Stargazing in science week and prizes galore: Physics in March

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

One of the year’s highlights for me as AIP President is our Annual

Professor Andrew Peele Director, Australian Synchrotron

Professor Andrew Peele
Director, Australian Synchrotron

Council Meeting, which gives us the chance to meet in person, hear about what our interstate colleagues are up to, and share our vision for the coming year for the AIP.

For me it’s exciting to see the volume of activity being managed through the state branches of the AIP. Not just in the traditional talk formats—where we continue to share some of the newest and best research from around the country—but also events such as physics in the pub, careers nights and debates, which encourage interaction and sharing of ideas.

One of the reasons that physics is able to feature at the highest levels of international science, and at the highest levels of public recognition, is because of the quality of grass-roots activities like these. The Council Meeting is a great way to bring to light some of this work, which can otherwise get overlooked, and to recognise its value.

Reflecting on another grass-roots activity—our first Summer Meeting—I think we can be pleased with the outcome for this first-time event. The low-cost event featured many opportunities for our early-career researchers and students, whilst also providing a collaborative and informative space for productive discussions. I want to thank those who put time and effort into bringing this event to fruition, and I am sure there will be more discussions about how we make the most of this event in the future. Meanwhile, it’s an AIP Congress year this year, so save the dates of 9-14 December, and keep your eyes on this bulletin for calls for content.

It was also my absolute pleasure to present an award for Outstanding Service to Physics at our AGM to Brian James. Brian’s most recent contribution to physics has been editing our member-only magazine Australian Physics for the past five years. Brian deserves to be recognised wholeheartedly for the time, effort and passion he has put into the magazine during his tenure. He will be stepping away from the role in coming months. Peter Kappen and David Hoxley will be taking over the reins and I look forward to a full introduction from them in the magazine pages once they do. Read more about Brian’s award below.

And on the topic of awards, included in this bulletin are the details of a number of science prizes. I’d encourage each state branch to consider who you’ve awarded prizes to over the past 12-18 months, and to put those people forward for some of these awards. We on the National Exec will do the same. If you are working on a nomination, please let us know so we don’t double up.

Kind Regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

Australian Physics Editor Brian James farewells role with an AIP award

From Australia’s role in the discovery of gravitational waves, to the quantum computing wave, Professor Brian James from The University of Sydney has covered a lot in his five years as the editor of Australian Physics—the AIP’s bi-monthly, members-only magazine.

Brian embraced the editorial role within the AIP, where he created an improved editorial process which ensured on-time publication at a higher quality, while also managing to save on production costs.

Not to mention his contributions to his field as an experimental plasma physicist and his two-year stint as President of the AIP. Brian served as President of the AIP during a transition period, which saw various changes to the AIP administration; the AIP input into the Decadal Plan for Physics and the AIP response to the national draft K-10 and Senior Physics curriculums. Most recently, Brian jumped at the chance to accept the role of AIP representative on the Editorial Board of the AAPPS bulletin.

He’s also undertaking the mammoth task of getting all past editions of Australian Physics up online—you can find them here:

Brian’s outstanding contributions to physics were recognised at last month’s AIP AGM, where he was presented with a certificate and rousing applause.

Science over a schooner, physics over a pint: your chance to present physics in the pub

Initiative pioneered by AIP Physics Education Group leader makes headlines

The NSW branch of AIP are hosting the 2018 physics in the pub event in the second half of the year, so the time has come to grab the most entertaining (or most confident) physics enthusiast you know and put in a nomination for the evening’s entertainment.

The successful physics fan will present an eight-minute entertaining presentation of any preferred medium (comedy, music, demonstrations etc.) on some aspect of physics. If it’s physics related and can capture an audience, we’ll take it.

If you know someone who fits the bill but might be shy putting their hand up, give them a gentle nudge by nominating them yourself. A presentation statement of 200 words outlining the entertaining act is all that’s required for nomination.

Nominations strictly close on Friday 1 June 2018.

