Quantum computing, Higgs boson and the future of aerospace: physics in November

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics, Bulletins
Quantum computing, Higgs boson and the future of aerospace: physics in November post image

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

It’s been a great month for prizes and recognition of physicists.

Heartiest congratulations to physicist Andrea Morello on winning the 2013 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year— it’s a fantastic dream to make qubits in silicon, and Morello and others at UNSW are making it a reality. Thanks to my place on the Board of Science and Technology Australia, I was fortunate enough to attend the ceremony for this and the other Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science at Parliament House last night and see Andrea’s work receive this high-level recognition.

And of course it’s always so heartening to hear of the fantastic things that science teachers are doing for children across Australia: congratulations from the AIP to Ric Johnson in Perth, and Sarah Chapman in Townsville, as this year’s winners.

Of course we cannot forget the the announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics to François Englert and Peter Higgs for their prediction of the Higgs boson and the corresponding field that gives elementary particles their mass.  I wonder if a future prize will recognise the achievements of those at CERN and worldwide—including many Australians—in building the apparatus and doing the experiments to show that this was really what nature is doing.

Both these awards invite reflection on the roles of theory and experiment (or observation) in science, and how in these cases the theories were decades ahead of the technology needed to test them.  But in other cases experiments throw up something entirely new (think of superconductivity), and it may take decades until there is a proper theoretical explanation, or indeed any explanation.  And then again, sometimes there is a particularly happy confluence when theory and experiment walk along at more or less the same pace.

Next month, many of our state branches will hold their AGMs. I encourage all members to go along if they can, and get involved in the life of the institute. These meetings have interesting guest speakers too, so it’s well worth your time.

Read on for more details, more news and a full list of events and competitions.

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 aip_president@aip.org.au, and there is a comprehensive list of contact details at the end of the bulletin.



Rob Robinson
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Follow the AIP on: Facebook      Twitter @ausphysics       LinkedIn (AIP members only)

In this bulletin:

Australian Institute of Physics news and events

AIP events

NSW: Physics in Industry Day: The Future of Aerospace
Thursday 7 November, 8.30am – 5pm
CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, Lindfield

UNSW Student Experiment Symposium
Friday 15 November, 3pm
School of Physics, UNSW Kensington campus, and Australia-wide by teleconference
Features the winners of the AIP/UNSW High School Physics Experiment Competition 2013.

AIP NSW Branch 2013 Postgraduate Awards, AGM, guest speaker and annual dinner
Tuesday 19 November
University of Sydney (and dinner at Buon Gusto)

2pm: Postgraduate awards
5.30pm: Refreshments
6pm: AGM
6.35pm: Guest speaker Prof Martin Green, presenting “The physics of high-efficiency photovoltaic solar energy conversion”
8pm: Annual dinner

QLD:   AIP Qld Branch AGM
Friday 22 November, 5-7pm, Griffith University
The AGM will be followed by a the 2013 Queensland Youth Lecturer Prof Christian Langton presenting “This is QIC—Quantitative Ultrasound Imaging & Characterisation”.

Dr J Leach, Dr M Burns: Frontiers of science communications
Tuesday 19 November, 6pm, University of Queensland
Tools of Science is a series of talks on old scientific instruments, hosted by the UQ Physics Museum and sponsored by the School of Maths and Physics and the AIP Qld Branch.

VIC:     2013 Annual Nobel Prize in Physics Lecture: The Higgs Boson
Thursday 7 November, 6pm
University of Melbourne
Free public lecture by theoretical particle physicist Prof Raymond Volkas, followed by a panel discussion.

Victorian Young Physicists’ Tournament
Wednesday 4 – Thursday 5 December
Quantum Victoria, Macleod West
Year 10 and 11 students tackle team-based experimental challenges, and present their findings. Teams must register by the first day of term 4.

WA:     2013 AIP WA Branch AGM, dinner and guest speaker
Wednesday 20 November, University of Western Australia
Guest speaker Lance Taylor, presenting “Planetary exploration: a waste of space?”

Nominations open for AIP NSW Branch committee positions

The NSW Branch of the Australian Institute of Physics is seeking a chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer for its committee in 2014.

