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Blog

Filtering by Category: Blog

Appointed Lead Scientist

Alan Duffy

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!

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"Dark-ages reionization and galaxy formation simulation IX: Economics of Reionizing Galaxies" - Duffy et al. (2017)

Alan Duffy

This is one of the most fun papers I have ever written (and not just because of the title). The picture astronomers have of the early universe is one of galaxies growing rapidly, turning vast quantities of gas rich clouds into stars in a boom-time of star formation. By using the Smaug simulations of this period I and my DRAGONS colleagues were able to explore this picture. We found that cold gas is indeed consumed rapidly, in just 300 million years irrespective of how stars explode or that gas can cool. However, theres so much material pouring into the galaxies at this time that they simply can't consume it all! A system where demand (gas turing into stars) can't raise to meet supply (of new primary material flowing in) is a recession.

Far from a booming bull-market, the early Universe was a recessionary bear-market and that's why I love this paper...

 

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Stargazing Live: Back to Earth

Alan Duffy

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!

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Melbhenge goes world-wide

Alan Duffy

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.

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Flying high in the Qantas mag!

Alan Duffy

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..!

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An Australian Science Superhero

Alan Duffy

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

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International Mining and Resources Conference

Alan Duffy

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.

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Brian Cox - Journey into deep space

Alan Duffy

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!

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Kip Thorne on Interstellar Blackholes

Alan Duffy

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.

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Aboriginal Astronomy at the Karijini Experience

Alan Duffy

Just an amazing experience heading up to the beautiful Pilbara region of West Australia to speak about aboriginal astronomy. I was part of an amazing lineup of speakers and events for the Karijini Experience, featuring everything from indigenous basket weaving techniques to Opera in the Gorge by the incomparable Deborah Cheetham

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Radio Observations of Local Galaxies

Alan Duffy

This new high resolution study of neutral hydrogen (HI) in local galaxies, led by Baerbel Koribalska has a great name LVHIS (almost pronounced Elvis... which is reason enough to look at this work). It's also a fantastically thorough and exhaustive study into the kinematic properties of 12 nearby dwarf galaxies. The study of galaxy rotations using the HI line isn't anything new of course, but the dataset presented here represents the quality of data that we can routinely expect from the forthcoming Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and hence is a valuable guide into the uses (and pitfalls) of high resolution kinematic data. 

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New Baryonic Acoustic Oscillation Measurements

Alan Duffy

This is a summary of 3 papers released today by the above authors (who all shuffle in order dependent on the exact paper) but basically it's a way to improve the measurements of the Baryonic Acoustic Oscillation (BAO) using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 7 sample of galaxies... So of course the first question is, what's the BAO? 

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Impressive Citizen Science

Alan Duffy

The latest 'citizen science' project to hit the astronomical shelves is a really fun investigation into the HII (ionised hydrogen) bubbles that form around young, ionising stars or Supernovae explosions. The issue here is that they can be very complex shapes as the shock wave around such ionising sources will typically flow around dense interstellar gas. This means that identifying such objects will be difficult for automated systems but easy for humans with our pretty impressive pattern recognition skills. This is the idea of the project - harness the power of people for a problem that we can uniquely solve. 

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My first 'review'

Alan Duffy

A series of N-body simulations (so gravity only, no worrying about computationally expensive, or indeed theoretically poorly understood gas and stellar physics) of objects that are of similar total mass to the Milky Way halo. So far so Aquarius (which indeed this paper uses) but the nice take on the problem is that the Dark Matter is assumed to self-interact. There's no theoretical reason why it shouldn't (and indeed they reference a Yukawa-like gauge boson interaction that might have just such a velocity-dependent interaction cross-section) but that's beyond my area of expertise, besides it's not a new idea so feel free to wiki it probably. Instead all we need to know is that this could happen and if so, what are the consequences of Dark Matter that can? 

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