Bronze Bragg winners

On the 22 of February, AIP South Australia held a free lecture to celebrate the highest achievers in physics in the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) Stage 2 assessments.

The night was led by Professor David Ottoway from the University of Adelaide, who gave his presentation on gravitational wave detection and the birth of multi-messenger astronomy to a captivated audience.

A medal is generally awarded to the top achieving student of the year, whilst merit certificates are awarded to recognise those who achieved merit in physics in their final year of high school, in turn identifying the next generation of physicists in South Australia.

This year, there were two top achieving students who both shared in the glory of the Bronze Bragg Medal. The SA branch would like to offer their most sincere congratulations to:

Stephanie Sonja Trinkle

Harry Thomas Clarke

In addition, 37 students were awarded Bragg certificates for having achieved merit in physics. Congratulations to all; it’s great to see so many high-achieving physics students in South Australia.

“Wagga 2018”

This year’s 42nd Condensed Matter and Materials meeting (endearingly nick-named the ‘Wagga’ conference) was held at Charles Sturt University where it attracted an array of international participants.

The meeting is a low-cost way to gather individuals for valuable discussion including the formation of new links over a wide range of condensed matter and materials research.

Adding some flavour to the night, the evening’s activities included an exclusive wine-tasting featuring wines solely produced at the CSU winery, an after dinner talk with Cathy Foley and a hotly-contested trivia competition.

As part of an ongoing effort to encourage and improve diversity at the Wagga meeting, gender representation statistics were tabulated and are available on the conference website. This year, the Wagga meeting achieved female/male gender parity in both Invited Speakers and Session Chairs, accentuating the diversity of the evening.

Save the date: next year’s meeting will be held from 5-8 February 2019. For information as it is announced, check here regularly.

Other Physics News & Opportunities


It’s Prizes Season… make sure you nominate a physicist

  • The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science—seven prizes for scientists, innovators and teachers with a total prize pool of $750,000. Closing 26 March. More at:
  • L’Oréal for Women in Science Fellowships—three Australian women and one kiwi will each receive $25,000 for a one-year project which they can use for scientific equipment, paying for child care costs, conference and travel costs or other items they may need to continue their research. Closing 12 March. More at:
  • The Eureka Prizes—the Oscars of Australian Science—celebrate research, science communication and journalism, leadership, and students. In 2018 there are 16 prizes and a prize pool of $160,000 on offer. Applications close 4 April. More at:
  • The Young Tall Poppy Science Awards recognise excellent up-and-coming researchers, alongside a proven ability and passion to engage the wider community with science. These awards are often a stepping stone to other science awards. Nominations close Monday 9 April. More at:
  • Nominations and applications for the Australian Academy of Science’s 2019 honorific awards, research conferences, research awards and travelling fellowships are now open,

Physics features of the National Science Week Grants

What we learned from Kepler and Casini; the science behind sport at the “Innovation Games”; pocket astronomy; and Indigenous Science are all on this list of events for National Science Week thanks to science week grants.

The annual event which brings science to the forefront of the country for a week has just announced its 2018 National Grant Recipients—here are some of the physics highlights:

