Physics around the country – March 2009

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

This month discuss optical illusions in Canberra; and film special effects in SA; there’s a physics in-service for teachers in Melbourne; and a workshop on undergraduate teaching in Canberra.

There are seminars on the interstellar medium; fabulous fringes; entangling power and more.

To further develop physics education, the AIP (Vic branch) Education Committee is running a mentor scheme for physics teachers, as well as offering a travelling scholarship.

Several science prizes are open for nomination including the PM’s Prize; the Eureka’s; and Fresh Science.

And physicist Stuart Wyithe has been awarded the Pawsey medal.

I’ve also included an extensive list of International Year of Astronomy activities across the country in March as well as information on a schools competition to win time on the Gemini telescope; and plans for a joint AIP/Australian Society for Astronomy lecture tour.

If you want to contact me regarding other AIP or physics matters please email

Please note that replies to this email go to Niall Byrne, Science in Public, who sends out the bulletin on my behalf and handles corrections, updates and bounces. If you have news or other information for the bulletin please email Niall by the 23rd of each month.

Kind regards,
Brian James,

AIP President

In this bulletin:

1.          AIP events across the country

2.          Physics activities across the country – general

3.          Physics activities across the country – seminars

4.          Public lectures hosted by the Astronomical Society of Australia with AIP support

5.          AIP (Vic branch) Education Committee mentor scheme and travelling scholarship for physics teachers

6.          Experimental or theoretical physics lecturer position available at Monash University

7.          Science prizes open for nomination

8.          Stuart Wyithe awarded 2009 Pawsey medal

9.          Brian Boyle becomes Director of CSIRO Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

10.        FASTS – an update on Australia’s peak science body

11.        Australian postgraduate award (industry) in polymers for medical device engineering

12.        Scinema student space or astronomy film competition

13.        International Year of Astronomy activities

14.        Physics conferences

15.        Submission deadlines for the bulletin and journal

AIP events across the country

VIC: Tuesday 10 March, 5-7pm, AIP Education Committee

TITLE: AIP (Vic branch) Education Committee meeting

VENUE: Camberwell High School

The committee normally meets on the second Tuesday of the month. If you would like to attend this or any other meeting, please contact the chair, Sue Grant at

QLD: Tuesday 10 March, 6pm, The Physics Museum, University of Qld, and Qld AIP

Tools of Science series. There will be snacks afterwards.

TITLE: Napoleon’s influence on science

SPEAKER: Colin Kennard, University of Queensland

VENUE: 222 Parnell Building, University of Queensland

More info: Norman Heckenberg (07) 3365 3369 or

VIC: Saturday 21 March and Monday 6 April, Vic Branch AIP Education Committee

TITLE: In-service program for beginning physics teachers.

To register please email Dan O’Keeffe at with subject “Registration: New Physics Teachers” and include in the email, not only your contact details, but your reason for applying and which events you are applying for.

NSW: Tuesday 24 March, 5.30 – 8pm, NSW AIP ***Note: updated from emailed bulletin***

This branch meeting has two speakers on different topics:

5.30 – 6.30pm, TITLE: First scientific results from OPAL, the new Australian research reactor.

SPEAKER: Rob Robinson, ANSTO

7 – 8pm, TITLE: The problem of energy states on metal surfaces and how to solve it

SPEAKER: Roger Lewis, University of Wollongong

VENUE: Slade Lecture Theatre, School of Physics, University of Sydney

Refreshments will be served between the talks, and dinner with the two speakers will follow the meeting.

More info: Fred Osman

SA: Thursday 26 March, 7.30pm, SA AIP

Public lecture.

TITLE: Physics and movie visual effects

SPEAKER: Michael Anderson, former head of research and development with Rising Sun Pictures

VENUE: Napier 102 lecture theatre, University of Adelaide

The Bronze Bragg medal and merit certificates will be presented at the lecture. The medal is awarded for the best performance in the 2008 Year 12 Physics exam, with the certificates being for students who received a score of 20/20.

