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Blog

SmartSatCRC Funded!

Alan Duffy

At nearly a quarter billion dollars (!) of cash and inkind contributions SmartSatCRC is the largest space R&D investment in Australian history. Huge congrats to all 84 partners, but in particular UniSA and Nova Systems who led this bid from an idea just 18 months ago. On a personal level it’s incredibly exciting to know that we at Swinburne will be a core partner in this incredible new CRC developing a new era of tech for space and the better monitoring of our planet.

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Losing my mind on TV about Black Hole image

Alan Duffy

This is the heart of darkness.

The gravity of the blackhole is so great it casts a ‘shadow’ 2.5 times larger than itself (as defined by its event horizon) against the glowing material swirling into its maw.

That darkness is the size of the solar system but even so 6.5 billion Sun’s worth of mass crushes up pretty small when you’re a black hole.

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Cosmic Ray app CREDO on ABC

Alan Duffy

Turn your smartphone into a cosmic ray hunter with the free CREDO app! Currently available on Android (any Apple developers out there get in contact) and already with 2.5 million detections the growing userbase is helping us search for the most extreme events in the Universe. Not that this helped me with Virginia on News Breakfast who asked me some seriously tough (but as usual, brilliant) questions on the health risks of Cosmic Rays.

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Melbhenge on Thursday AND Friday evening

Alan Duffy

We have two chances this year - on both Thursday and Friday evening the Sun sets perfectly for MelbHenge which is lucky as it’s otherwise going to be a tougher time due to poor weather for the ever-growing grassroots effort to map out the best place to view it. Remember this phenomenon of a setting Sun framed by a mile long canyon of Melbourne's skyscrapers is both awesome but also dependent on favourable weather, but you only need a brief gap in the clouds to when the Sun is so low on the horizon, so head out from 8.15pm onwards and cross your fingers.

Last year most sat on Treasury steps, looking directly at the Sun unfortunately (please please don’t do that!) but for those who enjoy the photo from their phones please share it online with your location and hashtag so Swinburne University of Technology can map out the best viewing points and let’s get this as big as Manhattenhenge!

Headline photo from last year is courtesy of Melbourne photographer Jonathan L R Reyes, find him on insta @jlrreyes or his website

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Appointed SpaceTech Applications Program Lead

Alan Duffy

It’s fair to say I love all things space, but I have a particular fascination with developing novel uses of space to help us back on Earth. At Swinburne’s Data Science Research Institute we try to bridge the divide between discoveries in academia and their potential commercial uses in Industry. Working across the university and our data science experts to find solutions to current industry needs that can make Australia a healthier, wealthier and safer country? The next few years will be fun!

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Funding success!

Alan Duffy

Great news with the announcement that my Australian Research Council projects were funded! Huge congratulations to Dr Greg Lane of ANU and Dr Phil Urquijo of UMelb who led them (and I'll explain the science we hope to achieve with them in a bit) but while I'm delighted by my ARC funding outcomes I know that so many (too many!) of my colleagues haven't been so fortunate.

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"Cosmic-Ray Extremely Distributed Observatory: Status and Perspectives" - Gora et al. (2018)

Alan Duffy

The Cosmic-Ray Extremely Distributed Observatory (CREDO) project is turning smartphones into cosmic ray detectors, allowing a global search for extremely extended cosmic-ray phenomena, the cosmic-ray ensembles (CRE), beyond the capabilities of existing detectors and observatories.

This paper explains the incredible science opportunities with CREDO.

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Eureka! I won an award!

Alan Duffy

To my amazement (and with gratitude to the judges!) I won the 2018 Celestino Promoting Understanding of Science at the Australian Museum’s national Eureka Awards. This is basically the highest honour scientists who communicate that science to the public and that it was decided by an illustrious judging panel who I look up too is an incredible feeling of support and acknowledgement.

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Science in VR 2 - free headsets and app!

Alan Duffy

It's nearly time for #NationalScienceWeek and we have updated the amazing (and free!) SciVR app to let you explore the universe in virtual reality on your smartphone! As before we are also giving you the chance to enter a ballot for free VR headsets that make the experience even better. Just head to www.scivr.com.au to register for that, download the app and book tickets for the live events (streaming online to over a dozen satellite events across Australia and the world!)