  • Dreaming stories, ceremonies and art reveal that Indigenous Australians were likely the world’s first astronomers. Southern Skies, the musical ensemble, will be combining Western and Indigenous understandings of the sky to explore the southern hemisphere’s constellations and the history of astronomy in Australia.
    ACT, NSW, NT, WA
  • Mt Stromlo Observatory astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker is hosting a series of events featuring talks from NASA Scientists from the Cassini and Kepler missions. A New View of Life—Celebrating the end of Kepler and Cassini will look at Australia’s contribution to our understanding of the Universe.
  • The Indigenous Science Experience @ Redfern will celebrate Traditional Indigenous Knowledge while exploring both Indigenous and Western science.
  • An Olympian-style event, The Innovation Games will explore the physics behind sports, whilst also exploring general science.
  • Visiting four towns in four days and gifting them with a telescope plus training for the locals on how to use it is an incredibly generous feat. That’s what Pocket Astronomy in Pocket-sized Towns will be doing over the course of Science Week, whilst taking astronomy and broader science to Australian towns within the state.
  • Brisbane’s Street Science Festival will host an array of science events. On the 24th and 25th March, Physics students from the University of Queensland will be running some demonstrations inside the UQ tent.
  • A mobile ‘observatory on wheels’ will be headed to regional communities in the form of the Southern Cross Outreach Observatory Project (SCOOP). The observatory is equipped with computerised telescopes for solar viewing and night time astronomy.
    SA, NT
  • The only state with regular Auroras; Tassie is having its very own Astronomy festival with TastroFest. Some features include 3D printing displays, the latest hubble images and a simulated space shuttle launch.
  • With the help of virtual-reality technology, scientists from Immersive Science II: Revealing the Invisible Universe will be guiding audiences through the outer reaches of the cosmos, to the world of the microcosmos.
  • Giving primary and secondary students a chance to predict and present the weather, Presenting My Local Weather gives students the chance to become meteorologists for a day whilst also explaining our changing climate.
  • Participants will be transported into a space or sci-fi scene or a dreamtime story for an immersive science experience at Wandjina—Sounds of the Universe past and future as the science of gravity and cosmology are explored through film, live music and Indigenous storytelling.

ANU honours Questacon founder, Professor Mike Gore with renaming ceremony

Australian National University launched the Mike Gore Physics Education Precinct earlier this month to celebrate the Questacon founder.

This naming recognises Mike as a pioneer, leader, teacher and mentor in science communication and science centres in Australia.

Mike is a recipient of the AIP’s Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia and holds many other distinctions for his service to the industry. In 2015 Mike was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to science and science communication.

During his time as a lecturer at ANU, Mike not only taught physics students, but also inspired them to love physics.

Passionate about science communication, Mike opened Questacon in 1988, making it Australia’s first interactive science centre at the time. This was a feat which saw Mike take home the 1992 Eureka Prize.

The inspiration for Questacon came from a visit to San Francisco’s Exploratorium when Mike was a lecturer in physics at ANU. Convinced that a hands-on science centre would be just as popular in Australia, Mike got to work investigating the means to establish one.

All you have to do is enter Questacon now and see for yourself what an impact Mike has had to physics and science as a discipline.

Now with this renaming, Mike will continue to inspire future generations of students for as long as the centre remains.

Chris Lidman springs into top job at Siding Spring Observatory

Australian National University has just appointed world-class astronomer Dr. Chris Lidman as the first Director of the ANU Siding Spring Observatory (SSO).

The responsibility involves overseeing operations of more than 50 telescopes—both national and international.

As the largest optical observatory in Australia, Siding Spring houses international research telescopes and commercially operated telescopes; labelling the observatory Australia’s foremost optical and infrared observatory.

Just to mention a few, operating out of SSO is the ANU skymapper which is charting the entire southern sky and ANU United Kingdom Schmidt Telescope, which is taking spectra for two million nearby galaxies and three million bright stars.

Director of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor Matthew Colless gave his confidence that Chris was a good match for the role, as he welcomed Dr Lidman.

“Chris is one of Australia’s leading astronomers and he will ensure Siding Spring Observatory remains Australia’s top observatory and a centre known around the world for its excellence in astronomy,” Professor Colless said.

Early in his career, Dr Lidman became well acquainted with the Atacama Desert in Chile where he spent over 12 years at Paranal Observatory, home of the “Very Large Telescope”.

Assisted by the four identical telescopes, Chris was part of a team who discovered that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating; a discovery that was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize. This discovery led to a share in the 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize and the 2014 Breakthrough Prize. Situated amongst some of the largest mountains in South America and equipped with this discovery, Chris’ research then developed primarily into understanding the mysteries surrounding Dark Energy.