More info: Scott Foster on

ACT: Thursday 26 March, ACT AIP

Public lecture

TITLE: Optical illusions

SPEAKER: Erik Mazur, Harvard University, USA


More info: Anna Wilson or (02) 6125 2806

ACT: Friday 27 March, Australian National University, Canberra, also supported by the AIP and the Harvard Club of Australia Foundation

TITLE: Workshop on interactive learning in undergraduate physics

This workshop brings together some of Australian’s leading experts in undergraduate education in physics (Les Kirkup, Judith Pollard and Marjan Zadnik) with Harvard’s Eric Mazur, recipient of the 2008 Millikan Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers and author of Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual.

As well as showcasing some of the most recent developments in applying active student learning techniques in Australia and worldwide, this workshop offers the opportunity for practitioners in physics education to engage with each other, and to share and develop methods and approaches that maximise student learning outcomes.

More info: or contact Anna Wilson or (02) 6125 2806.

Physics activities across the country – general

NSW: Thursday 30 April, 6.30pm, University of Sydney and the Royal Society of NSW

TITLE: Pollock Memorial Lecture: The universe from beginning to end

SPEAKER: Brian Schmidt, Mt Stromlo Observatory, Australian National University

VENUE: Eastern Avenue Auditorium, University of Sydney, Camperdown campus

Brian will talk about dark matter and dark energy, two mysterious substances which make up 96% of the universe. New experiments at Mt Stromlo should give us a better understanding of these dark forms, and predict the ultimate fate of the cosmos.

More info: RSVP to: (02) 9351 3383 or

WA: Tuesday 5 – Thursday 7 May, Scitech

TITLE: IYA2009 Astronomy WA Space Camp

To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy and to encourage awareness and understanding of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, an Astronomy WA Space Camp will be held for teachers and secondary students from Western Australia and beyond.
More info: here or contact Pete Wheeler at or call on (8) 9215 0830

VIC: Thursday 4 June, VSSEC, Melbourne Planetarium and CSIRO ATNF

TITLE: Teaching astronomy & astrophysics in the IYA

VENUE: Scienceworks Museum, Melbourne

VSSEC (Victorian Space Science Education Centre) and the Melbourne Planetarium have joined with the CSIRO ATNF (Australia Telescope National Facility) to offer a full day Teacher Professional Learning program which explores resources for teaching astronomy & astrophysics, and programs offered by the participating organizations. Participants will be one of the first to see the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibition.

For bookings please contact Scienceworks museum on (03) 9392 4819.

More info:

VIC: Sunday 21 – Wednesday 24 June, Melbourne

TITLE: Nanophotonics Down Under 2009 Devices and Applications (SMONP 2009)

This will be an interdisciplinary meeting devoted to laser and light interacting with nano-dimensional objects for photonics applications.

Abstract submissions close Saturday 28 February (11pm AEDT).
More info:
A free workshop for teachers will be held on Sunday 21. The aim of this workshop is to expose teachers to current research in nanophotonics and nanotechnology. Support for travel and accommodation (up to $500) is available for rural and interstate teachers). See

NSW: Sunday 12 – Saturday 25 July, Science Foundation for Physics, University of Sydney

TITLE: 35th Professor Harry Messel International Science School: ISS2009 Genes to Galaxies

VENUE: University of Sydney

Up to 140 of the brightest and most highly motivated Year 11 & 12 students from around Australia and nine other countries will stay on campus and experience two weeks of lectures, workshops and special activities. This is a scholarship program where all in-country student costs are covered by the Science Foundation for Physics.

Application close on Friday 3 April.

