Public profile of Swinburne astronomer Associate Professor Alan Duffy, Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia, with school talks/evening lectures on dark matter, dark energy, galaxy formation, indigenous astronomy, alien worlds. He is an experienced public speaker, science communicator and science expert in Melbourne.
I've spoken at hundreds of events but some particularly unusual opportunities were chatting all things science with Brian Greene as host for "An Evening with Dr Brian Greene", speaking at TEDxSydney in the Sydney Opera House, a Science-Improv night at the Adelaide Fringe, a nation-wide tour with BBC Worldwide / RiAus show The Science of Doctor Who Live and even a Planetarium production on Dark Matter called Dark (now shown in 148 planetariums across 25 countries in 6 languages).
I am incredibly fortunate that I have been able to travel across Australia explaining everything from Black Holes to Aboriginal Astronomy to thousands of students in dozens schools everywhere from inner city private schools to remote indigenous schools in the outback.
See my CV for more.
This is an incredible honour and something I'm delighted to finally announce but after a national application process I've been chosen as the new Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia, home of Australia's Science Channel.
Australia, and the world, faces significant challenges ahead but it will be more science and technology not less that will see us through. That’s why it’s so critical we continue to explain and share the latest breakthroughs by Australia’s researchers and inspire the next generation into STEM. At Australia’s Science Channel we can ensure the best and most inspiring science stories are fed directly into classrooms around the nation, and further shared around the world.
I hope I live up to the great legacy of the Royal Institution and am able to play a positive role in raising science's profile, and science literacy more generally, in Australia!
I loved making this short ABC ME series with the wonderfully talented and ever enthusiastic Grace Koh trying to explain the answers to questions that we all think of, while restricting ourselves to a green screen and about 3 minutes in total. You can watch all 5 episodes on iView or catch them as interstitials between your favourite shows on ABC ME. Also who doesn't love a big red button?!
Todd Sampson is insane. There. I said it. I understand physics, I trust 100% in the universality of the laws we explore in Life on the Line, but I certainly don't have 100% trust in the engineering. In episode 3 we discuss Friction by throwing Todd off a bungee jump without it being secured (simply interleaved pages of a phonebook). The principle of geometric amplification of the friction means that these phonebooks won't slip by. Everything else however could go wrong. In episode 4 we discuss Conversation of Energy by using a one tonne wrecking ball. This actually DOES go wrong. Yet still he risks his life. I love Todd's trust in my calculations, I just wish he wouldn't actually put his Life on the Line with them.
Awesome. In the truest sense of the word. How else to describe Stargazing Live? A national science extravaganza that involved the great on screen scientists of our age (Prof Brian Cox, Prof Chris Lintott, A/Prof Lisa Harvey-Smith) explaining the latest science from the gorgeous Siding Spring Observatory. I was a permanent panel member trying to answer the public's questions on the Back to Earth show that followed Stargazing each night. The public were asked to help us find alien worlds using Exoplanet Explorer, by the of the three nights Brian was able to announce a world with four super-Earths all closer in than Mercury... Insane. I still can't understand how it formed. Truly one of the most incredible experiences I've ever been part of, thanks Stargazing!
I've been involved in some mammoth science communication events, and I firmly believe to ensure the role of STEM in our society we need these huge shows to make science cool again. I shared my thoughts on this and alarming decline in STEM enrolment rates on theconversation.
A stunningly beautiful project to explain the night sky to a younger audience on ABC ME by Camilla Hannan. If you don't feel captivated by the visuals, and awed by the wonderful dialogue (my bits aside) then you have no soul. Seriously though, have a watch on iView, I'm so proud to have been involved in this.
The new ABC Radio National science podcast hit the airwaves and I cannot be prouder of this show. Alongside my rantings is the insightful, measured yet ever enthusiastic explanations of my friend and co-star Dr Amanda Bauer. The entire series is run by the ABC's astoundingly talented producer Joel Werner. Subscribe and have a listen wherever you get your podcasts (iTunes).
