7 December 2010
Here’s today’s stories from the physics congress in Melbourne.
Space storms threat to power and phones
Are solar flares damaging our ozone layer?
The future of nuclear science
Superconductors reveal their secrets
Dark matter: detecting the invisible
Pulsar found with 250,000 home computers
Lies, damn lies and climate change sceptics: what has really caused recent global warming?
Australians to play with the Large Hadron Collider
In March 1989, six million people in Quebec suffered a nine-hour blackout due to currents induced in the electricity grid by a geomagnetic storm, which is caused by plasma striking Earth from a solar coronal mass ejection.
Today, such an event could be even more disastrous, knocking out the electronic and communications systems upon which we all depend. 150 years ago there was a storm with many times the power.
That’s why the US, Australia and many other developed nations are investing in understanding and modelling the Sun-Earth system to enable us to forecast space weather, according to Colorado researcher Tim Fuller Rowell.
More information at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/aip/aip-acroft-2010conference/spacestorms
Solar flares could have temporarily worsened the hole in the ozone layer, particularly in the southern hemisphere, Marc Duldig from the Australian Antarctic Division says. Bursts of energetic particles erupting from the sun during some solar flares can boost levels of ozone-destroying chemicals in our atmosphere. The team uses ground-based sensors to detect the high energy solar particles.
More information at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/aip/aip-acroft-2010conference/solarflares
Discoveries in diagnosing diseases, finding new clues to detect climate change and the structural soundness of materials have all emerged from Australia’s nuclear research reactor.
Adi Paterson, director of ANSTO (the body that manages the reactor) will speak of the role that nuclear science plays in Australia’s future.
More information at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/aip/aip-acroft-2010conference/nuclearsci
Copper-based oxides are superconducting record breakers, transmitting electricity with no power loss at temperatures not far below -100˚C. Understanding the electronic structure of these exotic materials to find superconductors that work at even higher temperatures is the work of Michael Norman and his colleagues at team at Argonne National Laboratory in the US.
Melbourne physicists are trying to detect the undetectable – by searching for signs of its demise.
Nicole Bell and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne are analysing data on neutrinos, gamma and cosmic rays for evidence of the decay or annihilation of dark matter. This mysterious material is suspected to exist because of the gravitational tug it exerts on the visible universe. But it has not, as yet, been found.
More information at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/aip/aip-acroft-2010conference/darkmatter
In August, astronomy’s answer to Neighbourhood Watch, Einstein@Home, scored its first success. Using the processing power of a quarter of a million home computers to sift through reams of data generated by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, researchers discovered a radio pulsar neutron star.
These mysterious forms of matter, just a step away from a black hole, are notoriously difficult to find. Bruce Allen from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover will reveal how to get involved.
More information at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/aip/aip-acroft-2010conference/pulsar
David Karoly will rebut the common arguments and misinformation that question the role of human activity, particularly increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, as the main cause of recently observed global warming.
He says, “Recent increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are due to human activity. The pattern and magnitude of observed global-scale temperature changes since the mid-20th century cannot be explained by natural climate variability. They are consistent with the response to increasing greenhouse gases and aerosols, and are not consistent with the responses to other factors.”
“Hence, it is very likely that increasing greenhouse gases due to human activity are the main cause of the recent observed global-scale warming.”
More information at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/aip/aip-acroft-2010conference/lies
CERN director general launches centre and reports on the LHC’s first year – 12.45 pm today at the Melbourne Convention Centre
At the Australian Institute of Physics Congress today the Director General of CERN in Switzerland, Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer will launch a $25m ARC Centre to explore the origins of the universe after the big bang.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale will explore particle physics at terascale energies (a million million electron volts) through the ATLAS experiment, which is a giant particle detector attached to Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
The Centre brings together scientists from the University of Melbourne, the University of Adelaide, Monash University, the University of Sydney and a host of international collaborators.
“The Centre will greatly expand Australia’s role in the largest pure science enterprise on planet earth, the Large Hadron Collider,” Professor Taylor said.
More details at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/blog
The stories are all being presented this week at the Melbourne Convention Centre at the 19th Australian Institute of Physics Congress incorporating the 35th Australian Conference on Optical Fibre Technology.