More info:

Physics activities across the country – seminars

VIC: Tuesday 3 March, 11.30am, Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University

TITLE: Examining quasar accretion discs through microlensing

SPEAKER: David Floyd, Las Campanas Observatory, Chile

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

Upcoming colloquia:

Thursday 5 March: Ashley J. Ruiter, Harvard CfA, USA – Evolutionary channels of SNe Ia progenitors and their associated delay times

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

Thursday 19 March: Paul Demorest, NRAO – TBA

Thursday 26 March: Glenn Kacprzak, Swinburne University – The kinematics of extended gaseous halos of galaxies: beyond 25 kpc

More information: or George Hau on


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

TITLE: Sub-AU imaging of turbulent structures in the Interstellar Medium

SPEAKER: Jean-Pierre Marquart, Curtin University

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

Tuesday 17 March: Simon Driver, St Andrews University, UK – Galaxy and mass assembly

Tuesday 24 March: Peter Metaxas – From inkblots to MRAMs: magnetic domain wall motion in disordered structures

Tuesday 7 April: Martin Zwaan, ESO – TThe Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA): project overview and science prospects

More information: or (08) 6488 2738


NSW: Wednesday 4 March, 3.30-4.30pm, Australia Telescope National Facility and Anglo-Australian Observatory

TITLE: Forty years of fabulous fringes: VLBI in the Land of Oz

SPEAKER: Dave Jauncey

VENUE: ATNF Marsfield Lecture Theatre

More information: Patrick Weltevrede 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 colloquia:

Friday 20 March: Mark Eriksson, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA – TBA

Friday 27 March: Michael Tobar, University of Western Australia – TBA

Friday 3 April: Michael Murphy, Swinburne University – TBA

More information: or

Public lectures hosted by the Astronomical Society of Australia with AIP support

As part of the International Year of Astronomy, the AIP is supporting the ASA in hosting public lectures through the AIP branches. Some funding is available from both the ASA and the AIP to bring speakers to capital cities. Branches may also be able to arrange visits to some regional centres.

These ASA lectures are a good opportunity to supplement branch expenditure on public lectures. The ASA will soon provide details of titles, abstracts and possible dates so that branches can choose which lecturers they would like to invite.

The lecturers and their general topics are:

Brian Boyle – SKA

Geraint Lewis – Anthropic principle

Reinhard Genzel – Supermassive black holes

Charley Lineweaver – Is there more than one universe?

Paulo De Sousa – Mars rovers

Ray Norris – Astronomy in different cultures

Marc Duldig – Astrophysics with particles

David Jamieson – Galileo and the telescope

AIP (Vic branch) Education Committee mentor scheme and travelling scholarship for physics teachers

The AIP (Vic branch) Education Committee has two programs to support physics teachers in Victoria.

The mentor scheme

Several retired physics teachers have offered their services to support new Victorian teachers. Teachers wishing to participate in this scheme should send an expression of interest containing their contact details and a statement of why they want to be involved in the scheme. The expression of interest should be accompanied by a letter of support from the Science Coordinator of the School Principal. Mail to the AIP Mentor Scheme, PO Box 304, Glen Waverley, VIC 3150 or fax to (03) 9561 7602.

AIP travelling scholarship

The AIP Education Committee is offering a scholarship to cover the airfare for one Victorian teacher (up to $1500) to an all expenses paid workshop in Toronto, Canada.

“EinsteinPlus” is a workshop on the teaching of modern physics including quantum physics, special and general relativity, and cosmology and runs from 2nd August to 8th August, 2009. Participants need to register by 31st March.

Check further details and your eligibility at

Teachers interested in applying for the scholarship should send a copy of the form, their letter and a letter of recommendation from their school to reach the AIP at PO Box 304, Glen Waverley, VIC 3150 by 6th March to enable the Committee to makes a decision and prepare its own letter of recommendation.

Experimental or theoretical physics lecturer position available at Monash University

The School of Physics, Monash University, seeks to appoint a full-time Level B Lecturer in Experimental or Theoretical Physics, who will lead their engagement with the new John Monash Science School (to commence operation on the Clayton Campus in 2010).

Applications close Friday 1 May.

More info here.

Science prizes open for nomination

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

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, two of the prizes are particularly relevant to physicists: 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.