He is now leading the successful OzDES program, which is measuring the redshifts for very faint galaxies in which the Dark Energy Survey is finding distant supernovae.

Chris completed his PHD at ANU in 1994 and will be re-joining the university from the Australian Astronomical Observatory where he is currently part of the research team.

“As a student using the telescopes at Siding Spring 25 years ago, I never imagined that I would one day be given the opportunity to be the Director of the Observatory,” Dr Lidman said.

“Siding Spring is not only a world class observatory, it is a place where we can inspire students to learn, conduct research and become the astronomers of the future.”

Aussie Physics in the News

Caught on camera: the birth of a supernova

‘Hardest physics exam ever’ didn’t affect WACE results: WA Curriculum Authority

NASA deal may see Australian company build Mars rover

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne announces Australian Maritime College awarded $3 million research grant

QuintessenceLabs harnesses diode ‘flaw’ for new quantum number generator

Australian scientists just won’t quit with these quantum computing breakthroughs

Australia’s world-beating defence technology niche 

In major discovery, silhouette from the time of the first stars found

 Experts explain the impact of Australia’s latest space discovery

Books for review

If you are interested in reviewing one of these books for publication in Australian Physics, please contact the editor Brian James at

  • Lectures on General Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Black Holes by Badis Ydri
  • The Quantum LabryrinthHow Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Relativity by Paul Halpern
  • The Last Man Who Knew EverythingThe Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of The Nuclear Age by David N. Schwartz
  • Gravity, Magnetic and Electromagnetic Gradiometry by Alexey V Veryaskin (ebook)
  • Thermal Properties of Matter by Joe Khachan (ebook)
  • Semiconductor Integrated Optics for Switching Light by Charlie ironside (ebook)
  • The Lazy Universe: An Introduction to the Principle of Least Action by Jennifer Coopersmith (printed copy)
  • The Black Book of Quantum Chromodynamics by John Campbell, Joey Huston, and Frank Krauss (printed copy)


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. Alternatively, feel free to submit your event to the AIP calendar for members to access.


There are no upcoming events.


There are no upcoming events.


World Science Festival Brisbane

March 21 – March 25
Varying venues throughout Brisbane; check program for details

Street Science!

March 24 @ 10:00 am – March 25 @ 4:00 pm
Cultural Forecourt, South Bank Parklands


There are no upcoming events.


There are no upcoming events.


Cosmic Mirages: Seeing Dark Matter with Gravitational Lenses

March 16 @ 6:30 pm
Swinburne University Melbourne, VIC Australia + Google Map

Physics Lectures for VCE Students: Thermodynamics

March 15 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
University of Melbourne Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia

March Public Meeting | MoonshotX: The Space Business in Australia — It’s Not Rocket Science

March 26 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Building 80, Level 09, Room 12, 445 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Monash Physics Public Lecture Series

March 27 @ 6:30 pm

Girls in Physics Breakfast

March 28 @ 7:30 am – 10:30 pm
SMB Campus, Lydiard St South, Ballarat


Perth Observatory Summer Lecture

March 16 @ 8:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Perth Observatory

Seminar: Reigniting the role of physics in medicine

March 24 @ 4:30 pm – 5:00 pm
University of Western Australia Room 2.15, Physics Building

AIP event denotes AIP events


VIC] 5th Asian and Oceanic Congress on Radiation Protection – AOCRP5
20-23 May 2018
Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre

[Int’l] XXXIX International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP2018)
4-12 July 2018
Seoul, South Korea

[NSW] 9th Vacuum and Surface Science Conference of Asia and Australia
13-16 August 2018
SMC Function and Conference Centre
Sydney, Australia

[WA] 2018 AIP Congress
9-14 December 2018
University of Western Australia
Perth, Australia

Contributions and contact details

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

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

You are being sent this bulletin as a member of the AIP.

Our mailing address is:

Australian Institute of Physics

PO Box 546

East MelbourneVic 3002


Add us to your address book