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Blog

Filtering by Category: 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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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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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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Cosmic Vertigo 2 is out!

Alan Duffy

The latest series of the ABC Radio National podcast #CosmicVertigo is out and we're taking things to the EXTREME. I have to say I have the most fun with Dr Amanda Bauer recording these, they're made for your listening pleasure so I hope you enjoy it as much as I do... subscribe where you get your podcasts. Rate and review etc.

However this time you can also ask us questions online or by email (especially if you record them!) and we'll feature the best (or at least the ones I can answer) on the show. Enjoy!

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Vale Hawking

Alan Duffy

It's hard to put into words how significant Prof Stephen Hawking was for me on a personal level. His book "A Brief History of Time" was a defining moment as a young teenager to realise that you could have a career to explore the Universe; to spend a life studying the nature of expanding universes, blackholes and dark matter. More important than even his science he also showed the value of communicating that science. 

His death hit me hard and it was a crazy day speaking on radio, TV and print to explain just why he was such an incredible and unique figure. I've shared a few of these TV interviews below. The first TV interview I ever gave was about him, and I was honoured that I could also speak at the end.

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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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