Huge thanks to our partners who make this possible; OzGrav, Swinburne, Fleet, State Library of Victoria and of course the Inspiring Australia grant for National Science Week

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Performing alongside Kendrick Lamar

Alan Duffy

OK so technically not on the same stage as Kendrick Lamar or Gang of Youths but I am still amazed at attending the Splendour In The Grass festival as a *performer* alongside artists of their calibre (albeit on a slightly smaller stage!) The #ScienceInTheGrass collaboration of Inspiring Australia (NSW)Southern Cross University and Fizzics Education brings science into the heart of the cultural phenomenon that is Splendour in the Grass. The Science Tent stood alongside art, music and comedy stages ensuring thousands of young Australians saw #STEM as central to their lives as the other programs. I hope they also found our events as engaging as the headliners on mainstage..!

My thanks to Elise Derwin for the awesome photos.

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Antarctica's squishy truth of why it's rising - ABC Breakfast News TV

Alan Duffy

Melting icesheets of Antarctica Western Shelf are allowing that ancient continent to rebound at the fastest rate in the world (41mm a year!) as measured by GPS stations. It was explained by ESA's glorious GOCE satellite, published in Science, the reason why - the mantle under Antartica is less viscous (or squishier) than normal, which could be a good thing for our planet. I took it upon myself to explain why this makes a difference on ABC Breakfast News TV with a bowl of honey and peanut butter... Rather proud of this explanation.

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"The impact of feedback and the hot halo on the rates of gas accretion on to galaxies" - Correa et al. (2018)

Alan Duffy

My former student, and now high flying postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University, Dr Camila Correa answered one of the basic questions in galaxy formation in this paper - how does gas get to the galaxy from the larger Universe? The simple answer is, it depends. Essentially the bigger you are the more gas you can pull in, until you get to something the size of our Milky Way, when the `accretion'  rate of material infalling then flattens out. This picture is complicated as the hot gas halo surrounding a galaxy is responsible for preventing new material from infalling as it shocks against the hot halo. The amount of the hot halo depends on the type of energetic events within a galaxy, be it exploding stars (supernovae) or accreting black holes (AGN). A beautiful bit of work that will inform theorists and observers for years to come!

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What's Next 2018

Alan Duffy

I've kept the previous post up but sadly it's with regret that I have to pass on the message from Lateral Events that despite all our best efforts, What’s NEXT? has been cancelled in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. All ticket buyers will be provide with a full refund within the next seven days (i.e. mid-August latest) by Ticketmaster or Ticketek. Sorry all.

I cannot believe I get to write this but Nobel Prize-winning and Interstellar science consultant Prof Kip Thorne is touring Australia and I AM ON STAGE WITH HIM! Prof Kip Thorne is quite literally one of the smartest humans in the world, co-sharing the Nobel-prize for finding gravitational waves. 

Tickets are out NOW. Get them at the LateralEvents link and I'll see you soon Australia... but more importantly you'll see the future with Prof Kip Thorne. And that is an unforgettable experience.

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A Victorian home for the Australian Space Agency?

Alan Duffy

Over half a century ago this nation became only the third in the world to build and launch a satellite from its own territory. Since that time aerospace ambitions in Australia have waxed and waned but with the announcement by the Turnbull Government of a National Space Agency, led by former CSIRO-head Dr Megan Clarke, it is clear that we are ready once again as a Nation to take our place in space.

The Victorian Minister for Industry and Employment Ben Carroll as well as Victoria's Lead Scientist Dr Amanda Caples believe that the natural home for this Agency is right here in Melbourne and were good enough to let me launch the bid alongside them, at Swinburne's Eric Ormond Baker Charitable Fund Remote Observing Facility in front of media from every TV, print and radio station. It was an unbelievable experience..!

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"Dark-ages reionization and galaxy formation simulation XIV: Gas accretion, cooling and star formation in dwarf galaxies at high redshift" - Qin et al. (2018)

Alan Duffy

One of the challenges in exploring the early universe is that it is so far from us, as we peer billions of light years away to see it as it was all those billion of years ago. That means small faint objects, like dwarf galaxies, that we suspect do the main job of reionising the universe are nearly impossible to measure. It's therefore a challenge to constrain the DRAGONS universe; one way is to wait until little things build into bigger things that you then can see and test those. The other is to constrain the Semi-Analytic Models against the hydro simulations of Smaug. In this astounding exhaustive and thorough review of the two techniques my student Yuxiang Qin explores the connections and learns what to modify in one to mimic the other. Just being on top of one of these techniques would considered impressive in a PhD, to do both is truly exceptional. 

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