The committee meets monthly from February to November, with its main role being to develop and coordinate an interesting program of events and speakers on physics-related topics.

Committee members must be financial members of the AIP to nominate and must attend the AGM (see above), so please ensure that your membership is current if you wish to nominate.

To submit a nomination for any of the positions, please contact Dr Frederick Osman at fred_osman@exemail.com.au by COB 12 November.

Online videos helping students “work it out”

Dr Chris Creagh from Murdoch University has produced two video tutorials that let physics students eavesdrop on experts discussing a relevant topic. Both are now available on YouTube for anyone to use:

  • A Toolbox of Diagrams—get some diagrams and stick them in your toolbox so that you can pull them out and modify them as you need, to help in communicating ideas.
  • Interrogating Formulas—ask them questions to help you understand the underlying physics.

Chris is working on these tutorials as part of a National Teaching Fellowship from the Australian Government’s Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT).

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:

  • The Theory of the Quantum World: Proceedings from the 25th Solvay Conference on Physics, 2013, edited by David Gross, Marc Henneaux & Alexander Sevrin, World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd
  • 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. Contact John at jcmacfarlane@netspace.net.au if you are interested or want to suggest another book to review.

Other physics news and events

Physics events for the general public, students and teachers

New South Wales

The Dr Peter Domachuk Memorial Lecture: The multiple forms of silk – from ancient textile to future technology
Monday 4 November, 4.45pm
University of Sydney (Camperdown Campus)
Prof Fiorenzo Omenetto, Tufts University, Boston, USA
Hosted by the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science, University of Sydney

CUDOS Showcase Photonics and Optics: Pivotal Technologies for 21st Century Australia
Friday 22 November, 1-5pm
Australian Technology Park, Sydney
The Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) is showcasing its photonic research and how it will bring value to our community and, potentially the world.


Free Astronomy public lectures
Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology

Friday 8 November, 6.30pm – Eyal Kazin, Swinburne: Einstein and astronomers – An ongoing cosmic saga
Monday 9 December, 6.30pm – Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory

Andrea Morello named Physical Scientist of the Year at 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

People have speculated about the potential of quantum computers for decades—how they would make child’s play of constructing and testing new drugs, searching through huge amounts of data and ensuring that information was fundamentally secure.

But it all seemed like science fiction. No-one really knew how to build one, despite lots of clever ideas for using exotic materials and light. But 15 years of work at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology and its predecessors have changed everything. The building blocks of a quantum computer, which uses the spin of individual electrons or atomic nuclei to store and read information, have been created and tested in a high-tech basement at the University of New South Wales. And Andrea Morello and his colleagues expect to build a small working prototype within a few years.

What’s more, the device will be constructed out of silicon—that inexpensive, abundant material which the trillion-dollar global computer industry is already equipped to handle and manipulate. This should make gearing up to produce quantum computers relatively seamless, and gives Australia a solid lead in one of the game-changing technologies of the 21st century.

For his intellectual leadership in developing the silicon components to make quantum computing possible, Associate Professor Andrea Morello was awarded the 2013 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year at Parliament House in Canberra last night.

There is more information on his prize-winning work at www.industry.gov.au/scienceprizes

Become a Scientist in Residence—putting scientists into Australian newsrooms

The Australian Science Media Centre has embarked on a national effort to embed scientists within newsrooms around the country, in a new program called Scientists in Residence.

The AusSMC would like to hear from well-established scientists who are keen to engage with the media about their research, and editors interested in hosting a scientist.

Funded with a grant from Inspiring Australia, the program aims to improve linkages between scientists and the media by encouraging them to generate collaborative content and build ongoing relationships. Unlike a trainee program, scientists are not there to learn how to be journalists but to provide independent, evidence-based scientific advice to newsmakers.

For more information, please contact Abbie Thomas, program manager, Scientists in Residence, Australian Science Media Centre, abbie@smc.org.au or +61 414 525 492.

Applications open for the Dunbar Physics Honours scholarships at ANU 2014

These ten packages of up to $25,000, including accommodation assistance, give Australian and New Zealand students a chance to study their Honours year at the Australian National University’s prestigious Research School of Physics and Engineering.

Travel grants are also available for students to visit the ANU to discuss their research interests and experience the unique Canberra culture.

