.      Physics conferences

10.     Submission deadlines for the bulletin and journal

AIP events across the country

NSW: Monday 9 February, 6pm for 6.30-8.30pm, Sydney, NSW AIP

Free public talk

TITLE: Quantum reality – its uncertainty is not what it used to be

SPEAKER: Lloyd Hollenberg, University of Melbourne

VENUE: Coles Theatre, Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo

Lloyd will explore the strange and beautiful world of quantum mechanics – multiple realities, absolute uncertainty, many-worlds, quantum teleportation, quantum computing, and other generally spooky stuff of the Universe. Amazingly, with the ability to tinker directly with single atoms we are beginning to glimpse the true nature of quantum reality. And now a completely new class of technology based on these strange rules is being developed, with possibly far reaching implications.

No maths required – just bring curiosity about the world and an open mind.

More information:


VIC: Thursday 12 February, 6pm, Melbourne, AIP


VENUE: Hercus Theatre, David Caro (Physics) Building University of Melbourne, Parkville


VIC: Thursday 12 February, 6.30pm, Melbourne, VIC AIP

This Vic AIP meeting is being held in conjunction with the national AIP AGM. Refreshments are provided before the talk.

TITLE: The first galaxies

SPEAKER: Stuart Wyithe, University of Melbourne

VENUE: Hercus Theatre, David Caro (Physics) Building University of Melbourne, Parkville

Stuart will discuss the science behind, and technical requirements of, the next generation of low-frequency radio-telescopes which will give cosmologists their first insights into the formation of the first galaxies.

If you would like to join Stuart and the branch committee members for dinner after the talk, please contact Scott Wade or (03) 9905 9642.


VIC: Monday 16 February, Science Teachers Association of Victoria and AIP

TITLE: VCE Physics Teachers’ Conference 2009

VENUE: Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton

More information:

At 4.30pm, at the end of the day program, there will be a one hour tour of the Australian Synchrotron but places are limited. Book with Dan O’Keeffe by emailing to with “Synchrotron Tour Booking” in the subject.


NSW: Wednesday 25 February, 5.30pm, Sydney, NSW AIP

Free public talk

TITLE: An industry update on global nuclear power and the opportunities for Australia

SPEAKER: Selena Ng, Areva NC

VENUE: Engineers Australia Lecture Theatre, 8 Thomas St, Chatswood

Countries worldwide are committing to nuclear power as an integral part of their future energy mix as they struggle to meet increasing electricity demands in a competitive and secure way while reducing their carbon emissions. Selena will set the record on nuclear power straight from an industry perspective, covering some of the long-argued topics such as proliferation, safety, and waste. It will also look at projected industrial developments over the coming decades, and the opportunities for Australia to get involved.

More information:


QLD: Friday 6 February, 4pm QLD AIP

TITLE: February Branch Committee meeting

VENUE: Physics Annexe, University of Queensland

Physics activities across the country – general events

WA: Thursday 5 February, 7pm, Edith Cowan University

Free public talks (7pm) and night-sky viewing (8.15pm)

TITLE: Talks and night sky viewing

SPEAKERS: Peter Birch – Astronomy in 2009 – an update on what’s happening in the skies; Alan Needham – Life away from Earth!

VENUE: Lecture theatre 32.101, Joondalup Campus, Edith Cowan University

Registration is essential. Go to


VIC: Friday 6 February, 8pm, Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society, Mt Martha

TITLE: Heavens above!

Ponder the mysteries of the night sky and universe with the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society. The evening begins with a multimedia talk and questions. Weather permitting, you will then view the sky from telescopes set up outside, or with your own telescope or binoculars.

VENUE: The Briars Historic Park, Nepean Highway, Mount Martha

Bookings are essential for these highly popular evenings – email to or phone Peter Skilton 0419 253 252

More information: or


VIC: Wednesday 11 February, 8pm, Astronomical Society of Victoria

Free talk for ASV members and the public. Supper is provided.

TITLE: Planets – their formation and detection

SPEAKER: Sarah Maddison, Swinburne University

VENUE: National Herbarium, Birdwood Ave, Melbourne

More information:


NSW: Sunday 15 February, Sydney Observatory

TITLE: Celebrating Galileo’s birthday

All-day event partnered by the IYA, including: musicians, costumes, performances of ‘Leap of faith’, coffee, pizza, telescopes, balls from the timeball tower, talks on the history of astronomy talks and readings from Galileo’s ‘Sidereal Messenger’ by Paul Brunton and Nick Lomb.

