The Milky Way is warped

A slightly exaggerated impression of the real shape of our warped and twisted Milky Way. Image: Xiaodian Chen (National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The first accurate 3D map of our galaxy reveals its true shape: warped and twisted.

Background information and further images below.

Astronomers from Macquarie University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have used 1339 ‘standard’ stars to map the real shape of our home galaxy in a paper published in Nature Astronomy today.

They found the Milky Way’s disc of stars becomes increasingly ‘warped’ and twisted the further away the stars are from the galaxy’s centre.

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The Women in Physics lecturer is…; Stargazing world record; and more physics in June

It gives me great pleasure to once again welcome a renowned physicist to Australia for the AIP’s annual Women in Physics lecture tour—and this year we’ve chosen Dr Ceri Brenner from the Central Laser Facility at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK.

Ceri is a high-power laser plasma physicist who works alongside industry, translating her research on the fourth state of matter, into practical real-world applications in medicine, aerospace and more. She’s also a passionate science communicator who I am sure will inspire audiences around the country. More on that below.

Physics also made quite a mark on the media in the past month. Not only was rockstar physicist Brian Cox making the media rounds, but ANU also managed to achieve literally record-breaking numbers of people turning their eyes to the sky for their successful Guinness World Record attempt.

We’ll have another huge physics name down under in September. Kip Thorne has announced a string of tour dates, be sure to support the industry and grab a ticket when they go on sale on 22 June. He’ll be supported by local star of Swinburne astronomy Alan Duffy and comedian Robin Ince.

Some of Australia’s best and brightest physicists were also elected into the Australian Academy of Science Fellowship, one of the highest scientific honours in Australia. Be sure to read all about them, and head to our Facebook page to offer your congratulations. Meanwhile the next generation were representing at FameLab Australia and in the Physics Olympiad. [continue reading…]


While some of us spent most of last month cheering on the Aussies, especially Cameron McEvoy, in the pool – there is plenty of good physics going on out of the pool as well.

Some of it will be coming to a pub near you as a part of the  Physics in the Pub event series, and there will be even more at the  AIP Congress in Perth in December. Abstract submissions are open until 15 June.

Australia produces some fantastic physicists, and that’s one of the reasons our organisation is so important. It’s great to have a solid community of physicists and physics fans to share their work and get excited about the work of others.

We recognise excellent Australian physics with our AIP medals. There are awards for physicists in a range of disciplines and at all career stages,  have a look at the list below to see if you might be eligible. Nominations close 1 June.

And we want to hear from you.

I get to write to you each month, so now we’re giving you the opportunity to talk back in our regular monthly surveys. The first one is only two questions long, so  check it out

We’re also considering whether a consolidated approach to managing the operations of the AIP could be an efficient use of members funds. Accordingly, we are seeking detailed expressions of interest to deliver AIP Operations, if you’re interested all the details are online.

Finally, I recently joined a meeting with Presidents, CEOs and other leaders of Australia’s most prominent science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) organisations in Canberra, to discuss the important role that science and technology will play in Australia’s future.

As a result, we issued a statement calling for: a whole-of-government plan for science and technology; strategy to equip the future Australian workforce with STEM skills; strong investment in both basic and applied research; and creating policy informed by the best available evidence. You can read our full statement here.

Kind Regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

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AIP member benefits; call for Congress abstracts; behind the scenes at Parliament; and more physics in April

Preparations for the 2018 AIP Congress—in Perth, December 9 to

Professor Andrew Peele Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

Professor Andrew Peele
Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

13—are now well underway, with most of the plenary speakers announced. And the call for abstracts has just opened. More on both of those below.

This year we are really trying to attract a larger industry presence at the Congress, so please pass on the call for abstracts to those you know who are working in physics outside academia. It would also be great to see a large representation of science teachers at the conference.

Get your abstracts in today to help make this the biggest and best Congress yet.

As you probably know, AIP members receive discounted rates to attend the AIP Congress, but there are many other member benefits too.

This month our Vice President Jodie Bradby shared her thoughts on why all physicists should be members of the AIP. She highlights the great work undertaken by our members, and the events they work tirelessly to make happen.

Also in this bulletin, we hear from an AIP member who represented the AIP at Science meets Parliament earlier this year. Claire Edmunds, a PhD candidate from the University of Sydney and Professor Andre Luiten from the Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing (IPAS) were given the chance to network with the most brilliant minds in Australian science and members of parliament—while learning about the value those relationships provide.

I was pleased to hear that the experience was not only beneficial for our representatives and their careers, but was also a whole lot of fun. You can read Claire’s report below and Andre’s in the next edition of Australian Physics.

Finally, a lot of great Australian physics research made its way into the news this month, so be sure to check out some of the great media coverage below.

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Stargazing in science week and prizes galore: Physics in March

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

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Physics in the limelight, let’s keep it there; AIP AGM; LIGO lecture and more

Professor Andrew Peele Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

Professor Andrew Peele
Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

I am very excited about starting 2018 with Michelle Simmons awarded Australian of the Year – what better way is there to bring physics into the limelight than having people discussing the benefits of quantum physics.

Michelle is a great advocate for our discipline, women in science and physics education – her 2017 Australia Day Address was a great example.  We offer our sincere congratulations to Michelle on this honour, and you can share your messages with her too via our Facebook post.

