[ASC-list] Aus physics news

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Thu Mar 3 01:30:29 UTC 2016

Hi ASCers.

Australian physicists from six unis and CSIRO helped find gravitational waves last month. There's free AIP membership for students. The AIP's physics prizes are open for nominations. And Aus astronomers have helped track a fast-radio burst to its home for the first time.

Each month we publish a wrap-up of Australian physics news and events, sent on behalf of the Australian Institute of Physics.

Below is a taste of this month's bulletin.  You can view the full bulletin here<http://www.aip.org.au/info/?q=article/gravitational-waves-and-influx-fresh-new-members-physics-march> and if you'd like to subscribe(you don't have to be a member), click here<http://scienceinpublic.us10.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=0095a098c581fd5fc98cdfba4&id=55a0d99a82>.


Gravitational waves: the Australian connection

Last month researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced they had successfully detected gravitational waves for the first time. More than a thousand scientists from 16 countries and over 80 institutions played their part in the discovery, including, from Australia:

*         Researchers at the Australian National University<http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/anu-plays-a-key-role-in-discovery-of-gravitational-waves> developed the mirror-tilt systems that allow LIGO's lasers to be steered so accurately. The ANU's David McClelland is head of the Australian Partnership in Advanced LIGO.

*         David Blair's Group at the University of Western Australia<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-12/scientists-in-gingin-detect-problems-with-us-detectors/7158068> established the effect of high-powered laser light on mirror instability.

*         Andrew Melatos's team at the University of Melbourne<https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/revealed-the-billion-year-soundbite> provided theoretical input and computer modelling, using supercomputers and smart algorithms to scour LIGO's data.

*         Peter Veitch and colleagues as the University of Adelaide<http://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/news82942.html> developed the optical sensors used to correct absorption-induced wavefront distortion of LIGO's detectors, enabling the high sensitivity needed to detect signals that are only about one-thousandth of the width of a proton across.

*         Philip Charlton and researchers at Charles Sturt University<http://news.csu.edu.au/latest-news/charles-sturt-university/csu-research/gravitational-waves-detected-100-years-after-einsteins-prediction> worked on calibration of the LIGO detectors and data analysis development.

*         Monash University<http://www.monash.edu/science/schools/physics/gravitational-waves-detected> researcher Yuri Levin, with Kip Thorn at CalTech, helped identify the thermal noise that had to be addressed in the LIGO mirrors, while Eric Thrane and Paul Lasky studied LIGO data, characterising noise sources and searching for neutron star signals.

*         CSIRO<http://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2016/Aussie-innovation-helps-hunt-down-gravitational-waves?featured=27F6622E2C954B819F5E36ECE881FA68> polished and coated some of the Advanced LIGO's mirrors-among the most uniform and precise such coatings ever made.

Immediately following the discovery in September last year, by prior arrangement, the location of the event was shared with over 60 teams of observers around the world, including here in Australia, allowing immediate observation right across the electromagnetic spectrum. Their observations<http://arxiv.org/pdf/1602.08492v1.pdf> were published this week, with over 1500 authors on the paper.

AIP prizes

The following AIP medals and awards are now open for nomination:

*         The Harrie Massey Medal<http://www.aip.org.au/info/www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/harrie-massey-medal-and-prize> for contributions to physics made either by an Australian physicist or by a physicist working in Australia

*         The Alan Walsh Medal<http://www.aip.org.au/info/www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/alan-walsh-medal-service-industry> for significant contributions to industry by a practising physicist in Australia

*         The Walter Boas Medal<http://www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/walter-boas-medal> for excellence in physics research in Australia (in the past five years)

*         The Education Medal<http://www.aip.org.au/info/www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/education-medal>, which recognises significant contributions to university physics education

*         The Bragg Gold Medal<http://www.aip.org.au/info/www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/bragg-gold-medal-excellence-physics>, which recognises the student with the most outstanding PhD thesis in physics

*         The award for Outstanding Service to Physics<http://www.aip.org.au/info/www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/award-outstanding-service-physics-australia> for exceptional contribution to the furtherance of physics as a discipline

*         And the  inaugural early-career research award, the Ruby Payne-Scott Medal<http://www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/aip-medals-prizes-awards>, which recognises outstanding contributions made by a physicist who is just beginning their career.

More information aip.org.au<http://www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/aip-medals-prizes-awards>. Nominations close 1 June (Bragg Gold medal 1 July).

Australian astronomers track FRB to source galaxy

A fast radio burst (FRB) was chased to its home galaxy<http://phys.org/news/2016-02-fast-radio-discovery-universe.html> for the first time, announced in a paper in Nature in February.

[cid:image004.png at 01D17548.6EADE400]The international team, including astronomers from CSIRO and Swinburne University of Technology, triggered an alert after the radio-frequency burst was registered at Parkes. This allowed astronomers at optical and other telescopes around the world to hone in on the right part of the sky to identify the source, and look for effects in other wavelengths in the hours following the initial RF burst.

By confirming the distance via redshift to the source galaxy, the researchers could determine the density of material through which the FRB had passed in its six-billion light-year journey. Their observations matched theoretical predictions of the amount of 'normal' (or baryonic) material in the Universe, half of which is unobservable.

Neutron imaging reveals opalised pearls

Opalised pearls<http://www.ansto.gov.au/AboutANSTO/MediaCentre/News/ACS087648> dating from an ancient inland sea some 65 million years ago have been identified using neutron radiography at ANSTO near Sydney.

Neutron scanning allowed for imaging of the internal structure without damaging the gems, and detected their concentric structure (pictured), identifying them as pearls. The gems were unearthed at Coober Pedy and are now on display at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.

Neutron tomography creates a 3D scan of the material, much like a hospital CT scan. Neutron radiography allows for better resolution of particular materials of similar density, which may not show up as clearly in an X-ray scan.

Physics shorts
CSIRO researchers<http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-09/ca-mfm092513.php> have found that a jet of charged particles glowing in radio frequencies from an old star is held together by magnetic fields, offering clues as to what may have triggered the jet, and may be the early stages of the star becoming a planetary nebula.

Experimental quantum researcher Michael Biercuk<http://equs.org/news/world-changing-innovators-ideas> of the Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems was one of four TED 'Ideas that travel' speakers on a Qantas flight last month. The talks will be rescreened during TEDxSydney in May.

A 'retired' powerful, 4-Tesla MRI magnet<https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2016/02/old-magnet-attracted-new-discoveries> from the Centre for Advanced Imaging at the University of Queensland has found a new lease of life at CERN in Europe. After powering the scanner at the forefront of Centre MRI research for the last 15 years, the 4-Tesla magnet will be refitted to help study the strong force that holds atomic nuclei together. The Centre for Advanced Imaging commissioned a new 7-Tesla 'super scanner'<https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2015/03/uq%E2%80%99s-super-scanner-new-weapon-against-heart-disease> last year.
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