More information: or or (02) 9921 3485


NSW: Monday 16 – Wednesday 18 February, Sydney

TITLE: An international workshop in honour of Agnès Acker: Legacies of the Macquarie/AAO/Strasbourg Hα planetary nebula project

VENUE: Australia Telescope National Facility lecture theatre, Marsfield

Major topics covered: PN surveys, the galactic distance scale and PN luminosity functions in our galaxy, the Magellanic clouds and beyond, PN morphology, the PNe population of the galactic bulge and CSPN binarity

Registrations are now open.

More information: or or email


VIC: Thursday 19 February, 6.30pm, Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University

Free astronomy public lectures

TITLE: Millisecond pulsar hunting

SPEAKER: Matthew Bailes, Swinburne University

VENUE: Swinburne Virtual Reality Theatre, AR Building, Room 104, Hawthorn

Upcoming public lectures (check room location):

Thursday 19 March: Ingrid Stairs, University of British Columbia, Canada – Putting Einstein to the test

Thursday 16 April: Darren Croton, Swinburne University – Building entire universes in the Swinburne supercomputer

Thursday 21 May: Michael Murphy, Swinburne University – Are the laws of nature changing?

Bookings are essential. Contact Carolyn Cliff (03) 9214 5569 or email

More information


NSW: Friday 20 February, 8pm, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

TITLE: Hot stars, cool jazz

Music-virtuoso James Morrison, singer Emma Pask and Professor Fred Watson join forces to promote the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 in an evening of great jazz.

VENUE: Verbrugghen Hall. Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Macquarie St, Sydney

More information and bookings:


NSW: Wednesday 25 February, 7.30pm, Kuringai Chase National Park

Free public talk at Kuringai Chase National Park

TITLE: Starry, starry night: a talk on cosmology and the big bang – a trip to the stars and beyond.

SPEAKER: Mark Wardle, Macquarie University

VENUE: Kalkari Discovery Centre, Ku-ring-gai Chase Road, Mount Colah

More information: or You can book on (02) 9472 9300, but bookings are not essential.

There are many other activities at NSW national parks. See

Also in February:

Saturday 28 February, 7.30pm – International Year of Astronomy – a night under the stars, Brisbane Water National Park. Go to


VIC: Saturday 28 February, 12noon until late, Astronomical Society of Victoria, near Heathcote, Vic

TITLE: The 9th Annual Messier Star Party

Solar viewing, radio astronomy, presentations and many activities during the day. After dark, sky viewing through a variety of telescopes, including the ASV’s 25 inch Obsession telescope. Also other activities such as wine tasting, quiz and raffle.

More information: or contact Perry Vlahos on 0412 365 515 or at

Physics activities across the country – seminars

VIC: Thursday 5 February, 3pm, Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University

TITLE: Progress and opportunities at the AAO

SPEAKER: Andrew Hopkins, AAO

VENUE: Swinburne Virtual Reality Theatre, AR Building, Room 104, Hawthorn

Upcoming colloquia (11.30am unless otherwise stated):

Friday 13 February: Nicolas Bonhomme, Institut de Physique Nucléaire de Lyon – Bulk motions of filaments in the local universe

Thursday 19 February: Stuart Wyithe, University of Melbourne – TBA

Thursday 26 February: Michael Drinkwater, University of Queensland – “Ultra-compact dwarf” galaxies: the smallest galaxies known or the largest star clusters?

Thursday 5 March: Ashley J. Ruiter, Harvard CfA – Evolution of SN Ia progenitors through cosmic time

Thursday 12 March: Ewan Cameron/Marina Vika, University of St Andrews

Thursday 2 April: Glenn Kacprzak, Swinburne University – The kinematics of extended gaseous halos of galaxies: beyond 25 kpc

More information: or George Hau on


WA: Tuesday 10 February, 3.30-4.30pm, School of Physics, University of Western Australia

TITLE: Accounting for stellar and baryonic mass in the galaxy population: checks and balances

SPEAKER: Ivan Baldry, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

VENUE: Physics Lecture Room 2.15, Physics Building, University of Western Australia

More information: or (08) 6488 2738


NSW: Wednesday 11 February, 3.30-4.30pm, Australia Telescope National Facility and Anglo-Australian Observatory

TITLE: Red nuggets at high-redshift. The diminutive early history of elliptical galaxies

SPEAKER: Karl Glazebrook, Swinburne University

VENUE: ATNF Marsfield Lecture Theatre

More information: Tobias Westmeier (02) 9372 4622 or


QLD: Friday 13 March, 4pm (refreshments from 3.30pm), Physics Department, University of Queensland

TITLE: Entangling power of an expanding universe

SPEAKER: Nicholas Menicucci, Perimeter Institute, Canada

VENUE: Parnell Building Room 222, University of Queensland

Upcoming colloquium:

Friday 3 April: Dr Michael Murphy, Swinburne University – TBA

More information: or

Nominations for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science now open

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science recognise excellent and dedicated work in Australian science and science teaching. As well as the major prize, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, there is the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year, which recognises early-career research, and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary School.