I’d also like to offer congratulations to those physicists awarded in the Australia Day honours roll – see list below.

These accolades are a timely reminder that the only reason physicists win these awards is because someone nominates them.

Nominations are now open for Australian of the Year 2019 and the honours roll. You can also nominate for FameLab, the Eureka Prizes, Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science and many other awards will open in the coming months.

So let’s make sure we keep the momentum going, think about who you can nominate to keep physics in the spotlight.

Last but not least, this month we also recognise Professor David McClelland – who has been awarded the Walter Boas Medal for key contributions to LIGO, and “one of the greatest achievements in the history of physics”, the discovery of gravitational waves. You can read more about David’s achievements below.

You can hear more from David at a Public Lecture at Melbourne’s RMIT on 15 February, immediately after the AIP’s AGM.

I hope to see you there.


Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

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Summer Meeting underway; PhD and post-doc opportunities; and more – Physics in December

Professor Andrew Peele Director, Australian Synchrotron

Professor Andrew Peele
Director, Australian Synchrotron

In this edition of the AIP’s monthly email bulletin, we extend  a very warm welcome to the committee members elected at  recent the recent state branch AGMs.

The AIP is active through its branches, and a wide network of volunteer physicists keep the business of the Institute moving smoothly. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming our new committee members, as well as acknowledging everyone who has worked to keep the AIP moving from strength to strength in 2017.
Speaking of volunteers, they are also running the first AIP Summer Meeting now underway. A good turnout from students is already making the meeting a success and I look forward to returning to Sydney on Wednesday to hear more about the latest developments in physics across Australia. More on that below. 

National meetings like this are a great way for students (as well as those of us who are no longer students) to make connections, and to find out about employment prospects around the country. Not coincidentally, the Summer Meeting is held at the time of year that universities start thinking of recruiting, and to help that process there are plenty of job opportunities in this bulletin.

Finally, we offer our congratulations to Professor Judith Dawes on her appointment to the role of Treasurer of Science & Technology Australia (STA). We also extend our sincere thanks to outgoing STA President Professor Jim Piper, Walter Boas medalist and long-time stalwart of the Australian physics community, for his unfailing and enthusiastic advocacy of Australian science throughout his Presidency.

And read on to find out how you can make use of the AIP’s association with STA to get your voice heard in the “Halls of Power” in Canberra next February.


Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

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Watching inside living cells; the genesis of gold; plus awards, prizes and more – Physics in November

There are lots of winners in this month’s bulletin.
Professor Andrew PeeleInterim Director, Australian Synchrotron
I’d like to personally congratulate Professor Dayong Jin who received one of this years’ Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, and Dr Jacq Romero who received a L’Oreal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship, as well as all of those who received NHMRC grants, and those elected Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. You can read more about all of their achievements below.

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Nobel for gravitational waves; Australia joins the space race; flip-flop qubits and quantum internet – Physics in October

Professor Andrew PeeleInterim Director, Australian SynchrotronSpace has featured strongly in recent news.

A new gravitational wave detection, and the first from a detector other than the LIGO detectors, means we are improving our ability to identify the source of these signals and strengthening arguments to build more, and more advanced, detectors.

Of course, there is also the small matter of a Nobel Prize!

Overnight Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the LIGO/Virgo Collaboration were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”. Like the Higgs Boson before it there was very little doubt that this significant work was going to win a Nobel Prize, it was more a matter of who would be awarded the prize and when. You can read the full media release here.

Another success was celebrated with the end of the Cassini mission bringing world-wide media attention and reminding us just how much can be achieved with good planning and a dedicated team.

The International Astronautical Congress also gathered its share of media attention. While Elon Musk headlined with plans for going to Mars and a new acronym for a very large rocket (read the story!), the news for Australia was even more important. The announcement of a space agency for Australia signals exciting times for physics and for members of the Australian Institute of Physics.

On the topic of space, but in a different way, there are some important spaces to fill at Science & Technology Australia, with nominations open for executive committee positions. The AIP is a member of STA and this opportunity to play a role in Australia’s peak body in science and technology is one of the benefits of AIP membership. More on how to nominate below.

For more physics news you can:
1) read on;
2) renew your membership to keep receiving the AIP member only magazine – Australian Physics;
3) stay in touch with other members through events and conferences around the country; such as the Summer Meeting at the end of this year, and the 2018 AIP Congress; or
4) all of the above.
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There were physicists galore at the “Oscars of Australian Science” – the Eureka Prizes – hosted by the Australian Museum in August.

Physicists and applied physics researchers featured in at least five Prizes, you can read more about them below. Through both the winners, and all the finalists, it was great to see the impact physics can have on people’s lives.

Another way you as a physicist can have a big impact is through becoming our AIP Special Project Officer for outreach. This is a voluntary position and is a great way to become part of the AIP Executive team. The role will also give you experience and help broaden your skills in science communication. See the information below on how to apply.

Hot off the back of the great 2017 Women in Physics lecture series featuring Katie Mack, we’re putting the call out for nominations for the next Women in Physics Lecturer – and we’re seeking an international speaker for 2018. More below on how you can nominate. 

Finally, the AIP Summer meeting is proceeding with the call for submission of abstracts well and truly open – and closing on 29 September. Make sure to get your in and I look forward to seeing you there.

All this plus information and links to the solar eclipse, teaching physics and even more are in this month’s Bulletin – enjoy!

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

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