Applications close 30 November 2013. See physics.anu.edu.au/education/dunbarscholarship/

Astrophysicist elected to ATSE

Peter Quinn, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of WA and Director of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, is among 26 academics, business figures, commercial innovators and public sector leaders elected Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).

ATSE is an independent body of 800 eminent Australian engineers and scientists enhancing Australia’s prosperity through technological innovation.

The other new Fellows included some of the most prominent Australian women in science and technology, such as Prof Hua Kun Liu from the Institute of Superconducting Materials at the University of Wollongong, and Dr Susan Barrell, Acting Deputy Director of the Bureau of Meteorology.

More information can be found at www.atse.org.au

The Best Australian Science Writing 2013—launch events

Could the dodo make a comeback? What does science tell us about the sex in Fifty Shades of Grey? Is giving up meat really the greenest option? Can you use tweets to spot a psychopath? Do birds make art? What do the Cold War and climate science have in common? And can a psychologist interpret your farts?

The Best Australian Science Writing 2013 brings together great writing about life and the universe, including contributions from poets and psychologists, comedians and climate commentators, neuroscientists and novelists, star-gazers and science journalists; and a foreword by superstar comedian, musician and self-confessed science-nerd Tim Minchin.

To celebrate the launch of the anthology the editors, Natasha Mitchell and Jane McCredie, will be in discussion with contributors at two events in Melbourne and Sydney in November.

Attendance is free, but book your spot directly with the bookshops.

  • Melbourne: Thursday 7 November, Readings Bookshop, Hawthorn
    Natasha Mitchell and Jane McCredie will be in discussion with the winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, immunologist Peter Doherty, and science writer and winner of the Bragg UNSW Press Prize, Jo Chandler.
  • Sydney: Friday 15 November, Gleebooks, Glebe
    Natasha Mitchell and Jane McCredie will be in discussion with two of the contributors, Becky Crew and Chris Turney.

Skylab at Latrobe Regional Gallery

Victoria’s Latrobe Regional Gallery at Morwell in Gippsland is host to the third Sky Lab exhibition, in which artists look beyond our planet to create speculative works about our relationships with outer space and sky-situated knowledge.

The exhibition is curated by Felicity Spear, and includes artists Daniel Armstrong, Govinda Sah Azad (Nepal), Magda Cebokli, Lesley Duxbury, Sam Leach, Harry Nankin, Felicity Spear, Vanessa Stanley and Taja Trygg (Finland).

The show is open every day from 28 September to 24 November. Why not take the hour’s drive on a dual carriageway through beautiful country and visit the gallery, as well as some of the other attractions in the vicinity?

Check the gallery’s website, www.latroberegionalgallery.com

60 Second Science Challenge—closes 14 November

The 60 second science challenge aims to celebrate our ability to better understand the world around us. The challenge is to create a one minute video that explains an invention, an experiment, a science concept or an idea.

The competition is open to all age groups across the world, with divisions including primary and secondary school students in each state and territory in Australia. Winners share $10,000 of cash prizes.

Registration closes on 14 November and entries are to be submitted by 20 November. For more details and to register, go to www.60secondscience.net

National Science Teacher Summer School—applications extended

Physics teachers have the opportunity to join the 2014 National Science Teachers Summer School, to be held at the Australian National University in Canberra from Sunday 12 January to Saturday 18 January.

The program is designed to stimulate teachers’ passion and enhance their teaching to students by providing unique experiences in science and science education.

Applications have been extended to Monday 4 November 2013. Find out more at www.nysf.edu.au/other/teachers

School students get remote access to equipment in La Trobe Uni’s physics lab and the Australian Synchrotron

La Trobe University’s new e-learning innovation FAR Labs—short for Freely-Accessible Remote Laboratories—lets school students throughout Australia control state-of-the-art equipment at the university’s physics department and access the Australian Synchrotron.

FAR Labs was funded by the Australian Maths and Science Partnership Program to try to increase enrolments in the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Giving high-school students access to next-generation resources and research might just inspire them to engage with these subjects for the long haul,” said Dr David Hoxley, one of the project’s organisers.

Initially, students will be able to study the power of different types of radiation, structural analysis of materials and environmental science issues, through virtual hands-on lab experiences and downloadable teaching materials and technical notes.