More info:

Fresh Science

Fresh Science is a national competition that promotes the work of early-career scientists to the media and public. It serves as a communication boot camp, getting their stories out to local, national and international media, and giving them essential communication skills.

Nominations look for:

  • early-career researchers with an upper limit of five years post-doc and no lower limit
  • a peer-reviewed result which has had no media coverage
  • some ability to present ideas in plain English.

Nominations close on Thursday 19 March 2009.

More info and online nomination:

L’Oréal For Women in Science fellowships: Australian and international

Applications for the 2009 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships will open on 1 April 2009. The Fellowships are open to female scientists no more than five years past their PhD, excluding periods of maternity leave.

Further details including instructions and full eligibility criteria, and a link to the online application form (from 1 April) can be found at:

Nominations for the 2010 UNESCO- L’ORÉAL International Fellowships will open in March. The International Fellowships are worth US$40,000 over two years and are available to female doctoral and post-doctoral scientists under 35 years old with a focus on Life Sciences to study at an institution outside Australia. Three of the 15 International Fellowships will be awarded in the Asia-Pacific Region, which includes Australia.

Applications close on 30 June 2009.

More information and to download the application form:

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes

The Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of scientific research & innovation, science leadership, school science and science journalism & communication.

Nominations are now open. Entries close on Friday 1 May.

More info:

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 info: or J E Gubernatis on

2009 Victoria Prize and Fellowships

Victoria’s leading and emerging scientists, engineers and innovators are being encouraged to nominate for the Victorian Government’s 2009 Victoria Prize and Victoria Fellowships.

Follow links to the Victoria Prize and Victoria Fellowships.

Nominations close on 3 April 2009.

Astronomy Communication Award

Entries are now open for the David Allen Prize, awarded by the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) for exceptional achievement in astronomy communication. The prize is awarded for the best piece or series of media that presents an astronomical theme in an exciting and educative manner.

Closing date for nominations is Monday 23 March and entry details can be found at:

SA Science Teachers Association Awards open

SASTA offers its members an annual award for excellence in science education (the SASTA medal) and outstanding teacher awards from junior primary to upper secondary.

Nominations close on Friday 27th March.

More info:

World Metrology Day Awards

In recognition of World Metrology Day, which occurs on 20 May each year, the National Measurement Institute (NMI) will present two awards for outstanding achievement in measurement: the Barry Inglis Medal and the NMI Prize.

Applications for the 2009 awards close on Friday 27 March.

More info: or contact

Stuart Wyithe awarded 2009 Pawsey medal

Congratulations to Stuart Wyithe, University of Melbourne, for the recognition he has received for his contributions to cosmology and our understanding of the structure of the universe. The Pawsey medal for research in physics is awarded by the Australian Academy of Science for outstanding work in physics by an early-career scientist.

More info:

Brian Boyle now Director of CSIRO Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

Brian Boyle, previously Director of CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility, has taken up the new position of CSIRO SKA Director.

Vastly more sensitive than the world’s best existing radio telescopes, the Square Kilometre Array will be one of the largest and most ambitious international science projects ever devised. It will help to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of the universe.

Australia has been shortlisted by the international science community as one of two potential locations for the SKA. The new Director’s position is designed to strengthen Australia’s involvement in the SKA project.

FASTS – an update

You are a member of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), Australia’s peak science body, through your AIP membership.

FASTS represents 60 professional societies and 60,000 scientists, with professional staff who serve you, the AIP and the Australian scientific community in a number of ways.

FASTS’ annual flagship event is ‘Science meets Parliament’, where more than 200 scientists, including AIP members, have face-to-face meetings with politicians on key science issues. This year it is on Tuesday 17 – Wednesday 18 March.

FASTS seeks your help to keep science at the forefront of the national agenda in these challenging times. More info:

PhD scholarships for polymer research

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.

The closing date for applications is Friday 20 March.

