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Blog

Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory funded!

Alan Duffy

Victoria's state government will contribute $5 million to build the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory.

The funding has been announced by Victoria’s state Minister for Regional Development, Jaclyn Symes, and matches the federal government’s funding commitment confirmed in April. The laboratory will be built one kilometre underground, within the Stawell Gold Mine, as a bespoke excavated cavity 30 metres long, 10 metres wide and 10 metres high. It will provide ultra-low background research facilities (free from the particles that form background radiation) needed in the ground-breaking search for dark matter.

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"Model Dispersion with prism: An Alternative to MCMC for Rapid Analysis of Models" - vd Velden (2019)

Alan Duffy

Published in the highly ranked ApJS and JOSS (as well as being available on arXiv for free) the “Probabilistic Regression Instrument for Simulating Models” package PRISM was a massive undertaking by my PhD student Ellert vd Velden. He built a brand-new open source MPI-capable Python package that can take ANY model from a user and map out the entire parameter space for regions that can explain the data.

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OfficeMax and Winc STEAM Grant Program for schools is open!

Alan Duffy

Really excited to finally share something that’s been in the works for a while, I’ll be lending my weight to a national grant program for schools to purchase cool experiments - through the OfficeMax and Winc STEAM Grant-Bot Program.

To all school teachers out there, just submit a 250 word (or less) entry before July 12 on the www.impressgrantbot.com.au site explaining why you and your school deserve to win. Smart algorithm ‘Grant-Bot’ will select the finalists (with my and leading whale researcher Dr Vanessa Pirotta’s help!) to be in the running to win their share of $50,000 worth of STEAM grants.

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"The SABRE project and the SABRE Proof-of-Principle" - Antonello et al. (2019)

Alan Duffy

This is the main collaboration paper for the dual hemisphere dark matter detector project SABRE. It outlines the various efforts underway to reduce contamination of the Sodium-Iodide crystals that react (we hope!) to colliding dark matter particles as well as an active veto system that removes background sources of radiation from our data collection.

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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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