See more and register as a teacher at www.farlabs.edu.au or contact:



The Director’s Colloquium – Research School of Physics and Engineering, Australian National University

Thursday 7 November – Steven Meikle, University of Sydney: Molecular Imaging: Unravelling the genetic, molecular and environmental factors in brain disease

Research School of Physics and Engineering, Australian National University

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.

New South Wales

CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF), Marsfield

Friday 1 November – Liz Humphreys, ESO: Probing inner NGC 4258: Warped, Unstable and Eccentric?
Monday 4 November – James Jackson
Wednesday 13 November – Ian Heywood, CASS
Wednesday 20 November – Snezana Stanimirovic

Macquarie University Department of Physics & Astronomy – MQ Photonics Seminar Series

Friday 1 November – Annemarie Nadort, Macquarie University / Ekaterina Ivukina, Macquarie University: Non-invasive optical techniques to assess microcirculation dynamics and permeability in vivo / TBA

School of Physics, University of Sydney

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.

School of Physics, University of NSW

Tuesday 5 November – Martin Green, UNSW: Photovoltaics: Power source for the future?


Physics colloquia, University of Queensland

Friday 8 November – Amelia Brown: TBA

South Australia

Chemical and Physical Sciences Seminar Series, Flinders University
Tuesday 5 November – Julius Zieleniecki, Flinders University: TBA
Tuesday 5 November – Anirudh Sharma, Flinders University: TBA
Tuesday 19 November – Simone Ciampi, University of Wollongong: TBA
Tuesday 26 November – Regina von Klitzing, Technische Unversitat, Germany: TBA


Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University
Thursday 7 November – Rob Bassett, Swinburne University: 19 month review
Tuesday 12 November – Helga Denes, Swinburne University: 30 month review
Thursday 14 November – Ariel Sanchez, MPE: TBA
Thursday 28 November – Georgios Vernardos, Swinburne University: Gravitational microlensing and the quasar galaxy connection on gSTAR

Monash Centre for Astrophysics, Monash University
Thursday 7 November – Kai Zuber, University of Dresden, Germany: TBA
Tuesday 12 November – Felipe Marin, Swinburne University: TBA

Western Australia

Department of Physics, University of Western Australia

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.


Engineering and Physical Sciences in Medicine conference, EPSM 2013
3 Nov – 7 Nov, Perth, WA

37th Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Biophysics
24 Nov – 27 Nov, Melbourne, VIC

NEW OzCarbon 2013
1 – 3 Dec 2013, Melbourne, VIC

NEW Monaco ITER International Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED2013)
2 – 4 Dec 2013, Monaco

Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF)
3 – 12 Dec 2013, Hanoi, Vietnam

NEW 3rd Journal Conference on Applied Physics and Mathematics (JCAPM 2013 3rd)
6 – 7 Dec 2013, Sydney, NSW

ANZ Conference on Optics & Photonics (ANZCOP)
8 – 11 Dec 2013, Fremantle, WA

23rd Australian Conference on Microscopy and Microanalysis (ACMM23) and the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN 2014)
2 – 6 Feb 2014, Adelaide, SA

38th Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting
4 – 7 Feb 2014, Auckland, New Zealand

2014 VCE Physics Teachers Conference
14 Feb 2014, Melbourne, Vic

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

NEW Solar 2014 Conference and Expo
8 – 9 May 2014, Melbourne, Vic
Abstracts are due by 12 November 2013

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

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


Dr Rob Robinson

President of the Australian Institute of Physics
Phone: +61 (2) 9717-9204
Email: aip_president@aip.org.au

Contributions and contact details

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

  • Rob Robinson, AIP President  aip_president@aip.org.au
  • the AIP website for more information is www.aip.org.au (note this is a new site – don’t get stuck in the old one at aip.org.au)
  • membership enquiries to the Secretariat aip@aip.org.au
  • ideas for articles for Australian Physics to the Chair of the Editorial Board and Acting Editor Brian James, on b.james@physics.usyd.edu.au, 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 Margie Beilharz from Science in Public on margie@scienceinpublic.com.au 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 Margie, as above)
  • to receive these bulletins, please email Margie, 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, www.aip.org.au)