More information:

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 the 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:

International Year of Astronomy activities

The IYA is in full swing, with many activities under way. Early April will be particularly busy, with the 100 hours of astronomy taking place from Thursday 2 to Sunday 5.

Here is a selection of the news and events which were included in a recent IYA bulletin.

For the full IYA bulletin, go to . If you would like to receive the IYA bulletins directly, contact Niall at The full events calendar is at

IYA – seed grants for outreach activities

If you are planning to take advantage of IYA to broaden the scope of your astronomical outreach activities you may be eligible for a small grant from the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA).

More info: John O’Byrne or (02) 9351 3184.

The closing date for proposals is Friday 27 March, although urgent requests may be considered earlier.

Order your own Galileoscope now

See four moons of Jupiter, lunar craters, the phases of Venus and Saturn’s rings even better than Galileo did.

The Galileoscope is an affordable, easy-to-assemble 50mm, 25-50 power achromatic refractor telescope designed by leading astronomers and optical engineers.

You can order the Galileoscope from Orders taken now will probably arrive late April.

Gemini schools imaging 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.

Forthcoming events to end of March

Some highlights coming up in March are listed here (see for details unless otherwise directed):


  • The “Globe at night” program runs from Monday 16 – Saturday 28 March. Participants around the world report on their night sky to foster awareness of light pollution.

Australian Capital Territory

  • “Harmonious Revolutions: Galileo and the music of the spheres” a live multimedia performance of images, words and music exploring the life and times of Galileo and his musician father, on Wednesday 4 March.

New South Wales

  • ‘Astronomy webcast from Charles Sturt University on Friday 6 March.
  • “Young starwatchers” program at the Observatory at the University of Western Sydney on Friday 13 March.
  • “Astrophysics for physics teachers workshop” at the Australia Telescope National Facility, Marsfield, Sydney, on Friday 20 March.


  • A guided tour of the night sky using a 46cm reflector at Twinstar Guesthouse Observatory, Ballandean, Queensland on Wednesday 25 February; also on Thursday 26 March.


  • “Discover the night sky” every Thursday evening in March at the Melbourne Planetarium.
  • “Heavens above” astronomy evening with the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society on Friday 6 March.

Western Australia

  • “What do we know about the Universe?” public lecture by Matthew Colless at Perth Observatory on Friday 6 March. Details are here.
  • “The great space elevator” talk at Horizon Planetarium, Perth on Thursday 19 March.
  • “Celestial tasting – dinner, entertainment and viewing” under the stars at Lamonts – Swan Valley, WA, with Noongar community elder Noel Nannup, each night from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 March.
100 hours of Astronomy 2-5 April

It’s only 34 days to the largest, single event in the International Year of Astronomy: the 100 Hours of Astronomy is a worldwide event aiming to have as many people as possible look through a telescope at the sky.

In Australia, many amateur and professional astronomers will participate in events across the country, including star gazing, solar observation and public talks.

For more information about these events visit

If your event isn’t yet listed on the website please register it at

Physics conferences

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

Sydney, NSW

05/04/2009 – 09/04/2009

Nanophotonics Down Under 2009 Devices and Applications

Melbourne Convention Centre, Vic

21/06/2009 – 24/06/2009

The Many Faces of Centaurus A

Sydney, NSW

28/06/2009 – 03/07/2009

5th International Conference on Advanced Vibrational Spectroscopy (ICAVS5)

Melbourne, Vic

12/07/2009 – 17/07/2009

35th Professor Harry Messel International Science School: ISS2009 Genes to Galaxies

Sydney, NSW

12/07/2009 – 25/07/2009

9th Australian Mars Exploration Conference (AMEC2009)

Adelaide, SA

17/07/2008 – 19/07/2009

Register before Sunday 31 May for the ‘early bird’ discount.

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 April 2009. We welcome contributions about activities, conferences and announcements. Our next submission deadline is Monday 23 March. 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 16 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



Assoc. Prof. Brian James

President of the Australian Institute of Physics

Phone: +61 (2) 9351-2471


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