The alignment of the setting Sun with Melbourne's Hoddle Grid only occurs twice a year, causing a beautiful sight of the Sun framed by a mile-long corridor of skyscrapers. The astronomy is easy, but where is the best location to view this? Which of the East-West streets (Collins, Bourke, Lonsdale or LaTrobe?) and what intersection as the trams and trees can get in the way... I asked the City of Melbourne to get out and snap photos and post online with their location using the hashag #Melbhenge to crowd-source the answer. Incredibly the request was shared on ABC Melbourne radio, The Age, Broadsheet and finally to a world-wide audience on the BBC. Amazing. Stay tuned for the best location for November 3rd's event as I go through all the incredible photos (like the image I've grabbed from Rachel Dexter on Collins St) from this event.
Super bizarre but cool honour to find myself featured in Qantas Magazine! I travel ridiculous amounts for work and find myself flicking through this mag on take off and landing, never thought I'd be reading about myself! Thanks iQ for uncovering my secret shame that I am rubbish with DVD players.
As you can tell I was a little excited about seeing myself at the end of an international flight in the Spirit of Australia inflight magazine..!
So this is absurdly cool, the Chief Scientist has named me as one of Australia's Science Superheroes... I honestly can't claim this (and especially not when you see the other superheroes) but it gave me a chance to answer some fun questions about what my 'superpower' in science actually is.
How do you become a superhero scientist? Well firstly you don't need to get bitten by a radioactive (and very smart) spider instead during National Science Week in August 2016, Australia’s Chief Scientist launched the #5ScientistPledge to recognise Australian Scientists. Those scientists are now getting recognised with a new tag – #AusScienceHeroes
My regular column in theconversation (as well as appearance on ABC Breakfast News) explored a Thanksgiving meal that was out of this world, as well as the beginning of the end for the Cassini mission (but not without a spectacular final view) and a new fuel-less rocket that set the internet alight might be a misfire after all.
An unusual opportunity came up to speak at the International Mining and Resources Conference housed at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to explore the possibilities of spin off tech from our underground dark matter searches. I focussed on the science of SABRE, the possibilities of an X-ray like scan for gold in the mine around using Muon Tomography and other underground science such as understanding how life grows without radiation / astrobiology. Finally I discussed the possible future for mining, in space! Key technologies such as automation and refinement have been deployed by the giants in the resource extraction sector and could find a home for their advanced technologies in the final frontier.
I got to indulge my twin passions, science and science fiction, in this talk for Swinburne's Open Day. One day I hope to record a more polished, full length talk, for now this is a great 'best-of' compilation by the team.
An amazing opportunity to be the official Ambassador for the Sydney Science Festival a role which meant I got to give the opening lecture on the incredible Large Hadron Collider at CERN which you can watch here. There was a great write up of the event in the Sydney Morning Herald (where the image came from) and which featured in several TV and radio interviews.
I was interviewed as part of the Born Digital Week by National and State Libraries Australasia to raise awareness of how much data we create, what it's value is and how best to preserve it. Far from being preserved forever online, the digital world is potentially entering a Digital Dark Age as a book two thousand years old is still readable while I haven't got a clue what to do with a floppy disk from just two decades ago.
An amazing opportunity to see Prof Brian Cox speak in a sell-out MCEC plenary event during his Journey into Deep Space tour of Australia. He basically explained the beginning and ultimate end of the universe (Eternal Inflationary Cosmology explains both if you were curious) from first principles which is no mean feat.
Event better was getting backstage to hang out with him and Robin Ince (thoroughly lovely human being) and chat science. Definitely one of the coolest things I've done recently and it's given me some great ideas (i.e. that I'll steal) to use in my own talks!
My piece in ABC The Drum on what the 2016 budget means for science in Australia. Essentially things continue as we had hoped from earlier in the year with welcome long-term sustained funding. There was a welcome one-year extension to the Australian Astronomical Observatory delaying the end of that world-leading telescope facility by a year to 2019/20 which it is hoped will give time for a sustained and long term solution to astronomical funding in the nation.
An incredible experience discussing science for the National Science Quiz hosted by no less than Charlie Pickering! On the panel were some of Australia's top minds, Prime Minister Science Prize winner Terry Speed, science communicator Tanya Ha, Victoria's Lead Scientist Leonie Walsh and ABC's Red Symons. My favourite question we had to answer was why a wet towel looks darker than a dry one (the water has a higher refractive index and bends the reflected light that would ordinarily reach your eye and hence means it would look darker).
