Public profile of Swinburne astronomer Associate Professor Alan Duffy, Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia, with school talks/evening lectures on dark matter, dark energy, galaxy formation, indigenous astronomy, alien worlds. He is an experienced public speaker, science communicator and leading expert in space science and astrophysics.
I've spoken at hundreds of events but some particularly unusual opportunities were chatting all things science with Brian Greene as host for "An Evening with Dr Brian Greene", speaking at TEDxSydney in the Sydney Opera House, a Science-Improv night at the Adelaide Fringe, a nation-wide tour with BBC Worldwide / RiAus show The Science of Doctor Who Live and even a Planetarium production on Dark Matter called Dark (now shown in 148 planetariums across 25 countries in 6 languages).
I am incredibly fortunate that I have been able to travel across Australia explaining everything from Black Holes to Aboriginal Astronomy to thousands of students in dozens schools everywhere from inner city private schools to remote indigenous schools in the outback.
See my CV for more.
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.
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.
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.
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!
OK two times in one week being on one of the biggest shows in the nation talking science? Amazing.
This time tried to explain the importance of NASA outsourcing the Return to the Moon to commercial aerospace companies (especially startups). It’s an exciting development but needs careful watching.
An incredible evening interviewing Dr Megan Clark AC, Head of the Australian Space Agency, on how universities can support Space 2.0 and innovative technologies in Australia more generally, all as part of our Swinburne University of Technology research retreat.
An insane week of astronomy meant that I was able to explain the latest astrophysics discoveries to over a million viewers with The Project - but from the desk! This is a big deal, and my nerves knew it! The live studio audience really helps ramp up the energy too..!
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.
Just sharing the video of “The Case for Space” panel I hosted at the World Government Summit in 2018, with my opening thoughts on the promise and responsibility of space utilisation.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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..!
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!
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.
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.
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
Incredibly excited to announce that Inspiring Australia has once again decided to support the Science in VR live experience with a National Science Week grant! We will give two live Virtual Reality (VR) talks using the SciVR app with bespoke Google cardboard VR headsets, as well as coordinated regional viewing parties, all with tailored educational material for the hidden universe! This year I will joined by my amazingly talented colleague Dr Rebecca Allen, can't wait to reveal more info soon on this! But you don't have to wait for the show to enjoy the app, just head to the Apple AppStore or Google Play and download SciVR for free, and can buy headsets from the Swinburne Bookshop for an even more immersive experience.
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.
One of the coolest parts of my job is that I can take film-crews around the world and showcase the incredible science and technology that is out there, but seeing the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre just tops everything. My huge thanks to ABC Catalyst for letting me reveal the change space race that means the return to the moon is a competition between startups not superpowers. This is a topic I raved about in the Sydney Morning Herald, and there was also a really nice review of the TV episode in The Australian. You can watch the episode online on ABC iView.
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!
The grassroots effort to map out the best place to view MelbHenge as the Sun sets between a mile long corridor of Melbourne's skyscrapers continues to grow. This headline photo courtesy of LookAboutPhotography is just one incredible example of that.I'm always amazed at how many people get out and share their photos of this epic event... but we still don't know where best to view it! So we asked Melbournians to take a photo, share the location and use #MelbHenge so Swinburne University of Technology astronomers could update our map of the city to make this event bigger and better each year. Last time was featured on the BBC world news, let's see what we can do in the years ahead.
Australia's Chief Scientist recognises the critical importance of reading, and developing an early love of that reading! So he started the #StorytimePledge to call on scientists to share their books that they aim to read to loved ones over the holidays. My pledge? There's no better childhood story than Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and not just because I have a serious chocolate addiction.
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).
This is a great honour (and also a fun award title!) to be one of Victoria's 2017 Tall Poppies, an award recognising up and coming scientists for their research and efforts to translate this into the public domain. I have to say I felt humbled to be alongside colleagues investigating new solar technologies, cancer treatments and more!
That I got to celebrate it with the two Sarah's in my life (my boss and my wife!) was a real thrill for me.
It was a very special evening spent celebrating the 21st Birthday of Lateral Events, they of the L'Etape Australia / Brian Cox / Sir David Attenborough speaking tour fame. If you can judge a person by the company they keep then you can certainly judge this company by the people they invite! I was able to bore everyone from ABC's MD Michelle Guthrie, Ray Martin, Adam Spencer, Lateral CEO Simon Baggs too the host Prof Brian Cox himself. A wonderful evening that I am incredibly happy to boast of, especially as the wines were selected by none other than the Queen's wine advisor herself Jancis Robinson!
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!
I loved making this short ABC ME series with the wonderfully talented and ever enthusiastic Grace Koh trying to explain the answers to questions that we all think of, while restricting ourselves to a green screen and about 3 minutes in total. You can watch all 5 episodes on iView or catch them as interstitials between your favourite shows on ABC ME. Also who doesn't love a big red button?!
Todd Sampson is insane. There. I said it. I understand physics, I trust 100% in the universality of the laws we explore in Life on the Line, but I certainly don't have 100% trust in the engineering. In episode 3 we discuss Friction by throwing Todd off a bungee jump without it being secured (simply interleaved pages of a phonebook). The principle of geometric amplification of the friction means that these phonebooks won't slip by. Everything else however could go wrong. In episode 4 we discuss Conversation of Energy by using a one tonne wrecking ball. This actually DOES go wrong. Yet still he risks his life. I love Todd's trust in my calculations, I just wish he wouldn't actually put his Life on the Line with them.