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Blog

Filtering by Category: Academic

"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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"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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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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"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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"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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Australia's Future in Space

Alan Duffy

The Australian Space Agency review is to be released in a matter of days but do you know what it means for you, your children's future careers or even how much you already use space in your everyday life? Well with the team at The Royal Institution of Australia we put together a package answering all of these issues on Australia's Space Future. I'm really proud of the team's exhaustive efforts and also amazed by the careers of talented female scientists and engineers like Andrea Boyd, Flavia Nardini and Lisa Stojanovski who we were able to feature. In space our future really is unlimited.

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ChooseMaths on International Women's Day

Alan Duffy

It was truly a remarkable privilege to be one of the #CHOOSEMATHS Ambassadors and speak to 400 young girls about the value of maths in their careers. My thanks to AMSI for the opportunity as well as allowing me to hear the fantastic female ambassadors onstage - their stories and range of careers will inspire that audience to know a background in maths is a valuable (and valued!) one for any future job they may strive towards. Also my thanks to IMAX Melbourne for hosting us all, it was a fantastic place to enjoy the #CHOOSEMATHS ambassador's career videos - for more on why I think maths is key to all our futures (and in particular for women) head to the women in education special in The Australian #IWD2018

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Science Meets Parliament - and I meet the Science Minister!

Alan Duffy

It's truly a remarkable thing to get to present your research to the Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation Zed Seselja alongside fellow scientists in ecology, quantum computing and mining... this is what makes Science Meets Parliament such a unique experience and one I'm proud to have assisted as an executive of Science & Technology Australia.

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Space at the World Government Summit

Alan Duffy

At the truly epic World Government Summit I was privileged to lead the discussion of Mars settlement by the best and brightest from the UAE Space Agency and make the broader case for space with an international panel. Apart from that I got to hear from Forest Whitaker, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku all in one day..! The #worldgovsummit is truly an extraordinary meeting of the world’s best minds. Just as exciting will be to see the new businesses and activities that come from this meeting, I certainly aim to work more closely with an international range of impressive people, all with varied backgrounds I could never hope to have met at any other meeting. It was a genuine pleasure to meet and discuss space technologies with the extraordinary young engineers of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. I have to say the task facing the program director for Mars 2117, Saeed Al GerGawi, are humbling - but he and his team are more than up to the task if this gorgeous VR tour of their Mars City is anything to go by!

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"The formation of hot gaseous haloes around galaxies" - Correa et al. (2018)

Alan Duffy

My old student Camila Correa continues to revolutionise the basic fundamentals and assumed wisdom of galaxy formation. In particular she thoroughly explored the simple idea that infalling gas will shock against the other gas floating around the galaxy. In this paper, Camila used the EAGLE simulation series to explore the way in which exploding stars (supernovae) or feeding blackholes (AGN) impact that development of the hot halo. Essentially the supernovae ejects gas from the galaxy into nearby space, presenting a bigger target to infalling material, and hence makes the hot halo easier to form. The blackholes on the other are more energetic and eject material from the halo entirely, making it harder to form the hot halo in the first place. Overall, Camila showed that there was a critical halo mass above which the hot halo will form, around a half the size of the Milky Way at the present day.

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"Dark-ages reionization and galaxy formation simulation XII: Bubbles at dawn" - Geil et al. (2017)

Alan Duffy

One of my favourite human beings, colleagues and collaborators - Dr Paul Geil - also came up with one of my favourite paper titles of all time. The work using DRAGONS focusses on the structure of the Epoch of Reionisation. In the first billion years after the Big Bang growing galaxies shone with ionising UV light, lighting up the Universe itself. This light ionised the hydrogen gas lying around the galaxies, creating cavities or bubbles in the intergalactic medium. the exact structure of the bubbles, how many of a given size and their rate of growth, is intimately tied to the nature of dark matter and the physics of galaxy formation. Paul predicted how new telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array can explore these bubbles, and exactly how awesome they will be at constraining all sorts of physics. A huge piece of work that will be years in the testing, so forward looking is its predictions.

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Citation brag

Alan Duffy

OK yes I know citation metrics are not the best way to measure performance. And yes by making the measure of success the target of success we then ruin the value of the measuring metric in, well, measuring (sorry for butchering your Law Goodhardt). But it was still a thrill to see one of my works be cited and used by international colleagues 500 times now. Amazing to think something I have done has been useful to so many great scientists! 

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Vice Chancellor Awards

Alan Duffy

In Swinburne's version of the Oscars (yes, just as glamorous, albeit with less acceptance speech tears) we had our best and brightest recognised, and I was truly humbled to see my Science in VR team's efforts counted amongst such top Swinburne staff. SciVR won the VC Award for Community Engagement, which caps off an incredible year for this app. It was also fantastic to be highly commended with my colleagues in the Deans and VC Scholarship Network in the VC's Award for (Higher Education) Teaching Excellence. A great outcome for all and one I was proud to be part of in SciVR and the Scholarship Network. The partying continued well after the event too (sadly I was in bed as I'm now too old for these Oscar shindigs).

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"Dark-ages reionization and galaxy formation simulation X: The small contribution of quasars to reionization" - Qin et al. (2017)

Alan Duffy

One of the oldest questions in the study of Reionisation, the few hundred million years in which almost all of the hydrogen in the Universe was ionised effectively at once, is simple - where does the UV light to ionise the gas come from? One very popular idea is blackholes, or rather the accretion disks around them, where material swirls around the gravitational plughole become incredibly hot and bright in UV / X-ray emission. This fantastic work by Yuxiang Qin used DRAGONS universes to show that there simply isn't enough of these sources, known as AGN or Quasars, to do the job - or at least not if you want to match the number of blackholes that exist today. That's because to be bright, and reionise the universe, they have to feed a lot and in the process grow too large relative to what we see today. This work undoubtedly disappointed some Quasar fans out there, but that's the beauty of science, the facts don't care what you might hope and you have to follow the results to their conclusion. 

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