An unlucky star. A new comb. Nuclear jobs – call to action

Australian Institute of Physics Congress 2022
Black Hole vs. Star: A Tidal Disruption Event (Artist’s Concept). NRAO/AUI/NSF/NASA

Stories from the Australian Institute of Physics Congress 2022 in Adelaide.

We’ve made a new comb: introducing the world’s most accurate ruler – for fast internet, finding planets, detecting explosives and earthquakes and more

A new centre led by RMIT in Melbourne are creating the microcombs, tiny devices that can precisely measure the colour (frequency) of light and switch information between light waves and radio waves.

Their microcombs will cost just a few dollars to make and will replace optical combs that are large, cost a million dollars and require constant attention from a team of scientists.

Their microcombs have already enabled the world’s fastest internet connection from a single chip. Now they plan to use them:

  • to track the slightest changes in stars over decade, revealing new planets
  • to detect subtle changes in the composition of the atmosphere
  • to sniff out explosives at airports
  • detect earthquakes using the internet cables under Melbourne’s streets
  • transform biomedical imaging, industrial automation and machine learning to name just a few.

They’ve just been awarded $35 million to establish The ARC Centre of Excellence in Optical Microcombs and Breakthrough Science (COMBS) partnering with eight universities and 23 global partners. Centre Director Arnan Mitchell is available for interview. And more at

An unlucky star wanders too close to a supermassive black hole

What happens next?

Adelle Goodwin will discuss the massive tidal disruption events when a star is swallowed up by a black hole at the heart of a galaxy. And she’ll talk about why girls should do physics.

Adelle is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), at Curtin University. She’s also one of the new batch of Superstars of STEM and is passionate about encouraging women and girls to get into STEM related fields.

We need to lose our fear of the ‘nuclear’ word

  • A call to action to train a nuclear savvy generation
  • Australia will need thousands of people trained in nuclear science
  • For submarines, cancer treatments, space industry, mining…

Our new submarine fleet, new cancer therapies, quantum computing, space industry and satellites, the extraction of critical minerals and monitoring the environment will all demand levels of training in nuclear science we cannot at present meet.

Australia’s physicists, meeting in Adelaide today, are calling for a national plan to boost education and training in nuclear science.

“The need is urgent. The captain of our first nuclear submarine is probably already in secondary school today,” says Dr AJ Mitchell, senior lecturer in physics at the Australian National University (ANU).

Read the full story.