A strange opportunity to speak, well, about myself. Usually I only chat to the media about the latest breaking science but this time the Sydney Morning Herald asked how I got into astrophysics and my thoughts on STEM education. Suffice to say I'm pretty keen on everyone getting to learn at least a little science!
Speaking to 4000 inspiring primary students from across the State was an incredible honour. I tried to tell them what makes a good leader (listening!), how to succeed in their career (passion!) and what’s the coolest job (astronomer!) I was alongside the YGAP co-founder Elliot Costello, Dr Paul McIntosh from one of my favourite supercomputers MASSIVE and Cat Cafe star Anita Loughran. All people who have succeeded against incredible odds. The event was organised by Halogen and the scale blew me away, it was a long day and yet the questions at the end were still so impressive and insightful. I wish this event had been around when I was young but then again I probably wouldn’t have been good enough to get in then!
One of my great passions in life is reading, and I jumped at the chance to wax lyrical about my top books I’d read this past year on Radio National. Sarah Dingle was a champ, allowing me to get a bit carried away with some of the themes of the books...
After an outstanding year of science and space events I grabbled with the thorny issue of summarising my highlights to a top 10 for theconversation (I could have easily listed another ten!) Unsurprisingly the main story of the year was Pluto.
It was a busy day preparing for the Government’s new innovation policy, I chatted about what I hope to see and also what I thought would happen. Then I was able to sneak in some tips on viewing the Geminids meteor shower next week as well as some astonishing new images from the recent New Horizons flyby of Pluto.
Deeply honoured to be featured alongside everyday Australian legends as Commbank’s Australian of the Day campaign. Fun chatting to them about my work on Dark Matter as well as helping inspire and educate Australians about the awesomeness of science.
I had a horribly awkward fanboy moment when I got to meet the legend himself Buzz Aldrin! There are few people in this world I consider a living legend but Buzz is one, so getting to shake his hand and then hear about his experiences on the Moon and his hoped for plans about getting to Mars was incredible.
I wrote an article for Cosmos Magazine explaining how NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detected streams of Martian air blasted away by the Solar Wind. This tiny trickle (100g / s) was seen to increase 10-15x during even a moderate Solar Storm (or Coronal Mass Ejection). As the Sun was more active when younger these slow and fast processes of stripping air from Mars could explain how the red planet was transformed from a water rich world 4bn years go into the barren desert it is today.
One of the best science lectures I've ever seen was at Monash University by Caltech's legend GR expert Prof Kip Thorne giving the Einstein Centenary lecture to celebrate a century since General Relativity was released to the world. Fittingly, he used the examples of Interstellar's Black Holes, time dilation and 5-dimensional (bulk) beings to make the topic all the more accessible to the (sold out) auditorium.
This Monday will see the last lunar eclipse of the tetrad (sequence of four). A beautiful sight as the moon turns 'blood' red that millions across Europe and America will enjoy. For some however they see it as the apocalypse. Unsurprisingly I am less pessimistic in my explanation on theconversation.
Dark matter is invisible and able to pass through matter almost completely without notice. As you might imagine finding it is a challenge. By using telescopes, particle colliders and 'glowing' crystals at the bottom of goldmines we are honing in on this mysterious new particle.
Are we alone? It's a fundamental question that haunts us as we look up into a cold, dark sky and (so far as we know!) the answer is yes, but perhaps for not too much longer. With $100m from the Breakthrough Listen project Australia will be leading the search for ET's signals. This is something that everyone is fascinated by, including politicians! Myself and a group of distinguished scientists gave a briefing at Parliament House to, amongst others, then Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane and Minister for Science Karen Andrews (seen above with me politely trying not to be bored by my awful ramblings).
You can watch the interview at the National Library of Australia hosted by 666 ABC Canberra's Genevieve Jacobs, Nobel Laureate Prof Brian Schmidt, Prof Naomi McClure-Griffiths, Laureate Fellow Prof Matthew Bailes, Prof Paul Davies and yours truly (completely out of my depth!)