I particularly encourage you to identify early-career physicists to nominate for the Malcolm McIntosh Prize. Past winners include Tanya Monro, Mark Cassidy and Naomi McClure-Griffiths.

Previous winners of the Science Teaching Prize include AIP member Mark Butler.

For further information on the 2009 nomination round, please contact the Secretariat on tel: (02) 6276 1264 fax: (02) 6213 6189 or by email

More details are at the website

Call for nominations for the Young Scientist Prize in Computational Physics

Here is a chance for an early-career computational physicist to win support to attend the next Conference on Computational Physics. The Commission on Computational Physics (C20) of IUPAP seeks nominations for its 2009 Young Scientist Prize.

Nominations close on Sunday 1 March.

More information: or J E Gubernatis on

Australian Postgraduate Award (Industry) in Polymers for Medical Device Engineering

Two PhD scholarships are available available as part of a collaborative research program between the University of Sydney, Cochlear Ltd and Raymax Lasers Pty Ltd. The student will join a strategic research team which is developing bonding technologies for polymers and focused on successful commercial outcomes for industry.

More information:

Gemini School Astronomy Contest

Australian high schools have the chance to win an hour of observation time on the 8 metre Gemini South telescope in Chile, one on the world’s largest optical telescopes. Pick an object in the Southern sky and write a convincing explanation of why it would be interesting to photograph digitally.

Entries close on Friday 1 May.

More information: or Christopher Onken at or (02) 6125 8039.

Scinema student space or astronomy film competition

To celebrate The International Year of Astronomy in 2009, SCINEMA is holding a student film competition for Australian students of all ages. We challenge you to make a short film, under 5 minutes, with a space or astronomy theme. Films will be judged

according to age groups (Primary School, Secondary School, Tertiary Institutions) and further prizes will be awarded for humour, technical merit, and the ability to explain complex concepts. Winners in our junior and senior sections receive a trip to some of Australia’s key astronomy facilities, including The Dish in Parkes, Siding Spring, and the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Coonabarabran.

Entries close 30 March.

More information:

Physics conferences

33nd Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting

Wagga Wagga, NSW

03/02/2009 – 06/02/2009

2009 VCE Physics Teachers Conference

Monash Uni, Melbourne


More information:

Legacies of the Macquarie/AAO/Strasbourg Hα Planetary Nebula project

Sydney, NSW

16/02/2009 – 18/02/2009

Brighter Deeper Greener – Geophysics in a Changing Environment

Adelaide, South Australia

22/02/2009 – 26/02/2009

PECS VIII – The 8th Photonic and Electromagnetic Crystal Structure Meeting

Sydney, NSW

05/04/2009 – 09/04/2009

The Many Faces of Centaurus A

Sydney, NSW

28/06/2009 – 03/07/2009

International Conference on Physics Education (ICPE) 2009

Bangkok, Thailand

18/10/2009 – 24/10/2009

Tenth International Symposium – Frontiers of Fundamental & Computational Physics (FFP10)

Perth, WA

24/11/2009 – 26/11/2009

Conference on Computational Physics 2009, Taiwan

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

15/12/2009 – 19/12/2009

Registration will open in March 2009

Submission deadlines for the bulletin and journal

Our next bulletin will be for March 2009. We welcome contributions about activities, conferences and announcements. Our next submission deadline is Wednesday 25 February. Please send your submissions to Margie Beilharz from Science in Public on or (03) 9398 1416.

And the AIP’s journal, Australian Physics, welcomes your articles. The deadline for the March/April issue is Monday 23 March and for the May/June issue the deadline is Monday 11 May. Email John Daicopoulos on


For more information on physics events visit and click on ‘physics events’ or on your state branch.

If you know of anyone who would like to receive these updates, please feel free to forward this to them.

Kind regards



Dr Catherine P. Foley

President of the Australian Institute of Physics

Phone: + 61 2 9413 7413